The National Speleological Society - NSS
Cave Conservation and Federal and State Laws
Safe Caving
  The National Speleological Society - NSS

The National Speleological Society (NSS) is the world's largest organization concerned with the conservation, scientific study and exploration of caves.

The NSS was formed by a group of cavers in 1941, to promote interest in the study, science, exploration and protection of caves and their natural contents. The NSS also strived to promote fellowship among those interested in speleology.

Today the purpose remains the same, as members work together to explore, study and conserve caves and karst areas. Affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the NSS has more than 12,000 members throughout the United States and in forty countries.

For more information on the NSS and caving, or to find a local chapter (grotto) near you, visit the NSS web site at

The NSS also accepts donations to continue the scientific study and preservation of caves.


Mail donations to:
  National Speleological Society
  2813 Cave Avenue
  Huntsville, Alabama 35810-4431
  Cave Conservation and Federal and State Cave Laws

Caves need protection. The intricate formations and the animals found underground appear to be an everlasting part of the cave, and it is hard to imagine that they might not always be there.

But caves are extremely delicate. Fragile speleothems and sensitive species can be destroyed by a single act of vandalism or carelessness. Indeed, many cave formations that once existed are now gone forever, never to be seen by future generations.

There are other reasons why caves need our protection. Caves continue to be an exciting source of new scientific knowledge, such as shown in "Journey into Amazing Caves". In addition, many rural communities depend on cave-supplied springs and rivers for their water supply. Contamination of the caves with pesticides and animal waste can destroy a town's water supply.


NSS CONSERVATION POLICY: The National Speleological Society believes that caves have unique scientific, recreational, and scenic values. These values are endangered by both carelessness and intentional vandalism. Protecting caves must be the responsibility of those who visit caves and enjoy them.

Accordingly, the intention of the Society is to work for the preservation of caves with effective programs for: the encouragement of self-discipline among cavers; education and research concerning the causes and prevention of cave damage; and special projects, including cooperation with other groups similarly dedicated to the conservation of natural areas.

CAVE PROTECTION LAWS: Caves are protected on federal lands by the Federal Cave Protection Act, and in 25 states by state cave laws. These laws make it illegal to damage caves or to remove anything found in a cave. Does your state have a cave protection law? These laws can be seen at

  Safe Caving

Underwater and Ice Caving

The caves featured in Journey into Amazing Caves are some of the most spectacular on Earth. They are also some of the most dangerous, and require extensive training to enter. In particular, underwater caves pose a hazard. Many experienced divers, including diving instructors, have died in underwater caves. Any problems that a diver experiences in these caves must be dealt with - there is no possibility of simply swimming up for air. Though you see cave divers using underwater lights, side-mount scuba tanks and divelines to explore the caves, there is much more to diving in a cave than knowing what equipment to use. Special navigation techniques, for example, must be learned so divers can move safely through this environment. None of these techniques are taught during open-water diving class. Cave divers must get special training and certification. Open Water divers who wish to explore this fascinating underground world can do it by diving with a professional guide who specializes in cavern diving. These services are available at Hidden Worlds Park.

Likewise, ice caves are unique environments with associated dangers. Ice is inherently unstable and special techniques are required to travel through this environment safely, including ice-climbing and vertical caving skills. The film shows cavers using crampons, ropes, and other ascending and descending tools, all of which require extensive training to use. Even experienced cavers have been seriously hurt in ice caves so it is imperative that you enter this environment with an experienced guide.

Terrestrial Caving

Caves are a unique treasure deserving your respect and tender care. An extraordinary trip through the underground world can be enjoyed by the prepared and responsible caver.

However, due to its alien environment, caves can be very dangerous to the inexperienced or unprepared visitor. Caving requires the following rules to be followed.

  Before you go:

1. FIND AN EXPERIENCED GUIDE TO LEAD YOU! Many wild and/or historic caving trips are led in National Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, many State Parks and some commercial caves. Some local recreation departments offer beginning caving trips and training. The NSS has over 200 local grottos, or clubs, with members who can give safety talks and lead trips. CALL ONE OFF THESE GROUPS BEFORE YOU GO CAVING!

Cave and Karst Parks of the National Park System

NSS Organizations

2. ASK PERMISSION BEFORE YOU GO TO A CAVE. Most caves are on private land, ask the landowner, or managing agency for permission first. If they say 'no', leave.




1. Three sources of light, including a headlamp attached to a helmet. Caves are more than just dark, there is no light. No matter how long you wait, your eyes will not adjust to the dark.

2. Wear comfortable foot gear appropriate for caving. Boots or sturdy shoes with lug type soles work well.

3. Wear gloves and warm clothes.

4. Bring enough food and water for an unexpected stay in the cave.

5. Do not litter and use a container for packing out all human waste.

Many caves require ropes, ladders and advanced climbing techniques. Get training from experienced cavers before using any of this equipment.

Caves are a very delicate environment that can be easily damaged. It takes many years of training to learn how to move through a cave, be patient. And remember: "We must move through caves as gently as shadows, leaving nothing behind but echoes."