Donaldson/Bronson Cave (also known as Shawnee Cave) is located entirely within Spring
Mill State Park. The cave is the downstream section of the Shawnee drainage system (Lower
Twin and Upper Twin caves make up the remaining sections). For the entire length of the
cave, you are in water. For most of the cave you are ankle to knee deep, but there are
at least two short sections where the water is deep enough to require swimming/floating.
The cave can easily flood, so do not enter during high flow, when there is a chance of
significant rain, or during periods of rapid snow melt. There are no seasonal restrictions
on trips into this cave.
- Proper WNS decontamination protocols must be followed before and after the cave trip.
Both the DNR and IKC will spot check for compliance and groups not following proper procedures will
be denied access and suspended from future trips.
- After the trip, change out of your caving clothes discreetly away from your vehicle. If
impractical, at a minimum remove as much outer clothing as possible before entering your vehicle to change.
Bag and seal everything so as to not contaminate the interior or trunk of your vehicle.
- Properly follow the WNS decontamination protocols to clean your equipment, boots, and clothes when you get home.
- The cave requires short swims in several places and a personal flotation device (PFD) is suggested.
- Visiting this cave requires entering Spring Mill State Park via the main gate, so paying the gate fee
is required (when one is being collected).
- The cave can flood and should not be entered after heavy rains or if there is a forecast for thunderstorms
or snow melt (the Park reserves the right to deny access to any group on the day of the trip, based
upon current or potential weather conditions).
- The cave is typically traversed "with the flow" by entering the Bronson entrance and exiting the Donaldson
entrance. Logistically, it is suggested that you park in the Donaldson Cave parking lot away
from the steps down to the cave. You should have your "after" clothes prepared so they can be retrieved
without contaminating the vehicle. Preferably you have a second vehicle to shuttle everyone to the Twin Caves
parking lot to then hike to the Bronson entrance. If you have only one vehicle, you will need to hike to the
Bronson entrance via Trail 3.
- All group participants must be at least 16 years old. However, the IKC Access Coordinator has the discretion
to approve exceptions for younger experienced participants.
- Minimum group size is three, maximum is fifteen.
- All group members must have a proper helmet with chin strap, helmet-mounted water-proof light (and backups)
and equipment, and proper clothing for full immersion in 55-degree water.
- Please be discreet while on the surface in your caving attire, so as to not encourage other park visitors
to enter the caves. If asked by someone, simply say you have authorization from the park to go in the cave.
- In case of emergency, contact the front gate (or front desk at the Inn, if front gate is unstaffed).
- The trip leader should contact the cave’s Access Coordinator [Dave Everton,
DEverton@indiana.edu, 812.272.2300] to discuss the
group’s experience level and other qualifications. This contact should typically be at least several
weeks in advance of the proposed trip.
- Each trip participant must complete the on-line WNS Training
Module, print out the form at the end, read and sign the WNS Training Acknowledgement section, and
the DNR Caving Permit section of the form. Preferably, the trip leader will then collect and mail/e-mail
copies of the forms to the Coordinator. All documents must be received by the deadline date given to
the trip coordinator by the Interim Access Coordinator. Anyone not meeting the deadline may forfeit their
opportunity to participate.
- Once all the forms have been received, the Access Coordinator will send back a dated Trip Authorization/Parking
Placard to the trip leader and also send a trip authorization notice to the park staff.
- The trip leader will print out a Trip Authorization/Parking Placard for each vehicle, which will be displayed
on the vehicle’s dash while in the cave, so Park staff will know you are an authorized group.