Image: John Johns' Family Photo

Tragedy in the Depths: The Untold Story of Nutty Putty Cave

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In the chronicles of cave exploration, the name John Edward Jones is remembered not for triumphs beneath the earth but for a heart-wrenching incident in Nutty Putty Cave on November 24, 2009. What was once a beloved site for both amateur and professional cavers turned into a place of sorrow and debate, leading to the cave’s closure to the public.

Jones, born on January 21, 1983, met his unfortunate end at 26 after getting trapped in the cave for an agonizing 27–28 hours. His quest for an unmapped passageway, mistakenly believed to be “The Birth Canal,” led him into a tight vertical fissure, leaving him wedged upside-down with no way out.

Rescue efforts involving a sophisticated rope-and-pulley system tragically failed, causing Jones to fall back into the crevice.


Prolonged inversion and compression led to cardiac arrest. Eventually, rescuers, Jones’ family, and the landowner decided to permanently seal the cave with Jones’ body inside as a solemn memorial.

The closure sparked controversy, with some spelunking community members and Facebook groups petitioning to save the cave. Despite their efforts, explosives were used to collapse the ceiling near Jones’ body, and the entrance was sealed with concrete to prevent further access.

In 2018, tragedy struck again as the memorial plaque dedicated to Jones was reported vandalized, adding another layer of sorrow to the already somber story.

The incident inspired the film “The Last Descent,” released on September 16, 2016, providing a cinematic portrayal of the events within Nutty Putty Cave.

Despite the closure, Jones’ brother-in-law, Dan Petersen, found a unique way to keep his memory alive. Organizing the Nutty Putty Cycle Team, Petersen led a bike ride covering 75–100 miles a day. The team, comprising four members, used the journey to engage with LDS youth, sharing the story of the fatal accident and their mission, finding shelter in Latter Day Saint churches along their route, cycling every day except Sundays.

Nutty Putty Cave, once a gathering place for Boy Scout troops and college students, now stands as a closed chapter in the world of spelunking. The tragedy of John Edward Jones serves as a poignant reminder of the inherent risks in exploring the mysterious underworld, leaving behind a legacy of caution and controversy that lingers among cave enthusiasts.

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