Written by Tadashi

Modified & Updated: 27 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

Nutty Putty Cave, Utah Lake

For a name as silly as the Nutty Putty Cave, you wouldn’t think of it as a dangerous place. Before it was sealed off in 2009, the Nutty Putty Cave drew in explorers and spelunkers from all over the world. However, it all changed with one tragic incident. Learn more about this cave’s intricate depths with these facts about Nutty Putty Cave.

  1. Nutty Putty Cave’s entrance measures only 1.8 meters across.
  2. The entrance drops straight down from the surface to a depth of 4.6 meters.
  3. Going deeper into the cave means passing through a passageway less than 1 meter wide.
  4. Explorers need to crawl through a tunnel 6 meters long to reach the rest of the cave.
  5. Temperatures inside the cave average around 15 degrees Celsius.
  1. Dale Green first explored Nutty Putty Cave in 1960.
  2. Property rights to the cave belong to the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration to this day.
  3. The Utah Timpanogos Grotto also manages the cave to this day.
  4. Over the following decades, an estimated 5000 people visited the cave every single year.
  5. Many more unregistered visitors explored the cave at night.
  6. Cave officials installed a gate and temporarily closed the cave in 2006.
  7. The cave reopened in May 2009.
  8. Stricter registration procedures accompanied the cave’s reopening.
  9. Cave officials only allowed qualified visitors to enter the cave after its reopening.
  10. The Nutty Putty Cave was permanently closed in November 2009.
  1. Located on the west side of Utah Lake, Nutty Putty Cave is a naturally-formed thermal cave.
  2. Large numbers of visitors over the decades left much of the cave’s rock smooth.
  3. The smooth rock worsened the cave’s slipping hazards.
  4. The cave was once considered a good cave for beginner cave explorers.
  5. Some visitors literally couldn’t fit inside the cave’s tighter spaces.
Table of Contents

Nutty Putty Cave Facts Infographics

Nutty Putty Cave Facts Infographics

Parts of the Nutty Putty Cave have poetic names.

For starters, there’s the entrance itself, called the Blowhole. The name comes from how it supposedly looks like a whale’s blowhole, with how its a shaft goes straight up and down. Another part of the cave with a poetic name is the Big Slide, which describes how the room has a 45° angle. Other than that, the Big Slide is also one of the cave’s most well-known features.

Nutty Putty Cave, Vertical Shaft Descent
Photo by Goatchurch from Wikipedia

One part of the Nutty Putty Cave is called The Maze.

The name references the cave’s structure, composed of a network of rooms connected by narrow corridors. Despite the name, it was unlikely to get lost, as cave officials provided explorers with official maps of the cave. Using those maps, navigating The Maze’s network of chambers became easier than expected.

One of the tightest places in the Nutty Putty Cave is the Birth Canal.

This part of the cave is so cramped, that explorers actually have to suck their stomachs in to get through it. In 1999 and 2001, there were 2 incidents of people getting stuck in the birth canal. The 1999 incident involved 2 teenage campers who explored the cave but instead got stuck in the birth canal.

In contrast, the 2001 incident involved 2 boy scouts who also tried to explore the cave only to get stuck in the birth canal. In both cases, everyone stuck was successfully rescued, but not without mild dehydration and fatigue.

An explorer got stuck upside down in 2004.

Leading a group of 5 other teenagers to explore the cave, this 16 year-old got stuck while trying to get into a vertical cave. Since he entered it head first, he found himself trapped in place, upside down. It took almost 10 hours and 20 emergency personnel to get the teenager out. While the experience left him too weak to walk, he recovered after only a few hours.

John Edward Jones was the last man to explore the Nutty Putty Cave.

A medical student from the University of Virginia, John Edward Jones explored the Nutty Putty Cave in November 2009. Eventually, he got trapped upside down in a narrow bend measuring only 40 cm at its widest point. Even worse, the bend had caught him almost like a hook, holding him in place just below his ribcage. This meant that emergency personnel couldn’t just grab and pull him out without causing serious injury.

Explorers almost succeeded in rescuing John Edward Jones from the Nutty Putty Caves.

In an attempt to save the med student, rescuers attached bolted pulleys to the surrounding walls to provide the leverage they needed to bring him out. Unfortunately, a bolt broke just as they got Jones loose, causing him to fall back into where he’d gotten stuck.

Nutty Putty Cave, Bolt
Photo by Marcin Jahr from Wikipedia

John Edward Jones died of cardiac arrest and suffocation.

With the pulley failing, emergency personnel did everything they could to keep him alive. They pumped oxygen into the cave, talked to him to keep him from giving up, and put him on a drip with sedatives to calm him down. Shortly before midnight, John Jones’ vital signs went flat, and emergency personnel had to declare him dead.

John Jones’ body was never recovered from the Nutty Putty Cave.

With the failed attempt to rescue him, government officials eventually decided that recovering his body from the cave was too dangerous. They informed the man’s family, who agreed to leave John Jones’ body inside the cave, which eventually became his grave.

The Nutty Putty Cave was finally closed down for good after John Jones’ death.

Not only that, but cave officials placed two seals on the cave. First, they sealed the inside of the cave, preventing immediate access to John Jones’ body. Second, they sealed off the cave entrance itself, to keep anyone from entering the cave ever again.

Surprisingly, this led to backlash from would-be explorers. However, the local government stood by the decision to seal the caves for good.

John Jones’ death became the plot for the 2016 film The Last Descent.

The film dramatizes John Jones’ experience and death in the Nutty Putty Cave. It only received a limited release, in the American states of Utah, Idaho, and Arizona. Now, you can witness the story for yourself here.

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