National Speleological Society

The National Speleological Society (NSS) is an organization formed in 1941 to advance the exploration, conservation, study, and understanding of caves in the United States. Originally headquartered in Washington D.C., its current offices are in Huntsville, Alabama. The organization engages in the research and scientific study, restoration, exploration, and protection of caves. It has more than 10,000 members in more than 250 grottos.[1]

National Speleological Society
FormationBill Stephenson, January 1, 1941 (1941-01-01)
Geary Schindel
Main organ
Board of Governors
AffiliationsAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, International Union of Speleology


The Speleological Society of the District of Columbia (SSDC) was formed on May 6, 1939 by Bill Stephenson. In the fall of 1940, the officers of the SSDC drafted a proposed constitution that would transform the SSDC into the National Speleological Society. On January 24, 1941, Stephenson sent a letter to all members of the SSDC announcing that "on January 1 the Society was reorganized as a national organization."[2] The New England Grotto was the first NSS Grotto. It was chartered in 1941 with Clay Perry as president and Ned Anderson as vice-president.[3]

On February 6, 1974, a pioneering cave diver named Sheck Exley became the first chairman of the Cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society.[4][5] The new section began with 21 members in 10 different states.[4]


The NSS produces a number of publications, including:

  • NSS News, monthly
  • Journal of Cave and Karst Studies (quarterly), formerly NSS Bulletin (from 1940–1995).
  • Membership Manual, yearly
  • American Caving Accidents, every few years


The organization is currently divided into 11 regions:

  • Arizona Regional Association (ARA)
  • Mid-Appalachian Region (MAR)
  • Mississippi Valley-Ozark Region (MVOR)
  • Northeastern Regional Organization (NRO)
  • Northwest Caving Association (NCA)
  • Rocky Mountain Region
  • Southeastern Regional Association (SERA)
  • Southwestern Region (SWR)
  • Texas Speleological Association (TSA)
  • Virginia Region (VAR)
  • Western Region

Within these regions are local chapters known as grottos. The grottos carry out the local level recreational and conservation-related business of the NSS. They generally function as the local NSS chapter/club. Many Grottos however, operate in areas outside of their local area, with many operating in several states.[6] Most Grottos also participate in Regions which are loose associations of Grottos.[6] Regions are also an internal organization of the National Speleological Society.[6]

Grottos are required to meet certain organizational requirements as outlined by the National Speleological Society. These include:[7]

  • A constitution and bylaws that are submitted to, and approved by, the NSS.
  • A minimum of at least five members of the Society.
  • It is NSS policy that full membership in a Grotto requires NSS membership. However, in practice, this is often not the case.


The NSS hosts a yearly convention, which is generally held in June. Grottos take turns hosting the convention.

Convention YearLocation
1968Springfield, MO
1969Lovell, WY
1970State College, PA
1971Blacksburg, VA
1972White Salmon, WA
1973Bloomington, IN
1974Decorah, IA
1975Angels Camp, CA
1976Morgantown, WV
1977Alpena, MI
1978New Braunfels, TX
1979Pittsfield, MA
1980White Bear Lake, MN
1981Bowling Green, KY
1982Bend, OR
1983Elkins, WV
1984Sheridan, WY
1985Frankfort, KY
1986Tularosa, NM
1987Sault Ste. Marie, MI
1988Hot Springs, SD
1989Sewanee, TN
1990Yreka, CA
1991Cobleskill, NY
1992Salem, IN
1993Pendleton, OR
1994Brackettville, TX
1995Blacksburg, VA
1996Salida, CO
1997Sullivan, MO
1998Sewanee, TN
1999Twin Falls, ID
2000Dailey, WV
2001Rock Castle County, KY
2002Camden, ME
2003Porterville, CA
2004Marquette, MI
2005Huntsville, AL
2006Bellingham, WA
2007Marengo, IN
2008Lake City, FL
2009Kerrville, TX
2010Essex Junction, VT
2011Glenwood Springs, CO
2012Lewisburg, WV
2013Shippensburg, PA
2014Huntsville, AL
2015Waynesville, MO
2016Ely, NV
2017Rio Rancho, NM
2018Helena, MT


See also

  • Caving  Recreational pastime of exploring cave systems
  • Speleology  Science of cave and karst systems
  • Cave diving  Underwater diving in water-filled caves


  1. "The National Speleological Society".
  2. Caving in America, National Speleological Society, Huntsville, AL. 1991. ISBN 0-9615093-7-6
  3. Caving in America. Huntsville, AL: National Speleological Society. 1991. ISBN 0-9615093-7-6.
  4. Staff. "Cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society was founded". Archived from the original on 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
  5. Kendrick, DF. Pollock, NW (ed.). "Science of the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD): Water Quality, Hydrogeology, Biology and Psychology". Diving for Science 2009. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) 28th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
  6. Weberg, Meredith Hall (2010). NSS News Members Manual. National Speleological Society. pp. 2, 53–65.
  7. "Policy for Internal Organizations" (PDF). National Speleological Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-27.
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