The Kennamer Cave Preserve is one of the SCCi’s largest preserves in terms of acreage. Situated along Kennamer Hollow in Jackson County, Alabama, the property runs from the valley floor, at the parking area, to the top of the plateau at the north end. In between is a wide variety of habitat providing homes to a variety of bird and animal species.
Off the main road running up the Preserve, the property is extremely rugged. To those making the effort, the property at the top end, around the upper cave entrances and above, is strikingly beautiful. It is a miniature hanging valley with three seasonal streams running downhill to the main entrance. In the Summer, the ravine at the main upper entrance has an abundance of ferns and is quite photogenic. Hiking on the property is encouraged, although care should be taken during hunting season when approaching the boundaries of the Preserve.
The cave is home to cave-dwelling species such as: tri-colored bats, several species of salamanders, troglobitic crayfish, bio-luminescent insects. Some sightings of TN cave salamanders have been reported in the lower pools. Episodic flood pulses wash debris and the occasional surface dwelling species into the cave.
The main cave system is the heart of the Preserve. It is an intermediate-level cave, with two entrances at the top (Main and Dug) and one useful entrance at the bottom (Orgy). The upper and lower entrances are separated vertically by 150’ of elevation change. Although much of the route from entrance to entrance is walking, some climbing and exposure is required to traverse the entire cave. When going from the top down, ropes can be taken and rappelled/pulled down to ease several of the obstacles.
The best approach for sightseeing is to go in the Dug entrance at the top and tour down as far as you are comfortable and then go back out the same way. That route will put you into the tall canyon section of the upper third of the cave and take you past the massive breakdown blocks known as Moby Dick. The middle third of the cave is colorful and formation-rich, and has multiple short crawls connecting sections of walking passage. Multiple spots can have seasonal waterfalls coming down some of the domes along the way.
The cave register is in a room located above the 40’ canyon. Navigating this change in height is the most problematic part of the cave. Below this feature, the cave is dominated by low passage requiring crawling. There are several junctions in this stretch that confuse some first-time visitors. This cave is a wonderful blend of scenery and athleticism and is one of the finest caves in Alabama.
The Preserve has at least two vertical pit options on the property. Kenna Pit is a 120’ open air, free-fall pit to a large room. Water runs across the floor at the very bottom of the room and continues down another drop to come out in the main Kennamer Cave. Secret Pit is a 144’ open air, free-fall pit to a canyon-type room. This pit is on the eastern slopes of the property, as opposed to all the other entrances.
The Preserve parking area is located a mile down a dirt road behind a locked gate. The gate combination is released on permit completion. The first half of the road is currently in good shape, but the second half requires cautious driving or a high clearance vehicle.
From the parking area, hike up the main hollow on the old logging road. The lower entrance (Orgy Entrance) is located about 0.2 miles from the parking area on the western side of the hollow. The upper entrances (Main and Dug) are a mile hike from the parking area, with a 300+ foot elevation gain. The trails to all entrances are well marked. To get to Kenna Pit, follow the trail to the Orgy Entrance and continue up the ravine. To get to Secret Pit, follow the main road north from the parking area, then take the first trail to the east up the ravine next to the stream, and curl back to the south on the established easement.
Permits: A permit is required to visit the preserve. Visit permits.scci.org.