On July 27, 2020, John Attaway has generously donated to the Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCCi) a 17-acre parcel containing Mayapple  and  Meander caves. This stunning piece of property is located in Payne Cove in Grundy County, Tennessee.

Closing2Mayapple Cave has three entrances, all located on the property, with more than 6,000 feet of horizontal passage and 154 feet of vertical cave. Meander is a smaller cave with 123 feet of horizontal passage.

The preserve will be named the “Mayapple - Steve and Nancy Attaway Preserve” in memory of John’s son Steve who passed away a year ago and in honor of Steve’s wife Nancy who resides in New Mexico. Steve was an active caver in the Southeast during the 1970's and 1980's and served in cave rescue alongside his father.

Steve moved to New Mexico to work at Sandia National Laboratories in 1987 and enjoyed a successful career there until his passing. He maintained his dedication to rescue by serving in Albuquerque Mountain Rescue as a rescue leader, performing hundreds of rescue missions in the wilderness of New Mexico over the years. Steve and Nancy were also accomplished jewelers and gem carvers, winning awards for their work.

Mayapple BBiddix 
 Photo credit B. Biddix

SCCi Director Kyle Lassiter says, “John Attaway has been an exemplary caver and landowner for over 45 years. He has always been a very active and engaged member of the caving community. It is not a surprise that his children (Steve and his sister Myrna) followed suit and greatly enriched the caving community in their own right. His generous donation to the SCCi will allow the Attaway legacy to be remembered for many generations to come. The SCCi is excited to protect these caves on this beautiful land forever, honoring his passion for cave conservation.”

SCCi is currently making preparations to open the preserve for visitation. As with SCCi’s other 30 preserves, recreational use will be carefully balanced with conservation.


SCCi is aware of the article written in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press and published on June 3, 2020.  According to the article, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division “sent a notice to Southeastern Cave Conservancy” on May 20 that requires us to give them steps that outline how some gravels and rip-rap rock that have entered Hurricane Creek will be removed and properly relocated or disposed. It also requires us to state a remediation schedule and the projected completion for the corrective action plan. We are complying with that request and are completing what needs to be done in the time frame given.

SCCi placed gravel and rip-rack rock under an EPA 319 Clean Water Grant at the beginning of the year. The work was meant to stabilize flows into Hurricane Creek. Unfortunately, torrential rains washed away much of the remediation work before it settled, causing the extra material to flow into Hurricane Creek.

SCCi continues to work diligently to protect the lands with which we have been entrusted. 

In light of multiple stay-at-home orders across the Southeast, SCCi has made the decision to suspend new permits through May 31st to our most visited preserves - Tumbling Rock and Stephens Gap.

These preserves have multiple congregating points and high visitation levels which make it difficult, if not impossible, to adhere to social distancing guidelines. There is additional concern of stressing rescue and healthcare resources should the need arise.

As this situation is fluid, SCCi will be making decisions as additional information and guidance is available.

Visitors arriving the John T. Dolberry Tumbling Rock Cave Preserve may notice a few infrastructure changes. After more than a decade of dedicated service as a resident preserve manager, Nathan Williams decided to relocate to family property in another county. Per Nathan, the location was too far away for him to remain an effective manager and subsequently has stepped down from those responsibilities. SCCi extends the greatest appreciation to Nathan for those years of tireless service. THANK YOU Nathan.

When visitors arrive they’ll immediately notice the absence of the house. With Nathan no longer the resident manager and little prospect of finding a new tenant, we determined the best path for the preserve management team going forward was the removal of the house. We accomplished this under the watchful eyes of Directors Steve Davis and Tom Whitehurst. We will place additional infrastructure at the preserve over the following months to assist with access control, primarily a code controlled gate system and then minor upgrades to the changing facility and additions to the existing interpretive display (kiosk).

Eventually, we will set up an internet hotspot and surveillance monitoring like at Stephens Gap Preserve. We anticipate making some small management changes to more easily accommodate camping at the preserve in the future but those guidelines or details haven’t been determined. Once we establish them, we will announce them here and through our website. We are still allowing camping at the traditional area behind the two-story building. Please use only this camping area. We have changed parking at the preserve as well. Vehicle parking is now on the right, adjacent to the mountain beyond the current kiosk. This change is mainly to allow grass to grow on the disturbed areas. Please do not park in taped off areas. We have relocated the port-o-let to the right side of the garage/changing rooms.

If you happen to see or communicate with Nathan, please THANK him for the years of dedication and service to SCCi at the Tumbling Rock Preserve.

Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi) strives to ensure the safety of all of its visitors and staff.  As such, SCCi is closely monitoring the status of Coronavirus where we have preserves. Our staff is working remotely and we are recommending that when contemplating a visit to an SCCi preserve, people follow CDC, state, and local guidelines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. For high-risk populations, such as the elderly and people with underlying conditions, we ask that they take extra caution and follow CDC guidelines for those at higher risk of serious illness.  Slowing the spread of novel coronavirus is everyone's responsibility. 

Currently, our preserves remain open to permitted visitors. We urge visitors to engage in social distancing and keep group sizes to 10 or less. We will continue to keep you informed via social media and SCCi’s website if our current policy should change.

On November 23, 2019, a student from Purdue University fell while rappelling in the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc.'s (SCCi) Valhalla Cave in Jackson County, Alabama. He was on a Purdue Outing Club trip that included other cave trips. The group had acquired the appropriate SCCi permit.

SCCi Board Chair, Kris Green, said "We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this young man."

SCCi's Valhalla Preserve was created in 2002. It is a 145-acre nature preserve that includes Valhalla Cave. The cave is accessed through a 227 foot entrance pit. This is the first fatality at the Valhalla Preserve since SCCi acquired it. SCCi is cooperating with local authorities in their investigation.

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi) announces that the Annual Science Awards program to help fund scientific and conservation research projects on SCCi preserves is now soliciting grant proposals for 2019-2020. As the nation’s largest and most successful land conservancy solely devoted to acquiring and protecting caves, SCCi understands that scientific research must be part of our mission. We firmly believe that research is essential to conserving cave and karst resources, and it is a foundation upon which good stewardship must depend.

We aim to have a well-rounded research program with focus mainly towards cave/karst topics in geology, geochemistry, hydrology, biology, environmental science, and archaeology. SCCi currently protects more than 170 caves on 31 preserves in 6 states. Any one or more of these caves and preserves would be worthy of different scientific investigations.

SCCi is now accepting grant proposals from non-profit caving groups, scientists, university/college faculty members, and undergraduate-graduate students for conducting research projects at SCCi properties beginning in the Fall of 2019. Funds can only be given to a not-for-profit organization or educational institution. For this year, funding is available to support as many as 3 grants of up to $1,500-$2,000 for (1) geology, geochemistry, or hydrology, (2) biology (zoology and botany) and (3) environmental/archaeological projects.

All proposals must follow the format outlined below and be submitted via email to SCCi Chief Scientist Dr. Matthew Niemiller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In addition to the research proposal, please also include your C.V. or resume highlighting your current position, educational background, and relevant research experience. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2019. A team of reviewers will evaluate all proposals and base their decisions on scientific merit. Funding decisions will be announced by December 30, 2019. Awardees from the previous year are not eligible. Results from the research must be submitted to SCCi as brief biannual reports highlighting research progress and accomplishments to date followed by a final report or thesis. We encourage publishing in scientific journals but SCCi reserves the right to review each report for approval/disapproval prior to publishing.

In your proposal, please provide the following information:

TITLE. Provide a concise and descriptive title in 15 words or less of the proposed research.

CONTACT INFORMATION. Provide your name, official mailing address, contact phone number, and email address.

BACKGROUND AND NEED. Describe in up to 1,500 words state the research problem which will be addressed wholly or in part by this research. Provide in up to 1,500 words relevant background information and discussion to (1) clearly identify the research problem that will be addressed wholly or in part by the proposed research; (2) provide a framework for the research and how it relates to other research; and (3) identify the relevance of the proposed research.

OBJECTIVE(S). Describe in up to 500 words the primary research question(s), hypothesis, predictions, and specific objectives of the proposed research. Objectives should focus on research outcomes.

EXPECTED RESULTS OR BENEFITS. Describe in up to 500 words the expected results and benefits of the proposed research. How will the research project benefit cave and karst resources owned and/or managed by SCCi? Please attempt to provide quantifiable or verifiable resource benefits. Also identify plans for how the results of the research will be disseminated.

APPROACH. Describe in up to 1,500 words how the research will be conducted. Include the major method(s) to be employed and the schedule (i.e., project timeline) to be followed. Please list any existing or pending permits and approvals necessary to conduct the research (e.g., state or federal scientific collecting permit). If you are an undergraduate or graduate student, please identify the research advisor at your institution.

LOCATION. Identify where the research will occur and include a list of SCCi preserves and caves where research may be conducted.

ESTIMATED COST AND BUDGET. Provide the total estimated cost for the research project and an itemized budget on how SCCi funding from this award would be applied. In addition, please provide a short justification for budget line item requested. If the total project budget is greater than the amount of SCCi funding requested, please include a list of other existing or potential sources of funding for the project.

LITERATURE CITED. Provide all relevant literature cited in the proposal.

B32019PSCombining great bluegrass music, locally crafted brews from Chattanooga Brewing and amazing food from Parkway Pourhouse in a gorgeous outdoor setting, Bats, Beer & Bluegrass is one of the most unique events in the Southeast. Dinner is included with your ticket. Beer is available for purchase (over 21 years old of course). Purchase a VIP ticket and get a souvenir mug, poster and or complementary beer during the event.

This year we have two amazing bluegrass bands, No Time Flatt and The Tin Cup Rattlers. No Time Flatt is the 2017 and 2018 winner of the Tennessee Music Awards, "Bluegrass Band of the Year." The Tin Cup Rattlers are a husband and wife duo from Chattanooga who feature a rich bluegrass tradition.

Best of all will be the opportunity to experience all of this on a gorgeous nature preserve with the stunning entrance to Frick's Cave as the backdrop. The evening ends with a chance to witness the spectacular flight of the endangered gray bats from the cave.

Click here for more information and to buy your tickets 4th Annual Bats, Beer and Bluegrass

After a recent fatality at the Stephens Gap Preserve involving Philip Whitehead of Kentucky and Florida, SCCi has decided to temporarily close visitation to the preserve up to but no later than September 20.  This is out of respect to the family and friends of Philip Whitehead, and to evaluate and discuss current visitation guidelines and/or develop new ones.  The Board must also evaluate reports from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and the Jackson County Coroner, as this death remains under investigation.  The Board did not make this decision in haste or without much discussion and counsel. Should you have questions, please contact Ray Knott, Executive Director at 423-771-9671.

SCCi extends our condolences to the family of the man that fell to his death at the Stephens Gap-Callahan Preserve on 04/11/19. Cause for the fall in unknown.

Out of respect and to facilitate the investigation, we cancelled all permits for 04/12/19 and have suspended issuing new permits to the preserve until 4/20/19. The Jackson County Sheriff's department has released no details regarding the fatality as of this post.