Management Plan for Preserve of Persinger Entrance to the Benedict Cave System

The 40-foot drop that connects Persinger Cave to Benedict Cave. The red, blue and yellow shale layers are very distinct in this section of the cave. (Photo by Nikki Fox)


The West Virginia Cave Conservancy (WVCC), a non-profit, West Virginia corporation, has purchased approximately five acres that includes the Persinger Entrance to the Benedict Cave System in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. This parcel was subdivided from the old Persinger Farm, located just off of Benedict Lane, east of the Greenbrier Valley Airport, approximately one mile from U.S. Route 219. At least one other parcel has been sold. The farm is in a prime development area in a booming area north of Lewisburg, West Virginia, and the entire farm has been subdivided with all the other parcels for sale.

Access to all the major cave systems in Greenbrier County are potentially threatened by the rapid population growth and development of the area, and by increasing liability concerns. WVCC has a goal of maintaining access to Benedict Cave, and too as many of the other major systems in West Virginia as possible. Benedict Cave offers outstanding scientific, educational, and recreational opportunities. WVCC will manage the Persinger Entrance to maximize these opportunities. At the present the Benedict Entrance is open to caver visits by special permission from the owner.


The Benedict Cave System’s original survey, led by Roger Barody, was done by the West Virginia Association for Cave Studies (WVACS). The subsequent resurvey, begun in 1978. was started by Bill Douty, Pam Mohr, and Thor Brecht, member of the VPI Cave Club. They were assisted by 21 additional surveyors, many of them members of WVACS. It took Douty over 1,300 hours to complete the map. There were 14,746 miles of passage surveyed with a vertical relief of 254 feet.

A caver admires anastomosis in the main river passage in Benedict. (Photo by Nikki Fox)

Cave Resources

Benedict Cave is listed on the Significant Cave List for length, depth, hydrology, geology, biology, history, and esthetics.

The cave has two entrances, the main Benedict entrance that was first used to gain access to the cave and the Persinger entrance. WVACS members found the Persinger entrance from the inside during exploration of the cave. An attempt was made to dig out from the inside but was not successful. Subsequently, the entrance was located on the surface and was excavated.

Benedict Cave is one of the most complex of a series of so called “contact cave systems” located in the historic “Great Savannah” of Greenbrier County. These contact cave systems are known for extensive passage development in the contact zone between the overlying Mississippian Greenbrier Limestone and the underlying MacCrady Shale. To date, approximately 14 miles of passage has been surveyed in Benedict.

Benedict Cave lies between two other major contact cave systems: Wade Cave to the southwest, and Historic Maxwelton Sink Cave of the Great Savannah Cave System to the northwest. All these systems are interrelated, and connection potential exists for all of these systems. A total of five major contact cave systems are developed adjacent to each other in this area. A total of 90 miles have been mapped so far in all these systems.

Major stream passages in Benedict were formed near the limestone/shale contact, and are cutting down into the underlying red shales of the MacCrady Formation, yielding interesting passage morphology. In addition, numerous faults and folds have been documented, and the cave shows interesting passage modifications where these features are encountered.

Hydrologically, Benedict has numerous infeeder streams that travel from the surface down-dip to the master trunk stream. These include 22 creeks of stream passage that are interconnected. This stream has been dye traced to an eventual resurgence at Davis Spring, approximately 15 miles to the south on the Greenbrier River. Benedict Cave serves as a major in feeder to the 73-square mile Davis Spring drainage basin.

Although not highly decorated with speleothems, certain areas of the cave contain nice formations. Benedict contains several species of bats and invertebrates that are common to the area. The cave is not a significant hibernaculum. The cave has the potential to produce some interesting paleontological finds.

Surface Resources

The Persinger Entrance is situated in roughly the center of the old Persinger farm. WVCC was able to choose the acreage that suited both budget and usage concerns. A large section of the wetlands draining into the cave was included in the purchase along with a second entrance that most likely could be dug open. A common use right-of-way was included in the purchase.

Since its purchase, the farm has been subdivided and the preserve is now surrounded by single-family homes. The tall pines by the parking area were planted by volunteers in 2004.

The blind valley with the Persinger Entrance is ringed with many mature trees and a large portion of the property is open meadow. Included with this draft plan will be a conservation proposal from the USDA for a tree, shrub, and legume-planting program to provide soil, wetland, and wildlife protection.

Cavers illuminate the massive room in Benedict Cave’s Sinking Creek. (Photo by Nikki Fox)

Publicity Policy

WVCC will publicize the Persinger Entrance preserve only to the extent necessary to accomplish our mission goals. Publicity of details and location information will only be available within the established caving community. Publicity available to the general public will be limited to information needed to promote our educational and scientific goals. In the event of a rescue at the cave, WVCC will make every effort to minimize media coverage, especially any location information.


The Board of Directors has established a management committee to implement and monitor this management plan. The Board will be responsible for any plan changes. The management committee will report to the Board on the status of the preserve, with any recommendations for changes to this plan.

The management committee will be responsible for monitoring the following rules controlling use of the preserve:

1. No camping or fires will be permitted at this time.
2. All trash and human waste must be packed out.
3. ATV’s, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles are not permitted on the preserve.
4. Collection of rocks, flora, fauna, etc. on the surface is prohibited. Any collection underground must be done in accordance with West Virginia laws, which require a permit from the state, based in part on permission from the Board. The Board will approve such requests on an individual basis, based on scientific need.
5. No placement of permanent bolts or anchors is allowed. No other defacement of the cave is allowed.
6. Parking is allowed only in designated areas.
7. No hunting will be allowed on the property. No fireworks or firearms will be allowed on the property.
8. No commercial activity, including cave-for-pay, will be allowed on the property.
9. Visitors’ conduct should conform to National Speleological Society conservation guidelines, and to NSS Safety and Techniques Committee recommendations.
10. Visitors are expected to comply with all applicable state and federal laws.

Crawling through Mediocre Creek from Persinger to access Benedict Cave passages. (Photo by Nikki Fox)

Access Policy

The Persinger Entrance to Benedict Cave will be maintained in an “open” condition, and will be freely available to all responsible cavers, regardless of any organizational affiliation. No cave-for-pay or any other activity “for pay” is allowed. No release form is required for visitation.


Parking at the preserve is abundant. It will comfortably fit many vehicles in the field near the changing station, which is an enclosed gazebo to maintain modesty while changing in the middle of a housing development.

Property Manager

The Property Managers of the Persinger Entrance to Benedict Cave System Preserve is Ed Swepston and Mystik Miller. You may contact them at for further information about the cave.

A waterfall in Mediocre Creek with colorful shale layers. (Photo by Nikki Fox)

Cavers in Benedict Cave’s Crawdad Room. (Photo by Nikki Fox)