Cathedral Caverns

Bat Cave


Useful Information

Location: Grant, AL, Between Scottsboro and Guntersville. From Huntsville Hwy 72 E exit on Jackson County Road 63 toward Grant. After 5 km turn left, signposted.
(34.573754, -86.221054)
Open: Park: all year daily 9-17:30.
Cave: First tour 10, last tour 16, at least hourly.
Spring and Autumn are a popular time for school field trips, afternoon visits are recommended.
Closed 01-JAN, Thanksgiving, 25-DEC.
[2021]
Fee: Adults USD 20, Children (5-12) USD 9, Children (0-4) free, Soldiers USD 18.
Groups (25+): Adults USD 15, with reservation.
School Groups: Students USD 8, Chaperons USD 15.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: electric
Dimension: L=3357 m, VR=37.8 m, T=14 °C. Portal: W=38.4 m, H=7.6 m.
Guided tours: L=2,414 m, D=90 min.
V=24.000/a [1962]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography: The Reader's Digest, June 1962
Address: Cathedral Caverns, 637 Cave Rd., Woodville, AL 35776, Tel: +1-256-728-8193. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1803 Hans Kennamer settles at the cave entrance.
1952 first seen by Jay Gurley.
1955 bought by Jay Gurley.
1959 opened to the public.
1982 closed.
1987 bought by the State of Alabama, declared a State Park.
1988 archaeological excavation by the University of Alabama and Jacksonville State University in the entrance area.
1993 a federal grant was awarded to fund the work for reopening the cave.
1995 restoration work actually began.
1995 Scenes for the Disney movie Tom and Huck filmed in the cave entrance and the cave.
05-MAY-2000 reopened to the public.

Description

photography
Cathedral Cavernss, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
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„Frozen Waterfall“? Cathedral Caverns, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
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Cathedral Cavernss, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
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Cathedral Caverns, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
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Cathedral Cavernss, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
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Cathedral Caverns, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
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Goliath, Cathedral Cavernss, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
photography
Cathedral Caverns, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
photography
Cathedral Cavernss, U.S.A.. Public Domain.
photography
Cathedral Caverns, U.S.A.. Public Domain.

Cathedral Caverns was developed by a single man, Jay Gurley, who after he had first seen the cave, sold all his posessions to buy it and worked ten years to make it a show cave. He used 65 km of cable to install an electric lighting with 80,000 Watt. When he showed this cave to his wife the first time, she was impressed by the huge Big Room. She said it resembled her a cathedral. At this time the cave was called Bat Cave, but Gurley changed the name into Cathedral Caverns.

The area is called Kennamer Cove after the Kennamer family, who settled here in 1803. Their house stood 275 m north of the cave. Like the native Indians before, they must have known the cave, at least the entrance. It was noted for its cave creek, and the fact that it stayed warm in the coldest winter and cool enough during summer to store meat. We guess they never entered the cave very far, and so we guess it was really Jay Gurley who first explored and discovered the beautiful cave behind.

In 1988 students from Jacksonville State University excavated the entrance area of the cave and discovered lots of evidence of human visitors. The oldest finds were about 9000 years old, the youngest 200 years. The finds included spear point, 5 cm wide and 20 cm long.


This cave has the world's largest cave entrance, 7.6 meters high by 38.4 meters wide. And, of course it has world's largest stalagmite, called Goliath. Kind-of. Probably this cave has Alabamas largest cave entrance, we do not know this. But there are at least dozens of other caves with taller entrances all over the world. Have a look at our list of ExplainCaves With The Tallest Cave Entrance to find many of them. Caves in the upper league have more than 120 m high and 100 m wide entrances, we think that's a little more than 38.4 m. The same is with tallest stalagmites, see ExplainCaves With The Tallest Stalagmite. Goliath is 13.7 m high and 74 m in circumference.

It is always funny to us, to discover such absurd world records. But the problem is: thousands of cave visitors will believe this nonsense. So why do the cave guides tell this sort of lies? We guess that in most cases they just do not know better.

In the case of Cathedral Caverns it is much worse: it seems they lately searched the internet or speleological literature, to find new statistical highlights. So they now offer six different world records, which are either a bit complicated, like the widest entrance of any commercial cave in the world (which is not true either, think Carlsbad). Or they are simply fantastic, like the largest frozen waterfall. What's a frozen waterfall, duh? By inventing a new type of speleothem, which does not exist anywhere else, their own one is definitely the biggest one.

We think that this cave even holds two more world records: cave with worlds most faked world records and cave with the coolest and most educated cave guides in the world. So if you visit Cathedral Caverns, enjoy the natural beauty of the place, the impressive entrance, the huge chamber and the speleothems and do not believe anything your guide tells you!


And a last word. I enjoyed reading about the superlatives of this cave. I also enjoyed writing this article. About once a year I receive an infuriated email from someone who is angry that I insulted "his" cave. Two arguments are in each of those emails.

First, this cave was really beautiful and why could I say a bad word about such a beautiful cave, if I never visited it. The fact that I never visited this cave is true, although the writers just assumed this. I guess I would be killed by infuriated cave guides if I did. However, by carefully reading the text above you will see, that I never disputed the beauty of the cave.

The second argument is the fact that I insulted the guides, which, obviously, do not work any more at the cave and actually the tours are now as accurate and informative as possible. I can't insult someone by telling he was a liar, if he really is a liar. And obviously they have some energy in inventing creative superlatives. However, the official State Park(!) website still tells the Goliath is tallest stuff until today [JUL-2007]! How could I believe they do not tell this at the tour?

At last I really enjoy the emails I receive. They are almost as funny as the faked world records. Keep sending them.


Update 27-SEP-2008: I received an email from Bill who went to the cave this morning. He has seen signs telling about the 4 world records. And he guesses that they were kept from the early days of the cave before it was a State Park. He says this was the way roadside attractions marketed themselves. We have heard similar things, and actually this is the same all over the world. The owners of commercial caves are normally not very good in geology, so they tell some stories or probably some "facts" they heard 20 years ago. And so it might be extremely outdated and actually wrong. On the other hand, it is now a State Park, not a roadside attraction of an entrepreneur, and they should start telling more accurate facts and probably explain how those legends started. Kentucky Cave Wars aer over.

Three more comments by Bill, we are happy to publish here: (1) Disney filmed their film Tom and Huck here, (2) if you get the chance to visit, it's worth it, and (3) the guides are quite nice. No objections from our side.


Update 28-MAY-2021: Still in lockdown I have time to reread stuff like this. While 99.9% of the articles on showcaves.com are as objective (dull) as possible, I could not resist smacking them the superlatives in their face. They were obviously told by the former, commercial operator, and I guess he did not realy intend them as hoaxes. However, the cave became a state park in 1987, and was reopened in 2000 by the State Park after being closed for almost 20 years. And those Park Rangers just retold the old legends, without mentioning that they are not true and just cave war marketing babble. And actually, the new website in 2021 still reads: "The huge opening measures 126 feet wide and 25 feet high, a possible world record for commercial caves." Ahm, no.

There are no further superlatives because there is not a single word about the cave on the website. There are pictures and a well-made video, but no description of the cave. Only a one paragraph summarization on the main page. Its those information-hiders I started showcaves.com for.


The pictures on this page are from Carol M. Highsmith, who made an impressive series of rural America. She photographs the entire American vista, including landscapes, architecture, urban and rural life, and people in their work environments, in all fifty U.S. states as a record of the early 21st century. Highsmith donated her life's work of more than 100,000 images, royalty-free and in highest possible quality, to the Library of Congress, which established a free one-person archive.