Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
AMERICAN FORK — Hundreds of spelunkers turned out for the opening weekend of the Timpanogos Cave National Monument in American Fork Canyon.
Park officials said cave tours were running at capacity all day from Saturday's opening day through Memorial Day.
"We were super busy," said Sheila Hunt, supervisory visitor use assistant for the park. "By this morning we basically had no tickets left for today," Hunt said Monday.
Hunt said the cave's season began roughly two weeks late this year and will end about three weeks early on September 22. The shortened season is a result of federal money cuts, which cut back on the operating budget of the park.
"We opened late and we’re going to be closing early," Hunt said. "It’s shortening our season by about five weeks."
The number of tours has also been decreased, from 20-person groups to now a 16-person maximum, leaving every 15 minutes instead of 10.
Hunt said visitors should plan on calling in advance and reserving tickets. Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance.
"Especially for weekends and any day around a holiday I would plan ahead," she said. "It’s a great day outing, the hike to the caves is beautiful and the caves themselves are just really awesome."
Igor Marques visited the caves for the first time on Saturday. The Brazilian native, who has been living in the United States for the past seven years, recently graduated from Brigham Young University and was visiting Utah's National Parks in celebration with his family.
"I haven’t been to a cave before with this sort of tour," he said. "Apparently there are some really cool geological formations."
Park officials said approximately 650 people visited the caves each day over Memorial Day weekend. Park Superintendent Jim Ireland said Saturday that all tours were running at capacity.
"This is typical and this will be typical pretty much every weekend this summer," he said. "We have a lot more people that want to take tours than we have room for."
More information on the Timpanogos Cave National Monument can be found at www.nps.gov/tica
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