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The Bussento Caves

The Bussento Caves at the town of Morigerati are a series of karst caves and passages along the Bussento river in the southern part of the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park in the province of Salerno. After Morigerati the river then flows south into the gulf of Policastro about 7 km away near the town of Policastro Bussentino. The WWF Bussento Caves Oasis in Morigerati is 600 hectares (1500 acres) in area. The Bussento river, itself, is 37 km long with a hydrographic basin of 352 km² (136 mi2). It starts at 900 meters a.s.l., about halfway up the slopes of Mt. Cervati, the highest mountain in Cilento (and second highest in all of Campania). The river starts at the spring of Varco di Peta in the town of Sanza, flows for 20 km into the artificial (from the damm on the Bussento) Lake Sabetta, picks up flow again and near Caselle in Pittari at a point 233 meters a.s.l. drops into a large swallow hole* (Inghiottitoio) and passes beneath Mt. Panello, remerging after 7 km at Morigerati. After picking up the waters of the smaller Bussentino affluent, the river flows to the sea. The point at Morigerati where the river flows back up from the underground to the surface is where this grand series of galleries and passages begin. That is where you start to "explore the resurgence" (as the Italian phrase has it). There are still unexplored points of the caves, such as underwater sections (called siphons or sumps) and these areas are of great interest to scuba-cavers. The sections that have been incorporated into the oasis are, however, quite visitable, and the WWW offers guided tours and workshops. The non-cave parts of this WWW site also offer a great variety of flora and fauna. The oasis has been in existence since 1985.

(Current contact info: Oasi WWF “Grotte del Bussento, P. Piano della Porta, 17 – 84030 Morigerati (Salerno) – tel. (+39 0974/982223).
*note: Although common usage tends to use "sinkhole" for almost any hole in the ground, there is a geological difference. A sinkhole in karst areas is a saucer-like hollow in the limestone surface caused by solution —that is, chemical weathering in which solid material is dissolved in water— or rock collapse, thus allowing further solution and further collapse. Sinkholes may then allow water seepage into underground drainage areas. (In urban usage a sinkhole is a surface collapse caused by underground movement of water usually from broken water or sewage lines.) A "swallow hole" (also called a "ponor") is a point on the surface at which a flowing stream meets permeable rock and is channeled into an underground drainage area, thus disappearing from the surface until it reemerges at a certain point to continue as a surface stream.
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