Of all of the karst and cave areas of West Virginia, the Lewisburg region reigns supreme. A couple hundred million years ago a limestone bed over a thousand feet thick was laid out. When the mountains formed, this limestone bed was spared much of the severe bending and folding seen elsewhere, and was given a gentle slope with large and expansive horizontal fractures. The result: miles, hundreds of miles, of cave passages.
No less than twelve of the state’s fifteen longest caves were formed here. Friars Hole, the longest in the state at 46.5miles, rests just under the hills and hollows west of Droop Mountain; it snakes under Greenbrier and Pocahontas County. Organ Cave, which is 38miles long and has over a half dozen entrances, lies hidden below Monroe County.
Friars Hole Cave System lies below Droop Mountain, its length is the result of three cave systems that grew and connected into one vast network of passages. Known about since the time of the Civil War, the cave contains many world class features. The Snedegars Entrance is a massive trunk passage, in places 50ft tall and 50ft wide. Crookshank Pit is one of the most beautiful cave entrances in the state, a yawning 100ft open air pit. Within the cave itself are miles of large trunk passage.
The West Virginia Cave Conservancy (WVCC) is a non-profit organization aimed at preserving and protecting caves. They currently own the entrances to several caves, including the fourteen mile long Maxwelton Sink Cave and the twenty five mile long Culverson Creek Cave system. Maxwelton Cave is gated with a lock, access is controlled by the WVCC. Its fourteen miles of passages contain many rare, delicate, and beautiful formations. Culverson Creek Cave contains some of the largest cave passages north of Mexico. Great care must be taken in Culverson, it can flood rapidly and violently – trees over 2ft in diameter wedged two miles in from some entrances are evidence of this.
It is up to you to safely and responsibly visit this fantastic places: contact the local Greenbrier Grotto and have them help you get into the area. Caves are an incredibly delicate and vital natural resource and they are threatened every day by pollution and human activities. You as a human being are also a delicate resource, and caves can damage you just as much as you can damage them.
In 2012, the National Speleological Society held their annual national convention here in Lewisburg, a testament to the quality of the area. Cavers from around the state helped organize the event. The Greenbrier Grotto, the WVCC, and the West Virginia Association for Cave Studies (WVACS) are the stewards of this area; they protect, preserve, and promote this world class treasure. Most, if not all, caving in the area should be coordinated with the help of the aforementioned organizations. All of the caves in the region are on private property and thus require the permission of the landowners. Most landowners are friendly, the area has a large community of cavers and many owners are cavers themselves. Some are not friendly to cavers. Remember: the landowner always has the final word. Respecting landowners and maintaining a good relationship with them helps not only you, but all others who come to enjoy these fine caves.