NAGT > Teaching Resources > Teaching in the Field > Field Trip Examples > Illinois Caverns Field Trip

Illinois Caverns Field Trip

Kathleen Bower, Eastern Illinois University

Intended Audience: Middle school through undergraduate students.


Waterloo, Illinois

Middle School students tend to finish the caving experience in less than two hours. Undergraduates take three to four hours.


This is a self-guided caving experience. The trip gives hands-on experiences with stactites, flow stone, fossils, water erosion, limestone, and groundwater.


There have been groups from middle school to undergraduates taken on this field trip. Group size has been up to 25 people. Some have no geologic background. The trip is moderately rigourous as participants are sometimes in water to the chest. Sometimes participants are crawling around, over, and under rocks. Participants should not be scared of dark or of enclosed spaces. Steep stairs must be climbed at the beginning and end of the caving experience.This trip is not recommended for students under 10 years of age without close supervision.

Before the field trip the students will have learned about dissolution weathering of limestone and dolostone by slightly acidic natural rainwater. The students are also briefed about safety issues when caving: students must bring three flashlights and a hardhat, they must not remove anything from the cave but their own trash, cave temperatures are about 58 F, if there is heavy rainfall nearby then water level start to rise and students should leave the cave quickly, students must not drink the water.


This experience demonstrates the features of underground caves. It illustrates dissolution of limestone, formation of flowstones, groundwater processes, and sinkholes. It shows that geology is readily accessible. It is a moderately difficult experience which also increases confidence of the participants.


Dr. Bower in a tight spot on the field trip.

Notes and Tips:

Illinois State Natural Area
4369 G Road, Waterloo, IL 62298, 618-458-6699

Park rules:

Assessment and Evaluation:

Students fill out a very short questionnaire after the field trip.
All students enjoy seeing cave geologic and biologic features in person.

Materials and Handouts:

Field Guide (Microsoft Word 851kB Aug15 06)


Illinois Caverns State Natural Area website

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