Latitude -35.072524, Longitude 148.660705
Located in the Capital Country Region of NSW, nearest large town Yass
Source: Office of Environment & Heritage, National Parks and Wildlife service, Guide to New South Wales Karst and Cave
Source: Geoff Kell, Careys Cave
Source: Cooradigbee Fossil Tours
The Taemas - Wee Jasper area is one of the most diverse geological landscapes in Australia. The dramatic limestone outcrops of the Wee Jasper Valley are highly scenic and have significant scientific and educational values associated with their structural geology, caves and diversity of marine fossils. Add to this the natural beauty of the rolling hills, and the mix of grazing land and natural timber-clothed rises traversed by fast running streams, and Wee Jasper is an irresistible combination.
Interest in Wee Jasper's caves was sparked in 1957 when the spine of a large extinct wombat was discovered. Following this, many of the area's caves were explored, mapped and studied, with most of the work done by the Canberra Speleological Society.
The predominantly sedimentary rocks at Wee Jasper have been folded significantly. The Wee Jasper Valley is cut into the western arm of a huge U-shaped synclinal fold; the complex folding of the limestone is clearly visible in extensive rock exposures, which are obvious when entering and leaving the valley.
Wee Jasper has two different types of limestone: Taemas Limestone, overlying non-carbonate rock units, and Cavan Limestone. Both of these formed about 400-415 million years ago in the Devonian period, when they were laid down in shallow marine waters populated by species of lungfish, predatory fish and an abundance of trilobites (extinct arthropods) and molluscs. Some of the world's most significant and best preserved Devonian fossils have come from the Wee Jasper limestones.
The area's best known cave is Careys, with its seven decorated chambers, located just north of Wee Jasper Village. Careys Cave was discovered in the 1800s, but was not developed for guided tours until 1968. Due to being formed primarily below the water table (phreatic development), as opposed to a stream-cut cave, Careys displays unusually beautiful sculptured rock chambers, and a wealth of calcite formations. It is one of the area's major visitor attractions.
Other large caves include Dip, Dogleg, Punchbowl and Signature. A privately owned site in the area known as the Thermal Paddock also boasts caves containing thermal springs. These are rare in NSW and, besides Wee Jasper, occur only at Cliefden and Yarrangobilly caves.
In the limestone rocks above Careys Cave are abundant examples of weathered fluting known as rillenkarren. This is a common feature on limestone rock surfaces. Rain water falls on the upper edge of a rock and it then dribbles down the side. As more rain falls upon the rock the drops continue to run down the rock using the same path. Each drop of rain dissolves a little more of the rock. Over a long period of time the drops dissolve a series of grooves down the rock.
The adjacent photo was taken close to Careys Cave. Note the limestone bands running all over the land in a linear pattern parallel to the valley. This longitudinal pattern has resulted from the seabed being turned on its side to expose the layers of sediment. The stratigraphy exposed covers a 10-12 million year time span, revealing rich coral reefs, algae and fish remnants. The area is world renowned for the quality of preservation of specimens. Guided tours by Cooradigbee Fossil Tours are available (by appointment only and no collecting is permitted). Tours take up to 2.5 hours and there is a fee per person. For extra information log onto www.cooradigbee.com.au/activities.htm
The village of Wee Jasper is located in the Goodradigbee Valley approximately 35 kilometres north-west of Canberra and 54km south west of Yass. The Yass - Wee Jasper Road provides a scenic route. From Canberra, Wee Jasper Road is accessed via Uriarra Road, a slightly circuitous 86km drive. Guided tours of Careys Cave are conducted regularly (see website for details www.weejaspercaves.com). There are camp grounds in the area, as well as a range of farm stays and a hotel with restaurant and cabins (no petrol is available in the village).