MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR
The West Virginia Cave Conservancy (WVCC), a non-profit West Virginia corporation, has been asked by the landowner of the Savannah Cave to assist in the management of the cave. Savannah Cave is located three miles south of Frankford, W.Va. in Greenbrier County.
The sinkhole entrance to Savannah Cave was first investigated in the 1970s by local cavers who were interested in a swallow hole which took in a significant stream most of the year. The subsequent dig was abandoned and catalogued for future reference as easier and more accessible caves became available. Decades later, in 2009, Bruce Fries stumbled across some of the original notes in the WVACS archives and the cave caught his interest. Due to many caves being closed because of WNS, cave digs became more fashionable and with modern digging techniques (including a backhoe), the cave was opened in short order. A more stable entrance was created out of concrete and local stone. Some modest passage modification followed and the digging project became a surveying project.
Surveying of Savannah Cave extended from 2009 through 2014 as the cave branched off in opposite east-west directions. West led to a long stream passage and eventually one of the taller waterfalls underground in West Virginia. East led to a series of ever tightening fissure passages heading towards the Historic Maxwelton Sink Cave portion of the Great Savannah Cave System. Since 2014 the cave has seen limited access and some minor surveying needs remain.
Savannah Cave is on the West Virginia Significant Cave List for both geology and hydrology. It is currently 3,349 feet long (0.63 miles) with possibly several hundred more feet of unsurveyed passage. The cave’s total depth is 185 feet.
The entrance to Savannah Cave is formed in the Pickaway Limestone. The cave descends stratigraphically through the Taggard shale at or near the Big Room, which has an 85-foot rappel to the bottom. The lower part of the Big Room is formed in the Denmar Limestone (formerly the Patton Limestone).
This cave can flood, and the large pit is wet, even in dry weather. In addition, the top of the 85-foot-deep drop into the Big Room can be extremely misty, making it hard to see the drop.
Hydrologically, Savannah Cave is located within the Davis Spring Drainage basin and is an important window into that basin. The Waterfall in the Big Room flows year round, and, by volume, is one of the larger underground waterfalls in West Virginia. This water has been traced back to Coffman Cave and Higginbotham Cave west of Frankford. Water entering the entrance sinkhole, which travels through the cave, has been dye traced to Echo River — an infeeding stream into Sweetwater River, accessed through Historic Maxwelton Sink Cave of the Great Savannah Cave System — and ultimately to Davis Spring located approximately 12 miles to the southwest on the Greenbrier River.
Biologically, Savannah Cave does not host a large bat population due to the potential for it to flood in winter months. It likely hosts an invertebrate population due to the numerous insurgences of surface water into the cave, but this has not been systematically investigated.
Savannah Cave is located in the farmlands north of Lewisburg, W.Va. The 24-foot deep sinkhole where the entrance resides is prone to filling during hurricanes and heavy rains.
Publicity of details and location information for this cave system will only be available within the established caving community.
The Board of Directors has established a property manager to implement and monitor this management plan. The Board will be responsible for any plan changes. The property manager will report to the Board on the status of the preserve, with any recommendations for changes to this plan.
The property manager 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.
Access is available to all vertically-competent, responsible cavers over the age of 18, regardless of any organizational affiliation. Vertical novices are discouraged. No release form is required for visitation. Advance visitation approval is required from the Cave Manager. It is requested that contact be made several days before the proposed trip.
WVCC prohibits cave-for-pay or any other activity “for pay.” In this regard, cave-for-pay is defined as a caving experience for which the participants pay a fee, and in which a profit motive is involved.
WVCC reserves the right to deny access to any individual or group who, in its sole estimation, presents an actual or potential threat to the preservation of the resource, and may employ any and all remedies available to landowners with respect to trespass.
The Cave Manager will provide parking details that are seasonal dependent.
The Cave Manager of Savannah Cave is Alex Lewis. You may contact him at 304-497-2536 for information about the cave such as permission and directions.
Permission to enter the cave is granted by the discretion of the Cave Manager.