Howard’s Waterfall Cave Preserve

Howard’s Waterfall Cave is a nice, easy horizontal cave for novice and experienced cavers alike. Re-mapping by members of the Dogwood City Grotto in 1987 doubled the length of the cave. The cave has been heavily visited for many decades, and has suffered abuse and vandalism, including spray paint on the walls and destruction of formations.

The cave achieved national notoriety on April 16, 1966 in what was known as the Howards Cave Disaster. Gasoline vapors from a leaking service station line accumulated in the cave and ignited while a group of Boy Scouts were visiting the cave. Phillip Leighton Howell was one of the adults on the trip guiding the Scouts. Phillip was asked to assist on the Scout trip because of his familiarity with the cave and his maturity (he was 27 years old at the time of the accident and had served two tours as an intelligence officer in Southeast Asia in the years before the official start of the Vietnam War).  Phillip is credited with getting the three scouts trapped with him on the cave side of the explosion to a place where the air perhaps would be better. Local caver Rusty Mills entered the cave to help evacuate the Scouts and was overcome by fumes. Rusty Mills, Phillip Howell, and Benny Gilley (an attendant at a Trenton gas station) died in the accident while working to save the trapped Scouts. All of the Scouts survived. Rusty’s Cave, located near Rising Fawn and now a part of the  SCCi Fox Mountain Cave Preserve, was located but not entered by Rusty shortly before his death. The cave was named in his honor and a plaque was placed at the entrance.

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NOTICE: To help prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome (WNS) affecting bat populations, please read the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy and follow these guidelines before visiting this cave.

Preserve Information:

Acreage: 1.25 acres in Dade County, Georgia
Preserve Management Team: Ben Eudy, Mike Hills, and Steve Davis (
Access: To request a permit, visit Use the Main Entrance Only, SCCi doesn’t own other entrances.


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