Unthanks Cave Natural Area Preserve

Unthanks Cave Natural Area Preserve is a 171-acre (69 ha) Natural Area Preserve in Lee County, Virginia. It protects the entrance to Unthanks Cave, which houses significant biological diversity and a wide variety of invertebrate life. The cave's streams drain a significant karst area south of the Powell River.[2]

Unthanks Cave Natural Area Preserve
Location within Virginia
LocationLee County, Virginia
Coordinates36°36′52″N 83°13′36″W[1]
Area171 acres (69 ha)
Established2004 (2004)
Governing bodyVirginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

A rare species of hydrobiid snail was first discovered in Unthanks Cave in 1986.[3] Holsingeria unthanksensis has since been found in additional cave streams in Lee County, with an additional population noted 310 miles (500 km) north in Skyline Caverns.[4] Additional unusual species found within the cave include a second hydrobiid snail, the Powell Valley planarian (Sphalloplana consimilis), the Southwest Virginia cave isopod (Caecidotea recurvata), and a cave-dwelling carabid beetle.[5]

The only known entrance to the seven-mile-long (11 km) cave was purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1987, and was the first cave system purchased in Virginia by the organization.[6] The Nature Conservancy gave the property to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in 2004,[2] although they continue to conduct research at the site.[5]

Although previously popular with spelunkers due to the cave's large speleothems,[6] Unthanks Cave is today gated and inaccessible except for official scientific monitoring and inquiry.[2]

See also


  1. "Virginia Conservation Lands Database". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  2. "Unthanks Cave Natural Area Preserve". Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  3. Hershler, R. (1989). "Holsingeria unthanksensis, a new genus and species of aquatic cavesnail from eastern North America" (PDF). Malacological Review. 22 (1–2): 93–100. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  4. Dillon, R. T., Jr.; Watson, B.T.; Stewart, T. W. (2006). "Species Account: Holsingeria unthanksensis". Freshwater Gastropods of North America. Department of Biology, College of Charleston. Retrieved December 27, 2016.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. "About Unthanks Cave in Virginia". Nature.org. The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  6. Lazarus, Elizabeth (June 25, 1987). "Conservancy Buys Cave with Rare Species". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 27, 2016.

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