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(Read this quick note first)
Caves are a unique natural resource found in areas where there is abundant limestone*. Caves are formed by both chemical and physical reactions, and almost all cave formation is tied to water. Caves range from small body-sized tubes, to huge, arena-sized underground rooms with passages many meters in height and width. Passages can be horizontally oriented, and others require special training and equipment to negotiate because of their vertical nature. Some caves are heavily decorated with calcite the mineral limestone is formed from) formations — commonly known as stalagmites and stalactites. Others contain delicate formations known as helicites. Flowstone and cave coral are found in adundance in Virginia's caves.

Almost all caves support some type of ecosystem that extends from the entrance and its immediate environs, all the way through the cave. Many species use caves for all or part of their lifecycles. Bats are probably the most widely known cave inhabitant. Big Brown and Little Brown bats, and Eastern Pipestrilles are the most common Virginia bats. These bats are insectivorous, leaving the cave at night to use echolocation to hunt their prey. Other animals found regularly in caves are salamanders, spiders, and crickets.

Caves in Virginia are protected by law. It is illegal to mark or deface the cave in any way, to disturb a cave's inhabitants, to remove anything except trash from a cave, or to leave anything (including spent carbide or human waste) behind in a cave. This law applies whether a cave is on public or private land. With proper education, and good conservation measures, caves in Virginia can continue to be surveyed, studied and enjoyed for many years to come.

The quick note: The highlighted words on this page cause Javascript pop-up windows to appear, illustrating the idea in the text. To be able to view these pictures, you really need a screen resolution of at least 800x600 pixels. Less res will work, but you'll have to scroll a lot. Back to top.

Cave Photography by David Bunnell, Boulder Creek, Colorado, from the Corel Professional Photos CD-ROM "Caves", copyright 1994, Corel Corporation. Bat photography from Bat Conservation International.
* Caves can be formed in other minerals as well, and by processes other than erosion and chemical reaction, but RASS is a Virginia cave club, so this site focusses on Virginia caves and caving. Back to top

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