So You're Curious About Caving?

Laurel Abernathy, Kelli Lewis, Blue Spring Cave, White County, Tennessee

You're curious about caving? It's easy to understand why! Maybe you've seen photographs of caves and you're curious to see these places with your own eyes. Maybe you heard about a friend's excellent adventure through a local cave system and how challenging and rewarding it was for them. Maybe you're looking for the next extreme sport to master or maybe you're interested in learning about history, or a science that's practiced in caves. Whatever your reason, there's a great group of folks who are here to help you on the next leg of your adventure.

Ashley Williams, Secret Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 1
The National Speleological Society (NSS) is the organization I belong to that is about caves and caving. There are local chapters called grottos. I am a member of a few of these across Tennessee, but the first grotto I belonged to, and the one where I focus most of my energy is the Upper Cumberland Grotto. We are based out of Cookeville, Tennessee.

Grottos duties are to intercept would-be cavers and help introduce them to the world of caving. There are different rules for safety and conservation down there, and you're not born knowing them, so we try to handle that education. We develop landowner relations, we do community outreach and education, we do cleanups, we like to eat food and drink beer, but most importantly we go caving.

Depending on where you live you may or may not be nearby to caves or a grotto, which is usually based out of a city. You can check at look for the link that says "find a caving club near you". Or you can look at this handy map I made which shows the nearest grotto to where you live (note that it's not always accurate to say that a grotto is located somewhere).

"Don't ask where caves are. Ask where cavers are."

Regardless of your proximity to my club, let me extend a formal invitation to come join us at an Upper Cumberland Grotto meeting sometime. We alternate meetings between business and socials. At business meetings we have presentations and usually a handful of us go out for beer and food afterwards. We meet at a restaurant, or maybe the bowling alley, and we hang out and have fun. This is where a lot of caving trips get organized. If you have any questions you're welcome to reach out to me, or the grotto officials that you locate through the above links. We always love to hear from new cavers.

The NSS produces brochures which cover information about the caving community, responsible caving, and more. This is a great place to get started learning about caving.

Below are some selected readings about caving. These are generally written with a novice caver in mind, so don't expect to be overwhelmed.

Gear for Caving in Tennessee

Dirt Cave Cleanup, Jackson County, Tennessee

Why We Don't Share Cave Locations

Vandalism, Dirt Cave, Jackson County, Tennessee 1

The Role of Grottos in the Caving Community

Anne Elmore doing a Change-over, Halloween Grotto Party at Jay Green's House, Putnam Co, Cookeville, TN

The Role of Grottos in the Outside Community

Cleanup, Pilot Knob Cave, Jackson County, Tennessee


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