S.E.A. Living Learning Community
Balmorhea State Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Valhalla Atlas F Missile Silo trip
I’ve always enjoyed scuba diving but my experiences have been taken to a whole new level through the TAMUG dive club. On the most recent trip to Balmorhea Springs and the Valhalla missile silo I was able to experience altitude diving and reached a new personal depth record of 112 ft. In Balmorhea we got to dive with a both endangered and endemic species, which was another first for me. My favorite part about the weekend was diving in the Valhalla missile silo, it was an incredibly unforgettable experience! I was shocked at how clear the water was and seeing all the artifacts, such as the old guidance control system, was really interesting. I can’t wait for the next Dive Club adventure!
Balmorhea State Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Valhalla Atlas F Missile Silo
On January 31, 2013, The dive club set out on a trip to see what west Texas has to offer SCUBA enthusiasts. What they found was an oasis in the desert, two endangered species, and a piece of cold war history.
The trip began on Thursday night with a drive to Balmorhea State Park. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/balmorhea After checking in at the ranger station and pitching the tents, the dive club got a lesson on altitude diving. Balmorhea is located 3205ft above sea level, requiring divers to calculate the residual nitrogen in their systems. The pool at Balmorhea is fed by San Soloman Springs and stays between 72°F and 76°F year round. Balmorhea is home to two endemic and therefore endangered species the Pecos Gambusia (Gambusia nobilis) and the Comanche Springs Pupfish (Cyprinodon elegans). In addition to the endangered inhabitants our divers were able to view lesser scaups (Aythya affinis) diving to dabble among the hydrilla, schools of Mexican tetras (Astyanax mexicanus), channel catfish (Ictalurus puntatus),crawfish, and Texas spiny soft shelled turtle (Apalone spinifera emoryi).
After an afternoon of diving the springs and dinner at a local diner, divers turned in early in preparation for hiking at Carlsbad Caverns National Park the next day. http://www.nps.gov/cave/index.htm
Saturday began with some car trouble, but soon the club was on the way to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. After a picnic and a brief stop to stretch, the club began the 1.25mi and 800ft decent underground through the caverns natural entrance.
The club explored the cavern and learned about different speleothems including stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, cave popcorn and helictites. After exploring the self-guided paths, the club also participated in a ranger led tour of the King’s Palace from Park Ranger Erik, who talked about Jim White’s discovery of the cavern and its history.
After leaving Carlsbad and deciphering some of the worst driving directions on the planet, the club arrived at the Valhalla Atlas F Missile Silo, built during the Cold War. For more information about missile silos check out http://www.atlasmissilesilo.com/
The Silo is one of 72 silos of this style built. Today the silo is flooded to the water table with clear 58°F water. The silo extends to 110’ feet where structural rubble still remains. On the wall, between 40-60’ the guidance system is still in place, and largely intact. Valhalla is owned and operated by Mark Hannifin from Family SCUBA Center. Mark was eager to give us the nickle tour and share the history of this unique structure. http://familyscuba.com/
Sunday morning divers geared up and navigated several flights of stairs and 90° turns to make their way to the floating dock set in the center of the silo, where they splashed for a once in a lifetime dive few get to experience.
The TAMUG Dive Club can now say they have “Dived and Gone to Valhalla.”
A Special thanks to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, The National Parks Service, Park Ranger Erik and Mark from Family SCUBA Center!