Many SCCi preserves feature beautiful landscapes and photogenic cave entrances. Most of our preserves are open for hiking and photography at any time with no restrictions. However, if you are planning to go inside one of our caves, please follow these guidelines.

Visiting SCCi Caves:


SCCi members have committed enormous amounts of money and time to help protect caves and fragile cave ecosystems. Introduction of foreign substances into our caves can have unintended consequences to cave life. In addition to concerns regarding White Nose Syndrome (WNS), some caves have microscopic life that is unique to that cave, and that can be decimated by material introduced from other caves. The SCCi Board of Directors has adopted guidelines to help reduce the potential that cavers could inadvertently impact our cave ecosystems by carrying soil, water, or other substances from one cave to another. If you have any questions, please contact an SCCi board member or the appropriate SCCi property manager.
Before and After Visiting Any SCCi Cave Preserve
Clean and disinfect all clothing and gear following the Clean Caving Procedures before and after going inside any SCCi cave.
Permitted SCCi Cave Preserves
Read the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy. Complete and return the Clean Caving Questionnaire  to the SCCi Property Manager. If you save this file to your computer then reopen it, you can fill out the information online. This procedure is in addition to any other permit requirements contained in the preserve management plan.
Planning Cave Cleanups:
Want to schedule a cleanup trip on an SCCi preserve? We'd love your help! Read the SCCi Cleanup Policy and Procedure to learn how to plan your cleanup trip.

The Board of the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi) bans the commercial use of our properties, and specifically, prohibits any activity where a charge of any type is made. Should you have any questions, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

One of the SCCi's most popular fundraising programs is the "Buy a Piece of the Cave" program. You can buy an honorary piece of a cave passage or surface plot, your name is added to an outstanding map of the cave or surface plot of the property, and you will also receive a certificate and t-shirt specifically created for the individual cave preserve. Various types of cave passage or surface features are "for sale" with many of our programs. The following links open copies of all of the existing maps so you can find your name and print out a poster. If you haven't bought a piece of a cave, make a donation now and your name will be added to the poster! These posters are also good ways to see what some of our cave preserves are like.
You can also review the different options available with the Buy a Piece of a Cave program and buy your own piece of a cave today!

Stephens Gap Callahan Cave: Cave Map | Pit Map
Run To The Mill: Cave Map | Land Survey | Tilted Well Map
Fern Cave, Surprise Pit: Piece of the Pit | Surface Plot Poster
Lost Canyon Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave
Steward Spring Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave
Tumbling Rock Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave Poster
Limrock Blowing Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave Poster
Kennamer Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave Poster
Valhalla Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave Poster  | Surface Plot Poster  | Slice of the Pit
South Pittsburg Pit Preserve: Piece of the Cave Poster  |  Surface Plot Poster
Snail Shell Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave Poster  | Surface Plot Poster
Fox Mountain Preserve: Surface Plot Poster  | Cemetery Pit Poster  | Fox Mountain Selected Cave Passages
Neversink Preserve: Surface Plot Poster  | Pit Slices Poster  | 10th Anniversary Poster
Horse Skull Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave Poster
Wolf River Cave Preserve: Piece of the Cave Poster
SCCi preserves are of great interest to explorers, scientists, historians, artists and others. We encourage the study and exploration of our preserves. Simultaneously, SCCi is committed to a conservation mission that ensures that our caves and preserves remain in their natural state for future generations.
To balance these two goals, SCCi has a process for individuals and organizations interested in pursuing activities on SCCi preserves that are beyond the traditional recreational uses of our preserves, which include caving, hiking, ridge walking, bird watching, and similar pursuits. We have attempted to make the process as transparent and straightforward as possible.
All permitting is done through http://permits.scci.org. The information below is provided to guide you through the permitting process.
Research Permits
SCCi requires Research Permits for all research activities on our preserves, in order to ensure that our stewardship continues to be informed by the latest scientific knowledge. We define the term “research” broadly to include any scientific activity intended to obtain information about our resources, including but not limited to: data collection, inventories, monitoring, and sampling or collection of any type of biota, geologic media (e.g. rocks, minerals, formations, soil, sediment or deposit), water, or air.
Research Permits permit the research activity for up to one year. Visitor Permits are required when the research team will be on site. If you are unsure as to whether your proposed activity requires a research permit, please contact us with details of what you would like to do.
Special Use Permits
SCCi requires Special Use Permits (SUP) for all non-research activities that (1) fall outside typical recreational use of a preserve, (2) have the potential to impact preserves/caves, their natural or cultural resources, or (3) interfere with the visitor experience.
Examples when a Special Use Permit is needed include, but are not limited to:

  • Any activity prohibited or listed as requiring a special use permit in an SCCi preserve management plan, visitor use plan, or policy. (e.g., group sizes that exceed limits; camping; disturbing, collecting, or removing artifacts, biota or geologic media (just to be clear, the mud that sticks to your shoes, clothes or gear is OK!), digging in the cave or on the preserve, modifying the cave passage, bolting of any nature, removal or replacement of existing bolts or rigging, use of rigging points other than those allowed, etc.)



  • Cave exploration and survey. If you found a previously unknown or unexplored cave on an SCCi preserve; discovered previously unknown passage within a known cave; want to do a lead climb to explore a high lead, dome, or canyon; or want to re-survey a previously mapped cave, you need a SUP. All new cave exploration will follow a “survey-as-you-explore” ethic, and that all cave survey activities will meet our current survey standards.



  • Cleanup activities beyond the removal of typical incidental modern litter that may accumulate in caves and on preserves. A SUP is required for organized group cleanups; large-scale waste removal; or ANY graffiti removal, formation cleaning.


Special Use Permits permit the research activity for up to one year. Visitor Permits are required when the special use team will be on site. If you are unsure as to whether your proposed activity requires a special use permit, please contact us with details of what you would like to do.
Media Permits
Any creation of media (photo, video, audio, painting, drawing, etc.) on SCCi Preserves for any purpose other than personal use requires a Media Permit. Professional artists are encouraged to use SCCi Preserves for portfolio work, free public exhibitions, etc. However, commercial use of SCCi Preserves is strictly prohibited and that includes the sell or monetization of creative works created on SCCi Preserves. This includes the display of works on websites that create pay-per-click/view revenue streams. In exchange for the issuance of a Media Permit, the artist gives SCCi the right to share the finished work, with attribution, for the purposes of education, promotion and/or fundraising.
Media Permits permit the media activity for up to one year. Visitor Permits are required when the artist will be on site. If you are unsure as to whether your proposed activity requires a media permit, please contact us with details of what you would like to do.
Permit Process
All permit requests are to be made online at http://permits.scci.org. After registering, select New Permit and the type of permit for which you want to apply.
Once we receive your permit request, it will be evaluated by a team of reviewers. They may ask for additional information or clarifications, notify you of required stipulations, and inform you of any restrictions that may be applicable. If they approve your permit, your permit will include any additional stipulations. It is our intent to have a final answer given within 30 days of a final permit request.
If you need more information on the permit process or your specific request, you may send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 423-771-9671.
FernCave-SurprisePit-01
SCCiThe Southeastern Cave Conservancy buys caves!
We buy caves to provide recreational caving access, to protect endangered species, to protect fragile watersheds, and to provide other types of recreational opportunities like photography, hiking, and camping, and to provide opportunities for scientific research. Sometimes if we are unable to actually buy property, we will work with the landowner to set up a lease. Leases allow our supporters to visit, photograph, and hike to caves that may have been closed for many years, and allows cavers to help protect fragile underground ecosystems. We also partner with many other conservation organizations across the region to accomplish our mission.
Gray bats
Many people are confused about the SCCi's business model. Unlike many land conservancies that set up easements and accept land donations, we buy property at fair market value. Owning property is one of the fundamental principles of our organization. We think that the best way to protect caves and property forever is to own what we want to protect. Sure, we'll take a donated cave any time we can get one as long as the cave fits in with our mission, but we know that we need to try to buy caves we want to protect.
If we can't buy a cave we want, we try to lease it. We own over 1,400 acres of land, 23 separate cave preserves, and lease many more acres. We have a list of many more caves we're actively trying to buy.
We started out buying caves in the area centered around Chattanooga, TN that features one of the most fabulous caving areas in the country. As the SCCi grew, we started to expand outward to protect properties throughout the southeast. We currently own or manage caves in six southeastern states, including Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

In the late 1980s, large parts of beautiful southeastern karst landscapes started to be closed to recreational access and threatened by development. A small group of caving enthusiasts started talking about how to protect a beautiful and pristine part of the landscape that many people don't think much about: caves.

SCCi was the brainchild of Jeff and Alexis Harris, two long-time cave conservation activists from Georgia. In 1991, they called together a group of about 20 caving enthusiasts to discuss the idea of starting a cave conservancy. Back then, the idea that cave explorers could come together to buy and manage large numbers of caves seemed reasonable, but they also knew that a conservancy would require huge sums of money and a vast amount of volunteer labor.

After that first meeting, everyone agreed to move forward. After more planning meetings, the newly formed Southeastern Cave Conservancy received official 501(c)3 status in November of 1991. At first, the small group thought that the way the new conservancy would actually own caves would be through donations, conservation easements, or maybe leases. The small group of leaders thought they might be able to afford to actually buy a cave every once in a while, just as long as the property didn't cost too much.

The group has been much more successful than the founders could have imagined. Over 27 years later, the SCCi protects 170+ caves on 31 preserves in six states. How did the SCCi founders do it?

SCCi was lucky in its early years. The founders benefited from good advice and guidance from many people and organizations. They modeled the new group after the Nature Conservancy and sought that group's advice for how to be successful. They also got lucky right away when a local caver donated a very popular cave in Trenton, GA, Howard's Waterfall Cave, to the start-up conservancy. This generous donation set the stage for many other projects in the years to come.

After getting started, the new board started to talk about a good first project. Many in the group were very fond of Fox Mountain in Rising Fawn, GA, and the wonderful caves hidden under the mountain's craggy surface. The only problem was the property potentially for sale was over 300 acres-- hefty acreage with a hefty price tag.

As the group pondered whether or not to try to buy Fox Mountain, the board got word that one of the most beautiful and popular caves in the southeast, Neversink, was for sale. The board knew they had a better chance of paying for the 86 acres at Neversink. The purchase tooke three years to finalize.

The purchase of Neversink put SCCi on the map. People who were previously skeptical of a cave conservancy became enthusiastic about the group's mission and goals. People jumped on board to help the group pay off the $50,000 mortgage. Over $30,000 was raised before the closing. The remaining $20,000 was financed by a loan from an anonymous supporter. The loan amount was raised and repaid in less than six months. In all, more than 400 people donated money to the project and became honorary owners of a "piece of the pit."

Over the years, the SCCi has acquired well-known and loved caves such as Kennamer Cave, Limrock Blowing, Valhalla, and Fern Cave's Surprise Pit. The SCCi did eventually buy a large piece of land on Fox Mountain and some wildly popularly caves. For other caves that weren't available for purchase, like Sinking Cove Cave, SCCi has worked out long-term lease and cooperative management agreements.

After more than 27 years, SCCi protect some of the most important bat habitats, caves with spectacular biodiversity, and important watersheds. All of this will providing opportunities for cave exploration, hiking and scientific study.

General Email Address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Research Application Contact Info
See the Research Guidelines page for information about applying for a research permit.
Snail mail:
Southeastern Cave Conservancy
PO Box 250
Signal Mountain TN 37377
Phone: 423.771.9671
Check out our Facebook  pages to connect with the SCCi and our supporters!
Wolf River Cave Bob Biddix
Wolf River Cave, photo courtesy of Bob Biddix

Wolf River Cave Wolf River Cave is more than eight miles long and is one of the most significant caves in North America in terms of its biology, anthropology, archeology and zoology. Many areas of the cave contain cultural resources or pristine formations and it's very important that you stay on established trails!
Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc., in partnership with The Nature Conservancy , Tennessee Chapter (TNC) and Bat Conservation International (BCI), purchased Wolf River Cave and 33 acres of surrounding karst land near Jamestown in Fentress County Tennessee. The cave and surrounding property were part of a family farm that was sold at auction on July 20, 2002.
The cave also contains Tennessee's second-largest hibernation colony of the rarest endangered bat species in the Southeast - the Indiana bat. According to a survey conducted by Tennessee Technological University, the winter colony numbers between 2,400 and 2,500 bats. One of the first species to be placed on the federal endangered species list, Indiana bats hibernate in caves from September through early April. The cave is also known to house a small number of federally listed endangered gray bats in the summer, as well as a few Rafinesque's Big-Eared Bats. In addition, explorers have reported observing blind crayfish and cave beetles.
Wolf River Cave Bob Biddix
Wolf River Cave, photo courtesy of Bob Biddix

The Nature Conservancy , Tennessee Chapter and SCCi operate under a Memorandum of Understanding for joint projects involving caves and cave protection in Tennessee.  Along with its other goals and objectives, the ability to act quickly and in concert to purchase caves in immediate danger is one reason the MOU was implemented.  In a land auction participants often have little time to prepare and prices can soar above appraised values.  This important acquisition would not have taken place without the financial assistance of TNC and Bat Conservation International.  Gabby Call, Director of Protection for TNC's Tennessee Chapter, and Jim Kennedy, Assistant Director of BCI's North American Bat Conservation Partnership, were instrumental in securing the necessary financial support and in forging a successful partnership among the three organizations.
Preserve Information:
Acreage: 32.86 acres in Fentress County, Tennessee
Preserve Management Team: Wolf River Cave Preserve Management Committee (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Access: Permit required permits.scci.org (Closed September 1 - April 30)
Preserve Map: Wolf River map