SCCi Plans To Purchase Sinkhole Cave in Marion County, TN

SCCi Plans To Purchase Sinkhole Cave in Marion County, TN

Update: Thanks to the support of 200 generous donors and an especially generous gift from The Lyndhurst Foundation, $177,992 was raised to fund the purchase and protection of Kelly Cove-Sinkhole Preserve.


When word came through that a decades long closed pit in Marion County, TN was up for sale, SCCi knew this was a unique opportunity to protect and reopen an incredible pit... 

Nearly 50 years ago, a crew of Chattanooga area cavers caught word of a few unexplored holes along a ridge just off I-24 in Marion County, TN. Walking along the ridge, it was a cool day in early March when not even the trillium had poked through the leaf litter. The forest surrounding them was mixed oak and hickory with tulip poplar and beech spread throughout; typical of a southeastern mixed hardwood forest. Spotting a cave at this time of year can be difficult. All the cool breezes consistently blowing easily mask the tell-tale breath of a cave. However, the crisp air and lack of foliage gave them the advantage of higher visibility. Navigating through the trees and occasional embedded rock exposed at the surface, they soon caught a glimpse of water pouring off rocks before it disappeared into the ground...

Sinkhole Past

Although only a short distance from the busy highway, the roar of a waterfall crashing 164 feet into a pit drowned out the sounds of any passing vehicles. 

It was 1975 and these ridgewalkers had just discovered Sinkhole.

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 Photo Credit Bob Biddix

For the next 20 years, cavers from the southeast and beyond journeyed to experience the pit. The L shaped cave was rapidly becoming a favorite due to it's ease of access and rich biological surroundings. As it gained in popularity, the land was beginning to show how loved it was becoming, with saplings, shrubs and wildflowers retreating to less trodden parts of the property. As the roots gave way to boots, compaction and erosion became major issues, causing concern for the landowner and caver, Harry White. Much to the dismay of the caving community Harry shared in a letter to Speleo Themes  on September 6, 1994 that Sinkhole was closed to cavers. 

Nearly 30 years later, SCCi has the opportunity to reopen the cave for responsible recreation and protect and manage its biological resources.

With your support this property can be protected and re-opened for responsible recreation. 

Visit  saveyourcaves.org/sinkhole to learn more and donate.

Written by : Courtney Parker