I heartily invite all cavers, cave owners, cave conservancies, cave managers, cave researchers, cave educators, and cave lovers to the 23rd biennial meeting of the National Cave and Karst Management Symposium (NCKMS), to be held in San Marcos, Texas on 1–5 November 2021. Karst is a type of landscape featuring caves, sinkholes, sinking streams, and springs.  Roughly 20%, or 53,720 square miles, of Texas is karst, including the urban corridor of Waco through San Antonio. NCKMS meetings are scheduled at different locations across the United States in order to highlight local karst resources and management issues.  The last (and only) one held in Texas since their beginning in 1975 was in New Braunfels, in 1989.  Our state’s population (and number of caves!) has grown rapidly since then, leading to inevitable management conflicts.  Typical presentations and workshops during the week focus on research, resource management, stewardship activities, education communication, and sustainability.  Sessions, field trips, and workshops often provide many examples in both show cave and wild cave resource management, and are open to the general public through day passes.

We are excited to have Austin Water – Balcones Canyonlands Preserve as our host this year! Some other goodies we have lined up for participants includes a Monday Social and glass-bottom boat tour of Spring Lake, where karst waters well up from San Marcos Springs to form the head of the San Marcos River, and a tour of nearby Natural Bridge Cavers, site of the Tuesday Howdy Party. We’ll have field trips all day Wednesday, focusing on the hydrology, biology, and land use conflicts of central Texas karst. Some field trip options even include short visits inside non-commercial caves, so please bring your properly decontaminated cave gear. But remember that this is Texas, so even in November a T-shirt and jeans (with knee and elbow pads!) will be plenty of clothing underground. After the field trips, we will be heading to the Bracken Bat Cave Preserve for an evening reception hosted by Bat Conservation International. Thursday will feature more talks, the Poster Session, and the Silent Auction and Banquet, featuring Dale Pate. We are also putting together some fine pre- and post-conference trips to bigger and better caves a little further from San Marcos, including some with vertical and wetsuit options. More information will be sent to registrants as these trips get announced, so keep checking back to this site for updates.

If you plan to bring along family, or stay a little longer in the area, check out the Local Attractions page for some great local recreational offerings.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still running rampant, and now we are dealing with the Delta variant. But even if some folks stay home because of the increased risk, we are still planning this conference as “normal” for those feeling braver. We will implement prudent safety measures throughout the week, as detailed here.

2021 is also the International Year of Caves and Karst. We plan on many public outreach activities during our conference, so stay tuned!

We hope to see you in the Texas Hill Country in November!

Jim “Crash” Kennedy
Organizing Chair, 2021 NCKMS