The Fort Stanton – Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (NCA) was established in 2009 to protect, conserve, and enhance the unique and nationally important historic, cultural, scientific, archaeological, natural, and educational subterranean cave resources of the Fort Stanton – Snowy River cave system. The NCA includes approximately 25,080 acres.
The NCA was once known as the Fort Stanton Military Reservation. In 1855, the U.S. Army established Fort Stanton as an Infantry and Cavalry post in the east-central New Mexico Territory to protect settlers in the region. Within the NCA is Fort Stanton Cave, at 31.35 miles, the second longest cave in New Mexico, and 14th longest cave in the U.S., and the largest cave managed by the BLM. Snowy River is a significant passage within Fort Stanton Cave.
In 2001, this large diameter passage was discovered after over 30 years of cavers investigating strong air flows coming through breakdown in the cave. Snowy River receives its name from a bright white crystal calcite formation covering the bottom of the passage. Snowy River is the longest cave formation in the world. Today, approximately nine miles of previously unknown passage have been mapped, without reaching the end. Exploration continues in a “science first, survey-as-you-go” manner.