100+ Footers of Marion County, Tennessee
Marion County, Tennessee has over 700 known caves. 37 of those caves have vertical shafts, which are also known as pits that are over 100 feet deep. Some of them are blind pits and some of them are deep within multi drop caves. This vertical aspect makes Marion County a very popular place to visit among cavers since we have more deep pits than any other county in Tennessee. Whether you live here locally or are just visiting, please remember that the majority of the caves in our region are privately owned. We are fortunate to have some of the best landowners here in Marion County, including several who have received the Larry S. Adams Landowner Appreciation Award from the Southeastern Regional Association of the National Speleological Society. When visiting any caves, please be respectful of their rights as a land/cave owner. Make an effort to stop and let the landowners know your plans as most will welcome the opportunity to meet cavers who have traveled to visit their cave. Also note that not all of the caves in the list below are open for visitation as some are closed and the landowners do not wish to have cavers on their property. Please respect that. This list is provided solely as a documented reference on the 100 foot pits in Marion County, TN. If you are unsure of the status of a cave, please check with your fellow cavers for information on any specifics. Do your research and make sure you are not going to trespass or upset any landowners in the area. Several local cavers including myself and Jason Hardy work very hard to keep good landowner relations in this county and please also remember if you arrive at any cave and see a “cast of thousands” please have a plan b. Now get out there and go bounce a PIT!
Name Pit Depth
Clod Hole 188’
Cagle Chasm 184’
Solution Rift 171’
Fiery Top Drop 166’
Mirror Image Well 162’
Larson Well 161’
Deer Bone Pit 160’
South Pittsburg Pit 160’
Sawmill Well 155’
The Sinkhole 155’
Ellis Pit 146’
Go Hole 145’
Rock Buster Well 142’
High Hopes Horror Hole 142’
Possum Well 135’
Just Got Lucky Pit 132’
Marks Pit 127’
Rhonda Well 123’
Spasm Chasm 122’
Kelly Chasm 122’
Sugarcamp Hollow 121’
Ravens Den Pit 119’
Martin Springs High Hole 117’
Parker Pit 113’
Wildman Cove Cave 111’
Harrison Turnpike Pit 111’
Ho Hole 111’
Storm Chasm 110’
Currys Chasm 106’
Hilti Hole 106’
Five Falls Pit 104’
Kelly Southside Well 103’
Lost Mule Pit 103’
Tres Well 103’
Battle Creek Horror Hole 101’
The deepest known pit in Marion County! It is 190 feet deep and has no leads at the bottom. Thirty feet from the bottom, a side passage goes 40 feet to a 42-foot pit. A stream passage at the bottom goes 200 feet and gets too tight. Mapped by Ben Miller and the DPAS crew in 2013. Please note this cave is listed as closed.
This pit was found by Marion O. Smith, Gerald Moni and Will Chamberlin in 1978. The pit was first rigged with 100 feet of rope. Marion descended and immediately yelled that he was out of rope. Upon returning to the surface they put all of the 240-foot rope into the pit. Gerald descended to the bottom. Will went in second to measure the pit with Marion on the surface. At –100 feet Marion dropped the end of the tape and then Will lowered the tape to Gerald. The pit measured 188 feet deep. Will then continued his rappel and about 30 feet above the floor he went into a crack which yielded another pit. This second pit was measured at 39 feet to give a total depth of the pit at 208 feet.
By far, this is the most popular pit in Marion County. One could easily spend an entire day with their friends yo-yoing over 600 feet of rope work in this complex. The entrance is a large sinkhole 15 feet wide and 20 feet long. The deepest pit which can be rigged here is 184 feet and the pit is 50 feet in diameter at the bottom. A talus slope leads into a large room from which a 20-foot pit into a passage leads for 50 feet into a second large chamber. It is also possible to climb along a ledge at the bottom of the entrance shaft and come out near the top of this second large chamber. A crawl to the west at the base of the entrance shaft leads into a huge chamber 100 feet in diameter and 150 feet high. A waterfall in the center of the room falls into calcite pools. The chamber can also be entered by a window 60 feet above the floor which connects to the entrance crawl. Two pits near the main shaft also connect to this complex. One, (Jeepside Pit) 200 feet northeast of the main shaft, consists of a 15-foot pit followed by a 95-foot pit through a 40-foot-wide shaft. The total pit depth is 110 feet. A passage leads several hundred feet to a 30-foot climb to a short passage which ends at the bottom of an 80-foot shaft opening to the surface (Shallow Pit). A crawl from the passages connecting the two shorter pits opens into the side of the main pit approximately 100 feet above the floor.
This one is not just a “pit” but is a 429 foot deep multi drop pull down trip. It’s a classic and is just over a mile in length at 5,350 feet. For years I had heard about this cave before we surveyed it and I have yet to have anything other than a survey trip in it. In 2010 it was surveyed by Julie Schenck Brown & Jason Hardy. I had helped with 5 trips during that time myself. This cave is not a beginner cave and should only be visited with someone who knows it and certainly not during times of high water. The cave is located in the Fiery Gizzard and Confederate Well, which is 171 feet is located in the middle just after the brrr tubes.
On December 1, 1979, Jim H. Smith, Jill Dorman, Gerald Moni and Marion O. Smith reached the top of the wet 23-foot pit. Jim and Gerald did most of the digging to get through. On December 15, 1979, Jim Smith, Marion O. Smith, Dan and Stella Twilley pushed down the 23-foot pit, and both Smiths got as far as the top of the 36-foot pit (both Twilleys had trouble trying to pass two knots in Confederate Well and never got to its bottom). On December 16, 1979 Jim Smith and Marion O. Smith and Brad Neff pushed the cave to the low, wide pool. Technically, the connection of the spring entrance to the rest of the cave was accomplished by Buddy Lane and Sandy Montgomery on July 20 when they, without knowing it, overlapped the December penetration. On August 2, 1980, Gerald Moni, Marion O. Smith and G. Will Chamberlin made the first through-trip out the spring entrance.
The entrance to Solution Rift is is 5 feet wide and 10 feet high and has a waterfall going into the entrance. Twenty feet inside, the water pours into a tight pit. Bypassing this pit will lead you to a set of two dry pits at 24 foot and 18 feet. After this you encounter the water again at a wet 30 foot pit. At the bottom of this pit it leads you to a nasty 300 foot long crawl known as the hog wallers. After the hog waller you pick up the stream again in a 800 feet of hands/knees crawls, stooping, and walking passage with some formations. If you didn’t already have your wet suit on, this is a good staging area to do so. After the 23 foot pit you enter into the infamous Brrr Tubes, which are half-filled zigzagging water crawls, which get tight 25 feet from the next pit, which is Confederate Well. This constriction in the crawl will flood during heavy rain and will trap anyone on the downstream side. At the edge of Confederate Well is a decorated, 15-foot high balcony. The pit is free-fall and 20+ feet in diameter and you encounter the water halfway down. A short distance from the bottom of Confederate Well you encounter the next pit, which is 31 feet and wet. Just beyond it, you encounter a wide 12 foot long step across. Finally the last pit of 30 feet is reached and you then encounter the journey out through 2000 feet of passage which gets worse the further in one gets. The passage out is a typical valley floor thru trip including low airspaces, crawls, jagged limestone and a false chert floor. Finally a low, wide pool 75 feet long is reached and at the end is a man-made dam 3.5 feet high which has been smashed open. You exit the cave at the lower spring entrance at the valley floor.
The caves on the “Charlie Smith” land have long been open to cavers but please do not go during hunting season. Make sure you stop by the house and ask for permission and let them know you are on the property.
Fiery Top Drop
Another popular pit in Marion County at 166 feet. It was found on February 3, 1980 by Ron Lewis and descended the same day by Gerald Moni, Ron Lewis and Dave Bradford. The entrance is a 6 by 8 foot opening and 5 feet off the bottom of the pit is a 10 foot long crawl that opens into walking passage. After 30 feet, a parallel dome complex that is 70 feet high is reached. Typically if you are just yo-yoing the pit it is considered as a one down, one up kind of pit. Please note, this pit is closed during hunting season in Tennessee.
Mirror Image Well
The cave is located on private property in the Ladds Cove area of Battle Creek. The entrance is a shelter like entrance 25 feet wide by 10-foot high. It goes back 75 feet as a hands/knees crawl to the top of the 162 foot pit. There are bolts to rig a traverse line to safely get out to the pit. Thirty feet before you each the bottom, the pit subdivides. Choose the less obvious way to get to the bottom. From there follow the water thru a 75 foot long tight crawling passage to an offset 34-foot pit. At the bottom of the second pit downstream goes for 70 feet to a sump in breakdown. Upstream is walking and stooping for 100 feet before you are crawling again. This passage leads to a 200 foot high dome which parallels the main pit. The cave was mapped by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2014 & 2015.
This 161’ pit and cave was purchased by cavers Jason Hardy & Kelly Smallwood in 2015. The entrance is 6 feet long and at one spot 2 feet wide. After squeezing thru the entrance the pit opens up to 40 foot diameter shaft. At the bottom you encounter the water which leads to a wet 39-foot pit. There are no bolts at the second pit so one must use natural rigging. At the bottom of the 39 foot pit, there is a 150 feet of narrow canyon passage which leads to climbdowns of 4,7,and 8 feet into a large breakdown room. It is highly recommended that you bring some webbing for the second and third climbdowns. Larson Well is 275 feet deep and extends 130 feet below the valley floor. Jason and Kelly ask that you notify them before visiting the cave.
Deer Bone Pit
The entrance is 4 feet wide and 12 feet long. The pit entrance goes down 135 feet and the remaining 25 feet is offset. The pit was mapped by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2012.
South Pittsburg Pit
Another very popular cave in Marion County and is owned by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCCi). The entrance is a large sinkhole 75 feet in diameter. The pit drops for 160 feet through the center of a large room more than 100 feet long. A 60-foot breakdown slope leads to the floor of the room. Two obvious leads at the bottom quickly dead end, but a third passage leads to a 20-foot climb which leads to a couple of thousand foot of complex passages and domepits. While this cave has been open access for many years, the SCCi is now asking cavers who visit this cave to please fill out an online permit for visitation.
Located in the Fiery Gizzard along an old mining road, the entrance is 20 feet in diameter and narrows to 10 feet in diameter after a semi-vertical drop of 10 feet. The pit is a 155-foot drop against the wall and opens up to 30 feet in diameter. Sawmill Well was discovered in August 1966 by Kirk Holland and Bob Bradley. At the bottom of the main pit, a body-tight crawl leads 30 feet to a little bit larger passage for at least another 100 feet. Along the way, two 80-foot domes are encountered. The passage ends in a too-tight crawl. While this cave is accessed thru the Charlie Smith property it is actually just off their property. Please still stop at the house and ask for permission before crossing their land.
Oh The Sinkhole. A once very popular cave that was closed due to overuse and abuse. Please respect the landowners and do not visit this cave without obtaining permission. The pit is very impressive with a large stream flowing into the pit. A free fall 155 foot drop can be rigged on the deepest side, rappelling down with a view of the waterfall. At the bottom, the water goes through a large pile of logs and debris, then the passage gets too tight to follow. In the opposite direction, the passage goes up a slope for 100 feet or so, then drops back down the other side to a junction with another smaller stream, which can be followed upstream for a few hundred feet before it becomes too tight. A few other short side passages are present. The exploration of the cave was described by Ed Yarbrough in the Nashville Speleonews in June 1975. The pit was mapped with landowner permission by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2013 & 2014.
The entrance to Ellis Pit is an opening 20 feet by 15 feet. Directly above the entrance is a short bluff about 20 feet high so rigging to the downhill side of the pit gives you a somewhat broken drop of 146 feet. The pit is well decorated by flowstone formations, and has some walking passage in the bottom. The cave was mapped by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2013. Please note, this cave is owned by the Adventure Offroad Park and permission is required to visit this cave and Harrison Turnpike which is nearby.
Located in Gaines Cove along with some other “O” holes such as Ho Hole, Mo Hole, Wo Hole, So Hole, Bo Hole, Vo Hole and Lo Hole. Go Hole has a large 30-foot by 20-foot pit entrance that drops 145 feet. At the bottom, you can follow a passage for 200 feet, climb up 20 feet and go through a crawl to another 19-foot pit. At the bottom a 25-foot climb down leads to nothing. A second entrance that is (5 feet wide by 6 feet long goes 15 feet down a pit, under a land bridge, to a boulder strewn slope and then into the main pit. During times of wet weather the main pit can be drippy. Please note this area of Gaines Cove is closed for caver visitation.
Rock Buster Well
A remote pit that is 145 foot. The entrance is a 7 foot chimney through a 3x3 foot opening to a slope. The pit is against the wall for 60 feet to a ledge where the next 80 feet is shear to a 10 foot in diameter room. There are several domes off side passages in the main pit. The cave was mapped by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2013.
High Hopes Horror Hole
Located in Mitchell Cove, this is another one that is not just a pit. After entering the 2x2 foot entrance and rappelling 12 feet you immediately come to an awkward squeeze and then a difficult 120 degree on rope bend. Below the bend is a 50 foot pit and a then you encounter a 15 foot slot to get to the top of the 142 pit.
A popular pit in Kelly Cove at 135 feet. There is no cave at the bottom. Please ask for permission from the landowners before going up to the pit. The pit was mapped by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2012.
Just Got Lucky Pit
Located in Orme and not far from a 90 foot pit, Luckys Revenge. It’s easy to do both in one trip. The entrance is 2 ½ feet by 6 feet long and begins as a slope but bells out. After a ledge halfway down the pit becomes a sheer wall drop and at the bottom is a sizable room. Just Got Lucky Pit was found by Chuck Henson, Joe Abbott and Patty Springer on March 18, 1995. A few weeks later when they went back to measure the pit they found Luckys Revenge.
Located remotely in the Fiery Gizzard the dug entrance is 4 feet wide by 3 feet and it slopes down to a body size dig where you belly crawl for 30 feet to the lip of the 127 foot pit. The cave was dug open by Harold Geick in 2004 and mapped by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2014.
Located in the Marion Franklin State Forest in Sweetens Cove the entrance is in a 6 foot deep ravine. It is 4 feet high and 3 feet wide. It immediately drops into a 127 foot freefall pit. The pit was mapped by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2013. Please note it is considered to be a classic TAG Hell Hike to get to this pit as you loose A LOT of elevation to get to it.
Located in the Battle Creek area and not far from Clod Hole and Will Well. The entrance is a 4 foot deep climb down to a crawl to the top of the pit. It was found by Dennis Gabor on a ridge walk with Will Chamberlin, Dave Durham and Rick Buice in 1978. It was descended the day it was found by Rick and Will who also mapped the 123 foot pit.
Another deep multi drop cave in Marion County with a hundred footer. Spasm Chasm was mapped by Jim Smith at 7,609 feet and is 472 feet deep. The cave was first discovered in December of 1979 by Jim Smith and Jill Dorman who only bounced the entrance at that time. It was entered again in January 1980 by Danny Dible, Marion O. Smith, Dave Black and Gerald Moni thru what is known as entrance two. Danny and Marion made a tight squeeze down the 10 foot climb and explored down the next two pits to the top of the fourth pit. A few weeks later Brad Neff, Buddy Lane, Gerald Moni, Marion O. Smith and Dan & Stella Twilley descended the fourth pit and stopped at the tight crack which goes thru the Hartselle formation. A few years later Jim Smith, Marion O. Smith and Gerald Moni descended the 122 entrance 1 pit and connected it with the rest of the cave. Entrance one is a pit with a 10 foot by 5 foot opening and the pit is 122 feet deep. The pit does contain 4 or 5 ledges and corkscrews around.
Located not far from The Sinkhole mentioned above, the entrance is a 2 foot by 2 foot hole that slopes down 3 feet to a lip. The drop is 122 feet and is free fall. You can get off a ledge before you reach the bottom and climb up into a large decorated room and walk out a horizontal entrance. Please ask for permission from the landowner before visiting this pit as it is literally in their front yard. The cave was mapped by Hal Love in 1991.
A very remote cave located in the Fiery Gizzard, originally found by Jim Smith in 1999. In January 2014 Jason Hardy, Kelly Smallwood, Ben Miller and Katie Ingram set out on a backpacking trip to survey this 121 foot blind pit as part of the DPAS project. While surveying it, Jason noticed a lead about 50 feet off the floor. After enlisting a few other cavers to help with a bolt traverse another half of mile of virgin cave was found, which was also surveyed by Jason Hardy. The entrance is a small hole, only 3 by 2 feet. There is a slope that leads to the top of the main pit. The pit can be drippy during times of wet weather.
Ravens Den Pit
Located in Mitchell Cove on private property near one of the largest sinkholes in Marion County. The entrance is 30 feet long and 12 feet wide. The pit is 119 feet deep and is free fall to the bottom. A spring at the north end falls into a parallel pit. Also located nearby is Ravens Den Twin Pits which are 74 feet and 46 feet deep. Please ask for permission before visiting these pits. Ravens Den Pit was mapped by Ben Miller and members of DPAS in 2013.
Martin Springs High Hole
This cave is located in the Battle Creek area near Martin Springs. It is in a 30 foot sink and the entrance is a 117 foot pit. A major ledge is encountered about 80 feet down and ther eis a re belay bolt to help make the drop safter. At the bottom there is a big room with passage that is strolling borehole. Several cave divers have been attempting to dive the sump in the cave to connect it to the lower Martin Springs resurgence. The cave was surveyed to a total length of 2,869 feet and 201 feet deep by Jason Hardy in 2010. Martin Springs High Hole and the 170 acres around the pit went up for auction in 2012 and sold for only $110,000. The cave and property is privately owned and permission is needed before visiting.
A somewhat popular pit located in the far reaches of Sweetens Cove and owned by the Moss Family. The pit opening is 25 feet long and 15 feet wide and a free drop most of the way. The pit is 113 feet deep and was discovered on a Chattanooga Grotto trip in early 1973. Permission is needed before visiting.
Wildman Cove Cave
Located not far from the Russell Cave area, the entrance is a pit 1.5 foot by 4 foot and drops 111 feet down. There is just over 2,000 feet of cave at the bottom but this cave has not yet been mapped. This cave is on private property and permission is needed to visit.
Located on the same property as Ellis Pit and permission is required before visiting. There is a very steep hike to get to this cave. The main pit entrance is 8 by 4 feet and is at the bottom of a 15 foot deep sinkhole. The high side of the pit is 111 feet. There are two major ledges on the way down the pit and a second smaller entrance that intersects the lower portion of the main pit at the 60 foot level. There is just over 1,200 feet of passage in this cave. It was mapped by Rick Buice, Gerald Moni, Dave Durham and Mike Smith in 1976.
Also located in Gaines Cove near Go Hole as mentioned above. There are multiple entrances in the same bluff into this cave. The main entrance is a 20 by 15 foot pit opening and drops 51 feet down to a ledge, then 60 more feet to the bottom. There is a waterfall that pours into the entrance and during times of wet weather you will get quite wet. There is no known map to this cave, which is listed as 600 feet long but is also noted as “horrible passage”. Permission is required to visit this cave.
This cave was found and dug open by Marion O. Smith on November 5, 1988, The entrance is 2 feet long and 1 foot wide and is quite the squeeze to get in to and out of! Twelve feet below the entrance the pit is offset from and is 110 feet deep. At the bottom there is a slope and a crawl that pops up into a breakdown chamber that is 40 feet wide. The cave was surveyed by Ben Miller, Jason Hardy, Kelly Smallwood, Jim Campbell and Brian Ham as part of the DPAS project on January 11, 2014.
This cave is located in the Battle Creek area and has just over 500 feet of passage. The entrance is 15 feet long and 2.5 feet wide with a stream flowing in. The first pit encountered is 67 feet, which has two bolts and is under a waterfall. A 200 foot long tight stream crawl leads to a series of domes and another pit, only 12 feet which also has two bolts. Not far past this pit is the 106 foot deep pit and it is followed by 25 more feet of passage and the last pit at 27 feet deep. The cave ends in a large room. The cave was mapped by David Cole, Paul Aughey, Jenny Leaderer and Andy Zellner on November 4, 2011. There is 537 feet of passage and it is 219 feet deep.
Found by Harold Geick in 2011 and located near Fishtrap Point in Sweetens Cove. The entrance is in the vertical wall of a 30 foot long, 25 foot wide and 30 feet deep sinkhole. There are three pitches that can be rigged with one rope for a pit depth of 106 feet. There is currently no map for this pit.
Five Falls Pit
Located in Gourdneck Hollow not far from where the junction of Marion County, Franklin County and Jackson County, Alabama come together. The pit consists of three drops; 40 feet, 39 feet and 30 feet for 109 feet total which can all be rigged with the same rope. The cave received its name from the series of cascades and domepit showers located at the bottom and there is several thousand feet of passage in the bottom of the cave.
Kelly Southside Well
Found by Elwin Hannah, Buddy Lane and Jack Wheat on September 9, 2965. The pit entrance is in a 40 by 30 foot sink and is 103 feet deep. The cave was surveyed by Jacob Lieber & Derrick Weiss on August 16th, 2016.
Lost Mule Pit
Located in the Martin Springs area of Marion County this popular pit is 12 feet by 8 feet and drops 103 feet to a large room in the bottom. The pit was named for the remains of a mule found at the bottom which had been dragged into the pit by a the log it was dragging. Permission is required before visiting this pit. The pit was mapped by John Swartz, Edie Roth & Julie Schenck Brown in 2004.
Located in Hargiss Cove this cave has a pit entrance that is 10 feet in diameter and starts as a long steep slope. There is a re belay bolt just below the lip to assist with access. From the lip, the first pit is 103 feet deep. At the bottom you go thru a canyon to reach a second pit of 45 feet deep where there is a second re belay bolt ten feet down. Back in the main pit, there is a ledge with two parallel pits. It is possible to swing over to access them. The cave was mapped by Jason Hardy in 2010.
Battle Creek Horror Hole
Located in the Martin Springs / Gaines Cove area of Marion County the pit has two entrances. One is 101 feet and the other is 68 feet. The shorter of the two has 95 feet of passage in the bottom. The two pits are connected via a window inside. The cave was mapped by Jason Hardy, Ben Miller, Katie Ingram and Kelly Smallwood in 2013 as part of the DPAS project. Permission is required to access this pit.