More than 200 wild caves are located on Indiana’s state forests, mostly at Harrison-Crawford State Forest. Caving is popular, but access to these caves was suspended in 2009 to combat White-nose Syndrome. This fungus-based disease decimated bat populations in eastern North America.
The Division of Forestry now offers limited access to forest cave resources through a registration portal.
These caves are not for unaccompanied novices
Visits to state forest caves are for experienced, responsible cavers. Cavers should be familiar with the cave or be a part of a group with at least one experienced member familiar with the cave. This includes location of the entrance, required equipment, and trip safety preparations. Responsible cavers follow the guidance provided by the National Speleological Society.
Due to the unique sensitivity of these natural resources, DNR personnel, including State Forest property personnel cannot share the location of cave entrances or other karst features.
How to register a caving trip
- Use of the Cave Access Registration System requires an Access Indiana account
- New users to the Cave Access Registration System must first enter the required information on the Add/Edit Caver page and agree to follow Indiana State Forest best caving practices and decontamination protocol.
- To register a caving trip, simply click the “Register New Caving Trip” button. Note: the caver completing the registration is considered the trip leader and is responsible for providing accurate trip information and ensuring group members practice responsible caving.
- After selecting the date of the caving trip, enter the cave name (or a portion of it) and select the cave you wish to visit. When searching for caves, enter the best-known name.
- Enter the number of cavers in your party in the “Your Trip Details” section. Note: some caves have a daily limit of visitors; this information will be displayed under the name of the cave you selected for your trip. Changes to the other displayed information for this trip can also be made in this section.
- While the “Check-in” and “Check-out” pages can be submitted (and edited) at any time after the trip registration has been submitted, please complete shortly before entering and after exiting the cave, whenever possible. This will help staff monitor cave occupancy.
- One can update group size on the check-in page if it is different from initial registration.
- Help the Division of Forestry better manage state forest caves by completing a post-trip observation report. Such information has strong scientific value for DNR staff. Photos, maps, or other documents are welcomed and can be attached to the report. Documents will not be publicly distributed without written consent of the registered user.
- I keep entering a cave name in the search box but am not getting a result.
Caves can go by a lot of different names. If you know of multiple names for the cave, use the most commonly used one. If you’re not sure of the exact spelling, try searching on several characters or a portion of the name you are sure about. For instance, if all you can remember is the word “hamster” is used in the name “Happy Hamster Lollipop Cave”, try entering just that one term. The search function returns cave names that include all the words entered in the search box, so sometimes trying simple searches (like “hamster”) will give results, while more specific searches with words not included in the name (“Happy Hamster Lollipop Drop”) won’t.
Also, keep in mind the only searchable caves are those located on State Forest property. If you’re searching on a cave that’s actually located on a State Park, the Hoosier National Forest, or private property, it will not show up as a search result.
- When I try to register for my group’s cave trip, I get a message saying party size is limited to 20. How can I register a larger group?
Larger groups organizing caving trips or events should contact the State Forest property to inquire about applying for a special event permit.
- How can I access gated caves of State Forest property?
Access to gated and seasonally closed caves is carefully regulated to protect sensitive resources. In some cases, authorization may be granted through a special permitting process; for instance, if a user can demonstrate a legitimate scientific purpose for the trip. Please contact the State Forest property to inquire about access to gated caves or seasonally closed caves.
- I have questions about registering for cave trips on State Forests, who can I contact?
Please contact the State Forest property office for questions regarding the cave registration process.
- I’m organizing a trip for a group of cavers, does everybody in my group have to create a trip registration or just me?
Only the caver who will be designated as the trip leader needs to register. When registering, the trip leader will need to enter the total number of cavers in the group. When checking-in for the caving trip, the leader will be able to change the number of cavers, if needed.
For those interested in learning more about Indiana’s cave resources, contact a local caving grotto. The National Speleological Society also features a great “Getting Started Caving” video series.