Dunbar Cave State Park

Quick Facts

Dunbar Cave State Park

Tennessee

(931) 648-5526

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Dunbar Cave State Natural Area has been a State Park since 1973. The cave and its surrounding 110 acres have considerable scenic, natural, and historical significance. The entrance offered shelter to prehistoric American Indians as far back as 10,000 years. Many people have been drawn to the cave over the centuries by its constant stream flow and natural air conditioning. This cave is the only site in the United States where the public can see Mississippian cave art dating from approximately seven hundred years ago. Religious symbols including circles, stars, and a supernatural male warrior figure were drawn and carved on the walls of the cave and can be seen on the regular tour.

European-American settlement began in the late 1770s. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Dunbar was a popular mineral springs resort. In the 1930s it was associated with big band music and dances, with performances by greats such as Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. In 1948, country music star Roy Acuff purchased the property and broadcast a live country music radio show from the area.

The cave contains over 8 miles of mapped passageway and is the site of scientific investigation as well as guided tours. Scientists are studying rare animals, including the blind, unpigmented cavefish and crayfish, salamanders, and bats. Above ground, oak-hickory forests and a small lake support numerous wildflowers, songbirds and waterfowl, reptiles and amphibians, and mammals ranging from whitetail deer to raccoon and gray fox.

Map of Dunbar Cave (TN)

Latitude, Longitude: 36.522904, -87.306366

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Activities

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Please contact park services for more information.

  • Caving

    Dunbar Cave contains over 8 miles of mapped passageways and is the site of scientific investigation as well as guided tours. Scientists are studying several rare species, including blind and unpigmented cave fish and cray fish, salamanders, and bats. Rare animals being studied include the blind, unpigmented cave fish and crayfish, salamanders, and bats.

    The cave entrance offered shelter to prehistoric American Indians as far back as 10,000 years. This cave is the only site in the United States where the public can see Mississippian cave art dating from about seven hundred years ago. Religious symbols including circles, stars, and a supernatural male warrior figure were drawn and carved on the walls of the cave and can be seen on the regular tour. Recently, Tennessee State Parks has suspended cave tours at Dunbar Cave State Natural Area because a bat from Dunbar Cave tested positive for White Nose Syndrome. Dunbar Cave is being closed indefinitely in an effort to take every necessary precaution to isolate the fungus as much as possible, in order to protect bat populations at other nearby hibernacula, recognizing that bat-to-bat transmission is still possible. Visitors should check with the park to see if the cave is open to the public when they plan to visit.

  • Fishing

    Angling is a popular activity on beautiful Swan Lake. The lake is fed by the cold, clear stream that flows from the mouth of Dunbar Cave. Since it is only 15-acres in size, boating and swimming are not permitted. A valid Tennessee Fishing License is required.

  • Hiking

    There are three trails in the natural area that range from a leisurely walk to a fairly strenuous hike. All trails begin and end at the visitors center. The Lake Trail is 0.67 miles long, easy, and partially paved. The Short Loop is a moderate, 1.1-mile hike. The Recovery Trail is also moderately strenuous and is 1.9 miles long.

  • Picnicking

    The park has seven picnic tables located just behind the visitors center on a hill overlooking scenic Swan Lake.

Seasonality/Weather

The park is open year-round. The area is usually warm in the summer, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and cold in the winter, with temperatures reaching the 30s. On average, January is the coolest month, with lows in the 20s. July is the warmest month, reaching 90 F. March is usually the wettest month.

Directions

Driving

Take Interstate 24 to Exit 8 (Rossview Road). Turn left on Rossview Road. Travel 1/4 mile to Dunbar Cave Road. Turn left on Dunbar Cave Road. The park entrance is 2.5 miles on the right.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(931) 648-5526

Links