Hall Cave Management Plan

Hall Cave Management Plan Introduction

The Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy (MAKC), a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania purchased Hall Cave and 9.475 acres of classic Pennsylvania karst for the purposes of creating a preserve. Hall Cave has been surveyed to a depth of 80 feet and a length of 380 feet and has an estimated 100 additional feet of passage un-mapped. Surface features on the property such as numerous sinkholes earmark this as prime karst property. This parcel will be known as the Hall Cave Preserve in honor of the previous owner. The MAKC believes that Hall Cave offers opportunities for education, recreation and research. Therefore the Board of Directors has made an effort to tailor this management plan to address those opportunities.


Local folklore has it that Hall Cave was discovered on the John Hall farm around the turn of the 20th century when a trapper tracked a fox to a hole under a tree stump. After pulling out a few rocks, an entrance appeared to the cave. We know from accounts of the late Ruth Hall that the cave was discovered around 1900 (or a few years after) and as a young girl, she was forbidden by her parents to enter the cave (although she admitted that she did get to see it at least once.)

The late Dr. Ralph Stone investigated the cave around 1930 and described the entrance as being under a stump and twenty inches in diameter. The cave was briefly mentioned in a publication called Pennsylvania Caves (1932) by Ralph Stone (Bulletin G3, Dept. of Internal Affairs, Commonwealth of Pa.) This publication made no mention of a cave map. The cave is later noted again in a publication called Caves of Pennsylvania, National Speleological Society Bulletin 15, December 1953 by Ralph Stone. This article mimics the 1932 version except with an updated location and entrance description. The short entry is authored not only by Stone but also by William B. White of Penn State University. Dr. White apparently added the updated information.

The entrance is now regarded as in a small sink near the top of a hillock. Again, no map is mentioned in the publication. Another published description of Hall Cave appeared in MAR Bulletin 9, The Caves of Huntingdon County (June 1975) by Jack Speece and Mike Cullinan. The information provided in this write-up was by the late Bernard Smeltzer. Smeltzer describes the entrance as being a triangular shaped hole under a stump. He also mentions in the article that in of April 1955, a colony of 40 or more little brown bats were seen. During the same year, another renowned caver by the name of Bill Devitt III found what was believed to be claw marks and tracks left by a bobcat (it should be noted that Cullinan in the 1960s also saw these or other tracks and marks made by a large cat.)

The first known (published) map was surveyed and drawn by Bernard Smeltzer on April 3, 1955. With a surveyed length of 380 feet, this is the only known map of the cave.

Although uneventful, the cave was periodically explored during the 1960s by the Standing Stone Grotto of the NSS, now defunct) and later in the 1980s by the Huntingdon County Cave Hunters of the NSS.

During the 1980s, the cave entrance was located in a sinkhole with a vertical entrance for a short distance. The area was wooded with very large virgin timber. This changed when the hillside was timbered. In fact the cave entrance was concealed for a time by treetops. Around 1992 the owner, Bill Anderson, excavated the entrance so that cavers could practically walk in from the surface. About a year later several parts of the rock face above fell in. Members of the HCCH helped chain these boulders and heavy machinery was used to pull them out. However, because of freeze and thaw cycles, additional rocks have fallen, which is how it is today.

A CCUS (Contemporary Cave Use Study – NSS) register was placed in the cave around 1991-92 and designated the first official code number for any register in the state (PA-001.) A radon study of the cave took place also in that year. The cave during the last decade has largely become a site for recreation. The HCCH continues to monitor the cave register and lead youth group trips. Cavers and youth groups have used the cave for educational purposes. Although the cave has been documented since 1932 as Hall Cave, it is interesting to note that many locals today still know the cave as Orchard Cave. Locals applied this nickname many years ago. A large apple orchard was once situated near the cave site which gave locals a landmark to go by when looking for the cave.


Hall Cave is formed within the Keyser and Tonoloway formations of Devonian-Silurian age. The sinkhole pocked western flank of Warrior Ridge also contains two nearby show caves, Lincoln and Whisper Rocks. The vicinity’s geology and hydrology remain a fertile field for future study.

During April, 1955, Hall Cave map maker Bernie Smeltzer reported a colony of at least 40 little brown bats. Bill Devitt reported bobcat prints in the cave that same year. A cursory examination during July, 1998 turned up the usual assortment of inhabiting insects, including beetles, mosquitoes and flies. Spiders and a few millipedes rounded out the invertebrates. Super-imposed upon the multitude of boot and glove prints lay the paw prints of a raccoon and a mouse.

On November 16, 2019, the MAKC Board of Directors adopted the National Speleological Society White Nose Syndrome Policy for  its managed, leased and owned preserves. The Policy was approved by the NSS Board of Governors on April 17, 2010. In part the policy reads:

“The NSS recognizes the serious nature of white-nose syndrome (WNS) and its devastating effect on bat populations in the eastern United States. The Society is committed to advancing scientific knowledge of WNS, helping to determine its cause, and limiting its impact on cave organisms. At the same time, the NSS will promote responsible study, management, and access to cave resources based on demonstrated risks and the latest available data. The NSS has a responsibility to its current members and cavers of tomorrow to do what it can to ensure that any restrictions on cave access are based on demonstrated threats, sound evidence, and recognition that risks are site- and strategy-specific.”

The entire policy is at this weblink.

Archaeology and Paleontology

As with other scientific aspects of the cave, investigators have not delved sufficiently into the subject to yield any published reports.


The MAKC encourages research to explore the preserve’s historical, biological, geological, hydrological, paleontological and archaeological potential. As previously noted in the history section, the cave was both a site for sociological study as part of the NSS’ CCUS (Contemporary Cave Use Study) program, and a radon test site. Researchers who desire access to the preserve should submit a brief, written synopsis of their project to the MAKC board for consideration. Researchers are also required to submit a written report to the MAKC board no later than 30 days after the completion of their project. Documentation or historical evidence of a “significant” bat population does not exist, therefore a seasonal bat moratorium on visitation is deemed unnecessary.

Preserve Management Team

The MAKC board will designate a preserve management team to oversee the property. The size of this team shall be determined by the board and one team member shall be named as the preserve manager. The preserve manager shall report directly to the MAKC board of directors on all issues concerning the Hall Cave Preserve. Preference will be given to the nearest NSS grotto(s) for management team selection, however, this is not a requirement.

News / Publication Policy

The Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy, Inc., seeks to publicize caves only as befits our mission as stated in our bylaws and constitution: for education of the public about caves and karst resources; for published scientific studies in cave-related publications, and, depending on the sensitivity of the material, on the world wide web. Specific cave location information will not be released to the general public; i.e., directions to the cave or maps of the cave. However, in publicity concerning Hall’s Cave we can note its county and proximity to other caves, such as Lincoln Caverns and Tytoona Cave, and to other nearby geographic features, such as it “is near Huntingdon” and “Raystown Lake.” In the event of a rescue at the cave, the MAKC will seek to minimize publicity of the cave’s location; while providing the media with necessary information on the cave/rescue. The MAKC can use the cave name in publicizing acquisitions and in its newsletter and other caving publications, such as the NSS News and local grotto newsletters. The management plan will be available for publication in these mediums and can be published on the world wide web (with contact information), provided no sensitive material, such as bat count numbers, is released in this manner. Specific requests for publicity concerning the cave/cave preserve that are not covered under this policy should be approved by the MAKC Board of Directors.

Pennsylvania Cave Protection Act

Pennsylvania Cave Protection Act (1990), No 1990 -133, SB 867, Signed into law Nov. 21, 1990, prohibits removal of any type of material or species and organisms from a cave: remove, deface, tamper with or otherwise disturb any natural or cultural resources or material found within any cave; kill, injure, disturb or otherwise interfere with any cave life, including any cave roosting bat, or interfere with or obstruct the free movement of any cave life into or out of any cave, or enter any cave with the intention of killing, injuring, disturbing or interfering with life forms therein, except where public health may be threatened and willfully or knowingly break, break off, crack, carve upon, write, bum, mark upon, remove or in any manner destroy, disturb, mar or harm surfaces of any cave or any natural material which may be found therein, whether attached or broken, including speleothems, speleogens and sedimentary deposits.

For the complete text of federal and state cave laws, refer to this link.


Researchers are required to submit a preliminary report documenting initial findings, data, and project progress no later than 30 days after access to preserve. A final report is required within one year of completion of project. A schedule of reports for longer-term projects can be established if necessary.

Surface Management

Camping on the preserve shall be prohibited. Exceptions may be made for specific requests pre-approved by the board. Examples such as work weekends or an “open house” weekend may be entertained. No campfires will be permitted. The collection of firewood is also prohibited except for Mr. William Anderson as specified in the Agreement of Sale. There are no sanitary facilities on the property. All trash and waste from both the surface and underground must be packed out. There are two designated parking areas. Car parking shall be in the allocated spot in the field before entering the woods. 4WD vehicles can drive up to the turn-around near the cave. Please use only these areas. Do not park along the access road. ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles are not permitted on the preserve. It is highly suggested that visitors to the cave stay on the existing path in order to minimize long term impact. Do not collect or damage flora or fauna found on the surface. The collection of rocks, minerals and fossils is also prohibited.

Access Policy

No permission is required. The cave is generally open from dawn until dusk to properly equipped cavers. While membership is not required, it is strongly recommended that visitors be members of the conservancy. The MAKC is in the process of becoming an NSS conservancy. Membership in the National Speleological Society is also highly recommended. Visitor conduct should adhere to National Speleological Society conservation guidelines. Visitor conduct should also reflect NSS Safety and Techniques Committee recommendations for safe caving practices. Small groups are encouraged. Visiting groups larger than 15 must get advance, written permission from the MAKC board. Illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, alcohol and alcoholic beverage containers are not allowed on the preserve. Use of the property for any kind of commercial activity, including “cave-for- pay” caving (as defined by the MAKC board) or other recreational activities is prohibited. Educational trips are encouraged. Groups such as Boy Scouts shall adhere to the BSA and NSS caving guidelines and policies. No modifications to the cave or property, including the use of bolts or other permanent climbing aids are allowed. Exceptions may be granted in writing only by the MAKC board. No hunting or firearms will be allowed on the property. The board only allows hunting by Mr. William Anderson as per our Agreement of Sale. It is strongly encouraged that cavers visit Hall Cave only on Sundays during hunting season as long as William Anderson is able to hunt on the property. Fireworks are also forbidden. Please keep noise to a minimum and be discreet in changing clothes. We ask this in order to maintain good relations with our neighboring landowners. Exceptions to any part of the access policy or management plan must be obtained in writing from the MAKC board of directors in advance.

Future Plans

The property lines have been defined and posted. Access information signs are in place where appropriate. General property maintenance will be scheduled as well as clean-up trips to the cave as needed. Placement of an information kiosk which includes an (above ground) visitor register is being considered. Regardless, CCUS participation will continue. The MAKC board believes that there is no need to re-map the cave. Bernie Smeltzer’s 1955 map is deemed adequate both for visitor and MAKC use at this time. It is the MAKC board’s desire to install an unlocked gate along the access road. The property shall be maintained in its natural state and will not be developed or improved in concurrence with the Agreement of Sale with the former owners, except to manage its usage as a natural area.

Liability Disclaimer

The Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy, its board of directors, the Hall Cave Preserve management team, the National Speleological Society or its local chapters (grottos) or any individual members thereof will not be liable for any damages, accidents, injuries, or death on the surface or subsurface of the property. All the above named organizations will also not be liable for any damage or loss of personal property while visiting the preserve.

Non-Discrimination Policy

The MAKC promotes a policy of non-discrimination for everyone. That policy, adopted by the MAKC Board on February 16, 2019, is as follows:
The MAKC does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, granting membership, selection of project volunteers and serving on internal committees. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all board of directors, officers, agents, members, volunteers, and contributors.

Anti-Harrassment Policy

The MAKC follows the National Speleological Society’s anti-harassment policy. That policy is as follows:

The National Speleological Society and the MAKC are dedicated to providing a safe and harassment-free (experience) environment for our members and attendees at our events, on social media and within our organization. We will not tolerate harassment in any form. Any attendee that violates this policy will be (told) asked to leave the event and may be subject to further disciplinary action at the discretion of the MAKC Board.
Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate comments, inappropriate sexual behavior that warrants intervention, unwanted advances and touching, invasion of personal space in a sexual manner, deliberate intimidation, and unwelcomed sexual advances. In addition, harassment includes unwanted verbal, physical, cyber, or social aggressive behavior. The action of our members and guests will be closely monitored and if an incident of harassment is reported the event staff, volunteers, or MAKC representatives will (may) take corrective action against any offenders at the time of the incident, ranging from verbal warnings to expulsion from the area and/or event and a referral of the offender to the MAKC Board for consideration of expulsion from the MAKC.

If you are being harassed or witness another person being harassed, please contact a security staff member immediately. We will be happy to assist you and provide protection for our members and attendees. We value all of our members and attendees that come to caving events and want to ensure that your safety and well-being is a top priority.

Future Updates

This management plan was approved by the MAKC board on November 14, 1998. The MAKC board reserves the right to update, adjust, alter or amend this plan at any time without notice. Changes in the management plan must be sanctioned by the board of directors, and thereafter will be publicized in the MAKC newsletter and/or website at the board’s discretion.