Virginia Cave Week, which runs through June 8, is designed to promote an understanding of Virginia’s caves and the surrounding limestone habitats known as karst.
This year’s theme is “In the Bootsteps of Captain Karst, John Holsinger’s Legacy and Contributions to Caving in Virginia,” with events scheduled to highlight some of Holsinger’s favorite caves.
Visitors will have the opportunity to explore these caves with professional guides and interpreters and learn about the history, geology and biology of cave and karst habitats. There will also be several events for those who wish to learn more about Virginia’s cave and karst ecosystems without going into a cave.
Holsinger, who passed away in 2018, was a pioneering caver and cave biologist who dedicated his life to the exploration of caves and documenting the species that live in them. Over his decades of work in the field, 10 cave-dwelling species came to bear his name and numerous caves systems gained protection through his advocacy.
Virginia Cave Week is coordinated by the Virginia Cave Board. The board was established in 1979 to conserve and protect the state’s caves and karst landscapes, and to advocate for the wise use of cave-related resources.
For more than a quarter century, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program has worked to study and protect the biologically rich and environmentally sensitive karst landscapes. Virginia has significant karst features and more than 4,000 caves. They provide habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat, Virginia’s state bat; and the Madison Cave isopod.
The following events will take place during Virginia Cave Week.
Monday, June 3, 5-8 p.m., Ogdens Cave Natural Area Preserve — Middletown
Learn how the combined efforts of multiple nonprofits and state agencies came together to create a natural area preserve to protect Frederick County’s longest cave. Ogdens Cave Natural Area Preserve is home to three cave crustacean species, a rare cave snail and the only known location of the thin-necked cave beetle. This tour will require some light climbing and crawling. Closed toe shoes are required. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are recommended. Helmets and lights will be provided. Registration is required.
Tuesday, June 4, 3 p.m., Grand Caverns — Grottoes
U.S. Geological Survey Research Geologist and Virginia Cave Board chair Daniel Doctor, Ph.D., will offer a geologic interpretive tour of Grand Caverns. This is a rare opportunity to talk with a geologist about how caves formed and more. The discounted entrance fee is $15 for ages 13 and up, $8 for ages 6 to 12. Space is limited to 35 and registration is required.
Tuesday, June 4, 6 p.m., Madison Cave at Cave Hill — Grottoes
DCR’s Karst Protection Coordinator Wil Orndorff will lead the tour of Madison Cave, home to the federally protected Madison Cave isopod and a suite of other rare species. Closed toe shoes are required. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are recommended. Helmets and lights will be provided. Space is limited to 12 and registration is required.
Wednesday, June 5, 5-8 p.m., New River Cave — Giles County
Learn about the natural history of this cave, owned and managed by the National Speleological Society. Participants are welcome to visit just the entrance or visit a portion of the cave with experienced local cavers. Optional parts of this tour require some light climbing and crawling. Closed-toe shoes are required. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are recommended. Helmets and lights will be provided. Registration is required.
Thursday, June 6, 5:30 p.m., Unthanks Cave — Lee County
Participants will explore some of the 8 miles of passages in Unthanks Cave, seeing both beautiful cave formations and some rare cave animals. This tour will require some light climbing and crawling. Closed-toe shoes are required. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are recommended. Helmets and lights will be provided. Space is limited to 15 and registration is required.
Friday, June 7, 6 p.m., “The Legend of Captain Karst: Caves and Karst of Rye Cove,” Natural Tunnel State Park, Cove Ridge Center — Duffield
Learn why John “Captain Karst” Holsinger designated Rye Cove as one of the seven karst wonders of Virginia. The caves of Rye Cove are home to many rare subterranean creatures, including two known only from the cove. DCR’s Wil Orndorff will lead the evening’s events, which will include a short driving tour of Rye Cove and a slideshow. Space on the tour is limited to 20 and registration is required. The presentation will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Cove Ridge Center and is open to all.
Saturday, June 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Virginia Cave and Karst Day, Science Museum of Western Virginia — Roanoke
The Blue Ridge Grotto is putting on a “Virginia Cave and Karst Day: In the Bootsteps of Captain Karst” event at the Science Museum of Western Virginia. Showings of Murder Hole Cave, a documentary about the legendary cave in Catawba, Virginia will happen throughout the day and information about caves, bats, sinkholes, cave safety and cave conservation will be available. The event is included in the general admission price of the museum.
Saturday, June 8, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Karst of the Shenandoah Valley Field Trip — Strasburg
Daniel Doctor will lead this daylong field trip with four stops showcasing karst landscapes. The tour of Skyline Caverns will cost $20 per person. Participants should bring a bag lunch. Space is limited to 10 and registration is required. RSVP to email@example.com.
For more information about a specific event or to register, call (804) 786-7951.