Fern Cave Preserve

Surprise Pit Amy Hinkle

Surprise Pit, photo by Amy Hinkle

Fern Cave is one of the most significant and fascinating caves in the Unites States. On October 10, 2008, SCCi Chairman Brian Krebs announced that the SCCi signed a contract to purchase 80 acres in Jackson County Alabama overlying a large portion of Fern Cave and including the Fern Sink Entrance and Surprise Pit. The preserve, named the Kay Hill Deen Fern Cave Preserve, is a privately owned tract adjoining the federally-owned Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge.Since 1997, the SCCi has managed the Fern Sink entrance and Surprise Pit under a lease agreement with the owner. When the opportunity arose in the summer of 2008, the Conservancy was able to convert our long-term relationship with the property into permanent ownership and protection. You can help support permanent protection of Fern Cave by becoming an SCCi member and donating to help with the acquisition costs.  SCCi Sustaining Membership is the best way to support the acquisition and protection of Fern Cave and other southeastern caves.

Fern Cave has five entrances. Four of these are on the Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge (US Department of the Interior), and one (The Fern Sink, or Surprise Pit entrance) is located on property the SCCi owns. One section of the cave is the largest gray bat hibernaculum in the country. As a result, new restrictions are now in place to protect the bat colony from White Nose Syndrome. We ask that everyone who visits the cave take the decontamination request very seriously.

Entry into Surprise Pit requires a permit. The other four entrances of Fern Cave that the US Fish and Wildlife Service owns are still closed. Contact Fern Cave Access Coordinator Steve Pitts at fern@scci.org at least TWO weeks before you would like to visit the cave.

Fern Cave Access Procedure

  • Any group entering Fern cave must have a current permit signed by the Fern Cave property manager.
  • You must request a permit at least two weeks before the planned trip date.
  • All persons entering the cave must comply with the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy and the Fern Cave Management Plan.
  • Each person going on the trip must fill out the WNS Permit Questionnaire and Compliance Statement.
  • The signed permit will be issued to a designated trip leader. The trip leader must be a member of either the SCCi or the NSS. This permit must be displayed prominently on the trip leader’s vehicle while the group is in the cave.
Surprise Pit Amy Hinkle

Surprise Pit, photo by Amy Hinkle

Support the SCCi! Buy a Piece of a Cave Preserve! Your donation will be used to pay for all of the wonderful cave preserves we have recently purchased. You may select a specific preserve and you’ll receive a thank-you gift of your choice. To provide ongoing support, please consider signing up as a Sustaining Member. Our sustainers give us the monthly income we need to pay for our caves and to purchase new caves. You may also make a general donation to support our work across the southeast. We are able to purchase caves we all love because of YOUR support. Help us buy even more amazing caves in the future!

Preserve Information:

Acreage: 80.0 acres in Jackson County, Alabama.
Property Manager: Steve Pitts (fern@scci.org)
Access: Permit required. Please contact Steve Pitts at least two weeks before your preferred trip date. See the management plan for details.
Preserve Management: Management Plan
Preserve Maps: Slices of the Pit Poster | Surface Map Poster

ave Surprise Pit

Climbers in Surprise Pit. Photo by John Van Swearingen IV.