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Virginia Cave Week to feature tours of Frederick County natural area

RICHMOND — Free walking tours of Ogdens Cave Natural Area Preserve in Frederick County are the highlight of Virginia Cave Week this year.

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Cave Week, April 21-27, is a special opportunity for Virginians to learn about the world beneath their feet. The week is intended to raise awareness of Virginia’s caves — and surrounding limestone habitats known as karst.

Tours of Ogdens Cave are scheduled April 22-24, 4 until 8 p.m. Participants will be able to see the cave’s entrance room, pools, inhabitants and an underground segment of Buffalo Marsh Run. Above ground, the tour will feature riparian buffer and prairie restoration projects under way at the natural area.

There are more than 4,000 known caves in Virginia, predominately in the Shenandoah Valley and southwest. Caves provide habitat for rare or threatened species such as bats and cave-adapted invertebrates. In addition, karst supplies water to many communities in Virginia. Most caves are on private property. A few have been converted into popular tourist destinations, or commercial caves.

The 131-acre Ogdens Cave Natural Area Preserve lies on old farmland, just north of Cedar Creek near the intersection of Interstates 66 and 81. Ogdens Cave is the longest cave in known Frederick County with nearly a mile of mapped passages. The cave is home to the state endangered Appalachian springsnail, the thin-necked cave beetle and three species of crustacean. Land around the cave supports habitat for endangered reptiles. Ground-level sinkholes provide recharge to the underlying aquifer, which supplies drinking water to nearby wells and supports Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Shenandoah River. The natural area is owned by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Long before European settlers arrived, a tall-grass prairie occupied the land, and bison likely roamed the fields. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation stewards are working with The Nature Conservancy and state and federal agencies to reconstruct this landscape by planting hardwoods in the stream valley and native warm-season grasses in the upland fields.

Tour details:
Participants can arrive anytime between 4 and 6:30 p.m. Tours will be offered on a continuous basis with each lasting up to two hours. Participants should wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and footwear suitable for rough terrain. Clothes and footwear are likely to get muddy. A water bottle is recommended. Helmets and flashlights will be provided. Advance registration is not required.

Directions to the natural area:
Take exit 302 (Middletown) off Interstate 81. Travel northwest a half-mile on Reliance Road to U.S. 11. Turn left and follow U.S. 11 south a half-mile to the stoplight at First Street. Turn right on First Street, and proceed 2 miles before turning left onto Belleview Lane. Travel three-quarters of a mile on Belleview, then turn right on Ogden Lane. Proceed a half-mile to the intersection of Ogden and Rector lanes, which marks the southeastern corner of the natural area.

For more information about the tour, call Wil Orndorff with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation at 540-553-1235.

Virginia Cave Week is sponsored annually by the Virginia Cave Board. The board was established by the General Assembly in 1979 to conserve and protect the state’s caves and karstlands and to advocate the wise use of cave-related resources. Board members are appointed by the governor.

Lesson plans, virtual tours and other educational resources about caves and karst are available at www.vacaveweek.com.

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