5,000 and counting: KY ranks 4th in number of recorded caves


McKEE, Ky. (KT) –The race to officially document 5,000 caves in Kentucky ended with a new discovery by a man in Jackson County.

Bruce Isaacs, of McKee, Ky., marked his find as part of the Kentucky Speleological Survey’s Race to 5,000 contest that began in September 2017.

According to the caving organization, Kentucky ranks fourth in the country in number of officially documented caves and many more remain to be discovered, wanted to encourage cave enthusiasts to help bridge the existing knowledge gap by submitting new cave locations.

KSS classifies a cave as “any humanly enterable void or cavity, which may be horizontal or vertical, and has a length or depth equal to or greater than 10 meters (32.8 feet).”

An earthen cavity measuring less than 32.8 feet is called a karst.

The Kentucky Speleological Survey, a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization, said about a quarter of the state is underlain by limestone favorable for cave formation, and expects the number of known caves to continue increasing well into the future.

Helping speleologists find new data is LiDAR, which uses airborne laser scanning to create ground maps in unprecedented detail, even in areas covered by dense forests.

Information about caves in the state are kept at the Geological Survey’s offices at the University of Kentucky. The archives contain cave maps, survey notes, exploration photos, descriptions, GIS files and many other forms of information. The information aids in the discovery, survey and mapping of caves throughout the state.

The Kentucky Speleological Survey works with individuals and other organizations to grow its database, as well as share information with cavers, landowners, and government and environmental agencies.

For more information on caves and caving in Kentucky, visit the Kentucky Speleological Survey website. Find out more about the Kentucky Geological Survey, including its studies of karst and other geologic research, at the KGS website.



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