Dade County is at the center of one of the world's most exciting regions for caving. Spectacular caves are in the area where TN, AL and Georgia meet. Known to the caving community as the 'TAG' region.
Caving in Georgia
Known caves in the State of Georgia number more than 350, and are located all over the state. Most of these are on private property and are not accessible to the public. Cave Springs, Georgia has a commercial cave that is accessible to the public. It has scheduled tours and is an excellent starting place for families and groups to visit the first time. Commercial caves are generally easy to navigate through because the paths inside the caves are easy to walk, well lighted and allow most people easy access to the wonders underground.
There are a small hand full on State and Federal lands that also provide public access. These are not commercial caves since they may not provide any safety equipment to the visitors. These caves may only require you to simply notify the park office to sign in and out while underground. You are expected to bring your own safety equipment and lights. Should you not return at a preset time, emergency personnel may be called to conduct a search for you. Since you are required to check in and out when done, forgetting to check out may result in a charge for the emergency service even if you made it out safely and simply "forgot" to check out.
Cloudland Park in the northwest corner of Georgia is one such state park which does offer public access to the cave within it's park borders. The cave is only accessible during dry periods of the year. Even then, it is considered a wet cave and is not considered a cave for the novice. Caving is dangerous, so you should always follow standard rules for your own safety.
If you have not gone caving before, it is a good idea to at least go on a guided tour the first time to become familiar with the underground environment with a professional guide. There are many potential dangers you should be aware. Caving is not all fun and games. Caves in Georgia are generally wet, cramp, dark places that require careful planning prior to going in. Caver guides take care of the majority of the planning to allow you to be as safe as possible while underground.
These guides have maps or experience to keep you from getting lost underground. They also provide the necessary safety equipment an inexperienced beginner will need to keep themselves moderately safe while exploring underground. For example, you will require the approved helmet, lights, gloves and knee pads to protect you underground. Generally, there will be at least two guides present. One guide will guide you through the cave and the second guide will bring up the rear to ensure everyone keeps pace with the group.
Wear comfortable clothes to keep you warm. Non-cotton clothing is suggested since cotton absorbs and holds water. Since you will likely get wet underground, a change of clothing is also recommended unless you enjoy wet, cold, muddy clothes on your trip home. Good shoes are recommended. Hiking boots or sports shoes will protect your feet and provide you with reasonable footing while exploring. An approved UIAA helmet is also a requirement. These helmets fit snugly to the head with a strap that keeps the helmet from falling off your head when you least expect it. It will also have a light attached to provide personal lighting for finding your way underground.
Experienced cavers will also have a small backpack which they will pack two additional lights and extra batteries for those "just in case" needs. It is not uncommon for lights to fail due to low batteries, burnt out lights, etc which do occur often enough to require backup. Once the lights go out, you are stuck until someone comes to get you. For this reason always let someone not going with you know where you are going and when you expect to return. This is your lifeline should you have an accident or a problem during your trip. Gloves (gardening gloves with rubber coating) are standard items to use while underground. These allow a better grip for crawling and climbing in a cave. Knee pads are strongly suggested. Even a simply knee injury can end up stranding you underground.
A small amount of food and water is a good idea to include in your backpack as well as a small first aid kit. Anything you take into a cave should come out with you as well. This means everything! Human waste is no exception. Short trips underground may not require this preparation, but should you be stuck underground for some reason, it is an excellent extra to have if necessary. Any food or drink containers must also be packed out.
A more comprehensive list of items can be found in a brochure named "NSS Guide Caves.pdf" which is available on-line. This 24 page document provides details to make your caving experience as enjoyable as possible. This is found at "The Georgia Speleological Survey (GSS)" website along with more information for those interested in becoming active in the sport. This group also has access to most of the really cool caves on private property which are not generally listed for the public. They have group outings for those serious in becoming involved in this sport.
Public Cave Access
There are a couple of caves accessible without permission. There is one such cave located in Dade County, Georgia in the northwest corner of the state. Parking is along a county road (Co Hwy 52, Backvalley Rd) with the access to the cave no more than 20 feet from the road itself. The video featured at the top of this webpage is located there.
The location is Trenton, Georgia located in Dade county off of County Highway 52. The GPS coordinates are Latt: 34.866796 Long: -85.532722 and can be seen on Google Maps. Google also has a street view of this location. The cave itself is located in the stream off the side of this road. The water from that stream comes from the cave but the opening is a wet, tight crawl to gain entry to the start of the cave. Once inside, space opens up gradually until you finally reach an opening you can stand up inside.
On the day we filmed, a number of cars were already parked along the road with folks already inside. The cave is sizable and goes back quite a distance. The overall trip shown in the film was roughly a quarter mile inside. At that point, a small pond stopped us from going any further unless you have scuba gear to get into the next section. There are quite a few side tunnels along the way. Some have not been extensively explored but GSS does have maps available to their members. On any weekend you can expect to see other people inside.