Wolf River Cave

Wolf River Cave is a Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCCi) property located in Fentress County, Tennessee with over 9 miles of passages.

4,500 years ago is hard for me to wrap my head around... the Great Pyramid of Giza was soon going to be built... the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations did not even exist yet... the Mayan civilization was just beginning...

Around this time, in the Late Archaic period a group of nine Native American explorers (one even suspected to be an adolescent) entered Wolf River Cave in what is now Fentress County, TN with bundles of river cane torches in hand, setting out to explore its dark zone passages.

Native American visitation to caves has been well documented and is evidenced by river cane torch (stoke) marks on the walls of cave passages, freshwater gastropod shells, pictographs and petroglyphs, to a lesser extent chert and gypsum mining, and even ceremonial or mortuary use.

Despite there being no evidence of mining or ceremonial use, Wolf River Cave is special. Deep within is a passage called Aborigine Avenue, where 274 relatively complete footprints have remained relatively intact and preserved over the millennia.

In 1976, cavers found these footprints and reported them to Patty Jo Watson who proceeded to study and document them supported by the Cave Research Foundation (CRF) and National Speleological Society (NSS) members as well as the Washington University (St. Louis) anthropology and archaeology students.

Fast forward to 2002... the cave and surrounding property that was part of a family farm was sold at auction and purchased by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCCi) in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Chapter (TNC), and Bat Conservation International (BCI).

Today, SCCi sustainably manages Wolf River Cave in line with their three main points of focus; Conservation of its vulnerable species and archaeological artifacts, education, and its steadfast commitment to recreational access for people interested in this unique and fascinating adventure.

The National Speleological Society website (Caves.org) has a copy of her paper that includes her thorough documentation of each footprint, the exact path each Native American explorer followed, and additional thoughts that I can not fully do justice to. It is: Preservation Of Prehistoric Footprints In Jaguar Cave, Tennessee

Wolf River Cave is owned and managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy. You can visit SaveYourCaves.org to become a member or make a donation. Becoming a member allows you to request a permit to visit their 170+ caves and help protect them for future generations.

In addition, I'd encourage you to check out the National Speleological Society's website and consider joining a local Grotto (caving club) where you can sign up for trips to caves like this and learn from experienced cavers.

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