From 1–5 November 2021 the Symposium organizing committee welcomed 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), held in San Marcos, Texas. 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 focused on research, resource management, stewardship activities, education communication, and sustainability. Sessions, field trips, and workshops provided many examples in both show cave and wild cave resource management, and were open to the general public through day passes.
We were very excited to have Austin Water – Balcones Canyonlands Preserve as our host this year! Some other goodies lined up for participants included 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 Caverns, site of the Tuesday Howdy Party. We had field trips all day Wednesday, focusing on the hydrology, biology, and land use conflicts of central Texas karst. Some field trip options even included short visits inside non-commercial caves. But remember that this is Texas, so even in November a T-shirt and jeans (with knee and elbow pads!) was be plenty of clothing underground. After the field trips, we intended to visit to the Bracken Bat Cave Preserve for an evening reception hosted by Bat Conservation International, but bad weather forced us to relocate to the conference venue. Thursday featured more talks, the Poster Session, and the Silent Auction and Banquet, featuring Dale Pate.
For those who brought along family, or were staying a little longer in the area, we had a Local Attractions page with some great local recreational offerings.
The COVID-19 pandemic was still running rampant, and we are also dealing with the Delta variant. But although some folks stayed home because of the increased risk, we are still planned this conference as “normal” for those feeling braver. We implemented prudent safety measures throughout the week, as detailed here.
2021 was also the International Year of Caves and Karst. We planned many public outreach activities during our conference, helping to make both events a wonderful success.
We were happy to see those that attended the NCKMS in the Texas Hill Country in November 2021!
Jim “Crash” Kennedy
Organizing Chair, 2021 NCKMS