Photographing Cave River Valley Nature Preserve

The importance of research

One aspect of landscape photography is doing a lot of research before you leave home. I typically use several maps, search for images, trip reports, and visit various websites to find places to explore and photograph. My interest was tweaked when I saw a posting on a caving blog about a waterfall near Spring Mill State Park. Having grown up in Lawrence County, I was amazed that there was a true waterfall in the county, then I learned it is not in Lawrence county. I started my research and finally found a reference to Cave River Valley Natural Area. The preserve is not well publicized nor on any maps I could find. One reason few people know about the preserve may be to protect the bats that live in the caves.

In the early 1900’s, the area was used for tourist and one of the cabins still exists. There are various reports of cave tours and Fourth of July Celebrations held in the valley in the early 1900’s. Water power from River Cave was used to power a grist mill, to make whiskey and apple cider, and to power a rock-wool plant.

Exploring Cave River Natural Area

Steven Higgs and I explored this preserve in the early spring. The area we visited is surrounded by high ridges and requires a steep walk down a gravel road bed (it seems twice as far on the return trip). There are several caves in the area, but we only explored River Cave (also known as Wet Clifty Cave) that is behind the lone remaining cabin. There was a good deal of water flowing from the cave (as there was on my second visit). There are several excellent photo opportunities in this valley. I have taken three photographers to this preserve and all were amazed and could not believe it existed.

You will need to take your own water and food. The DNR plans to add a composting toilet at some time in the future. The rocks around the cave river are quite slippery, so use care. I have also seen reports of copperhead snakes around the cabin.

This preserve is well worth the effort and drive, although we drove around the whole preserve before we found the parking area on the first trip! On the first visit, the gate was closed, but it was open on the second trip. There is parking for a few vehicles. If you visit this area, please read the guidelines and follow the rules so that the area is maintained for those who want to visit in the future.