Pettyjohn Cave

Petty John's Cave - Pettijohn's Cave - Petit Jean


Useful Information

Location: East side of Pigeon Mountain, Appalachian Plateaus of NW Georgia, Walker County.
From Lafayette Take HWY 193 west 2.7 miles to Chamberlain Rd.; turn left and go 3 miles to Rocky Lane Rd.; turn right and go 0.3 mile to check station. Rocky Lane is an unpaved single lane road, so if your car is not suitable you can park at the turnoff and walk the 10 minutes to the cave.
GPS Coordinates: 34° 39′ 53.74″ N, 85° 21′ 49.4″ W
Open: No restrictions.
Closed all day during firearms deer seasons, which is a weekend in OCT, NOV and DEC.
[2019]
Fee: free.
there may be fees for organized visits.
[2019]
Classification: ExplainKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=11.488m, VR=71m.
Guided tours: no regular guided tours, V=12,500/a
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Allen Padgett (2018): Pigeon Mountain - Thirty Years of Noninterference, 1999 National Cave and Karst Management Symposium online
Barry F. Beck, Stanley Ayer, Allen Padget (1977): Management of Ellison's Cave, Site of the United States' Deepest Cave Pit: Pigeon Mountain, Georgia, National Cave Management Symposium Proceedings 1976, pp 44-49.
Address: Chamberlain 30728 LaFayette, Georgia, Tel: +1 706-557-3101
365 Rocky Lane Road Lafayette, GA 30728, Tel: 706-295-6041
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1969 first survey of cave by Richard Schreiber and others, more than 5,000m of survey.
1969 Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area established with a series of leases.
1970 second season of survey ends with 7,500m total length.
1973 Heritage Trust Program approved and begin of land purchases for WMA.
1974 surveying of cave ends with a total length of 8.709m.
1983 new discoveries, final survey length at 10.359m.
1987 a new group of cavers resurveyed the cave to a total length of 10.581m.
1992-1993 some minor discoveries.
1999 new discoveries.
2002-2003 more exploration and discoveries.
2007-2008 more discoveries and survey of 11.488m.

Description

Pettyjohn Cave is a well-known wild cave with a lot of traffic. It is what is called a sacrifice cave, a cave which is more or less officially open to spelunkers and thus protecting other caves around by drawing the whole traffic to this spot. So that is what you will find in this rather large (3rd largest cave in Georgia) and variated cave: crawling, stooping, mud, some rather easy climbs, narrow parts and some speleothemes. And of course many other spelunkers. The most frequented parts show rocks which are polished shiny and slick by too many visitors crawling across. Because of its size the cave is rather interesting and despite the high number of visitors well worth a visit. The entrance chamber, which is quite spacey, is heavily vandalized. From here only narrow crawl passages follow and the number of visitors is dramatically reduced. A small chamber with a waterfall is the destination of the remaining spelunkers, after that its like any other cave only frequented by caver.

Pettyjohn Cave was named after John Pettyjohn, who originally owned the land. For some reason the cave is spelled wrong on variuos internet pages, mostly as Petty John's Cave, but we also discovered Pettijohn's Cave and even the semi-French Petit Jean. Probably a result of non-cavers hearing the name on a spelunking trip and later writing some social media comment without knowing how to spell the name. Even the Wikipedia page is using the wrong spelling.

Although this cave is considered an easy cave, also called a non-technical cave, as no climbing gear is required, it is not harmless to visit this cave. Every year numerous people get hurt in the cave, partly a result of the high numbers of visitors, but most accidents are simply a result of insufficient gear and could have been easily avoided. Please do not enter this cave without helmet, gloves, sturdy boots or wellingtons, knee protectors and if possible some kind of overall. Headlamps are recommended, take spare batteries and a second lamp. And the most important: never cave alone and tell somebody where you are going and when you will be back, so he may call the rescue if you get lost or have an accident. This are the most basic rules of caving and may prevent you from many umcomfortable hours in the cave or even worse.

The cave is located in the state-owned Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Walker County, Northwest Georgia. There are numerous caves within the boundaries, the biggest three are Ellison's Cave, Pettyjohn Cave, and Anderson Spring Cave.

Pettyjohn Cave contains no known unusual geologic or biologic features, which is probably the reason why both the WMA and the local cavers tolerated the use as a sacrifice cave. Also the other caves have technical difficulties which make them dangerous for non-cavers. If you go on your own you must sign in with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, there are several card boxes located in the area close to the cave entrance. The positive side effect is that someone will look for you if you get lost. The boxes are checked daily. Numerous groups in the area offer guided trips into the cave. There is even the possibility to attend a cave tour through meetup. It is obviousy a good idea to visit the cave with such a tour. Such tours should offer additional equipment for rent, information on safe caving, speleothems, and the cave, and of course more fun being in a group sharing the experience.

Pettyjohn Cave is located near the base of the mountain on the eastern slope. The entrance is only 1.5m in diameter and leads down an easy climb for 3m into the main chamber of the cave, approximately 180m long, 10m wide, and 4 to 7m high. The main part of the cave is narrow and low, reached through various crawlways in the floor of the entrance chamber. As those crawlways are only known to the organized cavers who have a survey printout, they are normally not visited or vandalized. If you plan to visit the crawlways you should download and print the surveys on the CAPS homepage, see link below.