Exploration and discovery
The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration owns the cave, which was initially explored by Dale Green in 1960, and the Utah Timpanogos Grotto manages it. Green’s name is thought to be derived from the soft, brown, putty-like texture of the clay found in many of the tunnels. It has 1,400 feet (430 meters) of chutes and tunnels and was once accessible through a shallow surface hole.
This cave experienced four different rescues of cavers and Boy Scouts who became trapped inside the cave’s tight twists, turns, and crawls prior to 2009.
In 2006, an effort was made to explore the cave and severely limit the number of tourists permitted inside. Over 5,000 tourists were believed to visit the cave each year, with many of them entering late at night and failing to take appropriate safety procedures.
The cave’s popularity had resulted in excessive smoothing of the rock inside the cave, to the point where a death was predicted in one of the cave’s more notable features, a 45-degree room known as “The Big Slide.” A gate was constructed on May 24, 2006, and the cave was temporarily blocked. To guarantee that safety precautions were maintained, adequate management was formed in early 2009, and an application process was developed. The cave reopened to the public on May 18, 2009.
Closure after a fatal accident
A man named John Edward Jones perished in the cave on November 24, 2009, after being stuck within for 27 hours. Jones became caught upside-down in an area measuring 10 by 18 inches (25 by 46cm) roughly 400 feet (120m) from the cave’s mouth after mistaking a narrow tunnel for the equally tight “Birth Canal” route while exploring with his brother. Jones was cuffed like a fish, unable to move without risking significant injury due to the bending of his body.
After a pulley failed mid-extrication, a big team of rescue workers arrived to help, but they were unable to recover Jones using a complicated rope-and-pulley system. Jones eventually died of cardiac death as a result of the pressure exerted on his body by his inverted, compressed position over several hours.
Rescuers determined that retrieving Jones’ body would be too perilous; instead, the landowner and Jones’ family agreed that the cave would be permanently closed, with the body locked inside, as a memorial to Jones.
The ceiling was collapsed near Jones’ body with explosives, and the entrance hole was sealed with concrete to prevent further access.
Some members of the spelunking community were opposed to the cave’s closure. The cave was petitioned to be saved on Facebook, however it was unsuccessful. On April 4, 2018, it was reported that the plaque honoring Jones had been vandalized.
- History”. The Nutty Putty Cave Official Website. Archived from the original on May 15, 2009.
- “Nutty Putty: ‘I really, really want to get out'”. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
- Cabrero, Alex (December 3, 2009). “Utah cavers angry over closure of Nutty Putty cave”. Retrieved May 7, 2022.