Organ Cave

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Organ Cave System
National Natural Landmark
National Register of Historic Places
OrganCave1.jpg
The main historical (and commercial) entrance to Organ Cave
CountryUnited States
StateWest Virginia
CountyGreenbrier
Elevation2,188 ft (666.9 m)
Coordinates37°43′05″N 80°26′13″W / 37.71806°N 80.43694°W / 37.71806; -80.43694
Length38.452 mi (62 km) [1]
Designated NNLNovember 1973 [2]
OwnerPrivate owner
IUCN categoryIII - Natural Monument
Nearest cityRonceverte, West Virginia
Location of Organ Cave in West Virginia
Website: Organ Cave
 
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Coordinates: 37°43′05″N 80°26′13″W / 37.71806°N 80.43694°W / 37.71806; -80.43694
Organ Cave System
National Natural Landmark
National Register of Historic Places
OrganCave1.jpg
The main historical (and commercial) entrance to Organ Cave
CountryUnited States
StateWest Virginia
CountyGreenbrier
Elevation2,188 ft (666.9 m)
Coordinates37°43′05″N 80°26′13″W / 37.71806°N 80.43694°W / 37.71806; -80.43694
Length38.452 mi (62 km) [1]
Designated NNLNovember 1973 [2]
OwnerPrivate owner
IUCN categoryIII - Natural Monument
Nearest cityRonceverte, West Virginia
Location of Organ Cave in West Virginia
Website: Organ Cave

Organ Cave is a large and historic cave in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, USA. The surrounding community takes its name from the cave.[3]

In November 1973, the Organ Cave System — also known as the Organ-Hedricks Cave System[4] — was registered as a National Natural Landmark for being "the largest cave system in the State, containing many caves, one of which is Organ Cave. Noted also for its saltpeter troughs and vats." (It is now the third-longest known cave in the state, after the Friars Hole Cave System in the same county and the Hellhole System in Pendleton County.[1]) Organ Cave has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2005.[5][6]

History[edit]

Significant fossil discoveries bear witness to the early natural history of Organ Cave: giant ground sloth, grizzly bear, nine-banded armadillo, sabre-tooth cat, reindeer and an Ice Age porcupine.[7] Organ Cave's human history is attested by flint arrowheads used by early American Indians. Evidence of early white settlers in the cave is suggested by the date "1704" scratched on a wall, but this may be a later addition since the first white settlers to Greenbrier County came only in the 1740s.

The cave was used since before 1835 as a source for nitre (saltpeter) for the manufacture of gunpowder. During the American Civil War, Confederate soldiers under the command of General Robert E. Lee again mined the cave for nitre. The cave today has the nation's largest collection of Civil War-era saltpeter hoppers. Studies have shown the cave dirt is high in calcium nitrate, which was turned into potassium nitrate using these hoppers.[8]

Organ Cave was first surveyed by members of the National Speleological Society in July 1948. For many years it was considered the longest cave in the world. As of 28 April 2010, the Organ Cave System had 38.452 miles (61.882 km) of surveyed cave passage making it the 39th longest cave in the world, the 9th longest in the United States, and the 3rd longest in West Virginia.[1]

Jefferson's ground sloth[edit]

Formerly, a famous fossil discovery — that of Thomas Jefferson's giant ground sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii) — had been assumed to have come originally from Organ Cave. Jefferson never visited the area, but received the fossil from a local friend in 1796. In the early 20th century, a local man, Andrew Price of Marlinton, decided that the fossil had come from Organ Cave and popularized his theory.[9] In 1995, however, Smithsonian paleontologist Frederick Grady proposed[10] that Haynes Cave in nearby Monroe County was the true source. (His reasons had to do with historical land-ownership records.) The proprietors of Organ Cave, however, continue to insist on their property as the origin of the fossil in their interpretative exhibits and tour guide presentations.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

The eponymous "organ" formation in Organ Cave.
Salt petre vats in Organ Cave

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Gulden, Bob (2012-03-17). "USA Longest Caves". CaverBob.com. Archived from the original on 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  2. ^ "Organ Cave System". National Natural Landmark, National Park Service website. 
  3. ^ A History Of Organ Cave Community
  4. ^ Davies, William E. (1958, 1965), Caverns of West Virginia, Geological and Economic Survey, Volume XIX A (with 1965 Supplement), West Virginia Geological Survey, pp 39, 41, 112; Supplement pg 22.
  5. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  6. ^ The commercial website dedicated to Organ Cave, as well as commercial signage in the area, asserts that it is a National Historic Landmark. It is not. Charitably interpreted, the managers have mistaken listing on the National Register of Historic Places with designation as a NHL.
  7. ^ http://www.organcave.com/History.html
  8. ^ "Confederate Boys and Peter Monkeys" by Lee Hadden. Armchair General. January 2005.
  9. ^ Humphreys, Blanche (1928), History of Organ Cave Community (Greenbrier County, West Virginia); Agricultural Extension Division.
  10. ^ Grady, Fred (1995), "The Search for the Cave from which Thomas Jefferson Described the Bones of the Megalonyx" [Abstract], In: "Selected Abstracts from the 1995 National Speleological Society National Convention in Blacksburg, Virginia"; In: Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, April 1997, pg 57.

Other sources[edit]


External links[edit]