South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Mehlville teacher provides caving, service opportunity for students at Cliff Cave Park

Photo by Lucas Irizarry
Dan Lamping and students Taylor and Maddie Kordik at Cliff Cave.

Five Mehlville High School students were recently given the opportunity to explore and clean graffiti in Cliff Cave County Park in Oakville as part of a student council and AP human geography trip.

Human geography teacher Dan Lamping, an experienced caver and president of the Missouri Speleological Survey, first organized the annual trip in 2013 to clean up vandalism in and around the cave. 

“Part of the theme of the class is the relationship between people and place,” Lamping said. “I was able to use my connections to be able to arrange for getting access here and getting high school kids the opportunity to go into the cave.”

Lamping started caving over 20 years ago, with his primary interest being in cartography — the mapping and surveying of caves across the country. His role as president of the Missouri Speleological Survey primarily sees him connecting cave enthusiasts to local caves with the help of state and federal agencies. 

“I just like being outside, being in nature, understanding the natural world … but caving has been beyond a hobby, it’s been pretty much a way of life for a long time,” Lamping said.

Cliff Cave features a little more than a mile of surveyed passages, and students at the April 27 trip explored about 1,500 feet in. Lamping said when he first started the trip, the first 700 feet of cave was heavily covered in graffiti, and a lot of the inner paint has been removed or dulled by students. Since the addition of a bat fence in 2009, vandals can no longer add graffiti within the cave, so the newest trip focused mostly on graffiti right outside of the fence.

Mehlville seniors Taylor and Maddie Kordik joined Lamping’s trip as members of the student council, and they were two of three students to brave a crawl space to get to the second entrance of the cave. 

Maddie said the students were not expecting to crawl and be covered in water.

“It was really fun but kind of weird because we were completely submerged in water. It was like ‘It’s fine, it’s fine, you’re just in water, there’s nothing else in here,’” she said.

Lamping said accessing the smaller parts of the cave requires a “combination of body size and attitude.” 

“I’m not a thin person, but I can fit in some pretty tight stuff because it’s something that I’m accustomed to and relatively comfortable with,” Lamping said. “Being small certainly helps in caving, but having the right attitude and being willing to put yourself through a little bit of physical and even psychological discomfort helps.”

For more information about the Missouri Speleological Survey and Cliff Cave visit 

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