MAKC member Mike Kern was instrumental in proposing a lease of this cave for MAKC, to assist the resort with cave management. Since cave management is our area of expertise, the resort was very interested in a lease for management purposes. So now we have one!
Mike and Kaleb Hammond have agreed to be the cave managers and we have set up an email address so that we can notify both Mike and the hotel security staff when cave trips are planned. The cave is considered closed from October 15 to April 15 each year to protect the any hibernating bats.
Please read the management plan below and help us keep this cave available to cavers for exploration. Please also support the resort in any way possible, as the staff has been very interested in protecting this cave while also allowing exploration.
The Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy (MAKC) is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania in 1997. The MAKC owns or leases several karst preserves in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The MAKC was established by cavers to preserve and ensure access to caves by acquiring and managing caves and karst areas for conservation, scientific study, and recreational caving.
A cave on the Bedford Springs Hotel property has been known to the caving community since the 1950s, and probably to the local community for many years prior. A literature search is incomplete at this time but will be a goal of any future management. The hotel, through its past and present-day ownership, has been aware of the cave and neither encourages nor discourages exploration. However, cavers, non-cavers, hotel guests and others have visited the cave through the years.
Presently owned by Omni Bedford Springs Resort and Spa, the present-day owners have entered into a lease agreement with the Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy, Inc., (MAKC) to improve management of this resource, currently the second-longest cave in Bedford County, as well as any other caves that may be discovered on hotel land. (At this time no others are known).
Known as both Bedford Springs Cave and Davey (or Davy) Lewis Cave, the cave location is near an old stone mill, a stream and a small ravine. In keeping with the credo of the National Speleological Society to “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time” and the NSS Cave Conservation Policy, cave location information is generally not provided on the internet, to protect both the cave and inexperienced cave explorers.
It is the desire of the Omni Bedford Springs Resort and Spa, and the MAKC to educate the public about safe caving as it relates to this and other cave resources while making it available for exploration to appropriately equipped cavers, using this management plan as a guide.
The cave came to the attention of Pittsburgh Grotto cavers in the late 1950s, with A.D. McCrady reporting in The Netherworld News (January, 1958, Volume 6, Number 1, Page 13): “This cave is mud filled. Presumably digging would effect an entrance past the bottleneck. Folklore: ‘Davy (sic) Lewis was a highwayman. When he used the cave, you could ride a horse in it.’ Treasure found:—Six golf balls hidden by local urchin, turned over to hotel authorities.”
McCrady originally described the cave as a 20-foot-long crawlway, but in August of that year (Netherworld News, Volume 6, Number 8, Page 167), a trip by grotto members Bob Redal, Bill Andrake, Walt Burge, Bev Hofecker, Dick Kramer, Bill Ghrist and Jerry Frederick was described as follows:
“In answer to an SOS to the Pittsburgh Grotto from the manager of the Bedford Springs Hotel for a semi professional opinion of commercialization prospects, the above members and guests gathered for the exploration of Davy Lewis’ Cave.
“Our guide was Mr. Byrd, manager of the nearby Bedford Springs Bottling Plant, where we geared up. We were driven to the cave entrance in a Jeep by Mr. Byrd, accompanied by Mrs. Knight, wife of the Hotel sales manager. They had nothing to add to the Davy Lewis legend; but we were informed that the cave had been filled with silt and is now being excavated. A small stream which had run past the entrance had been dammed to prevent it’s (sic) flowing into the excavation; and a large boulder which had blocked the passage, twenty feet inside, had been blasted out.
“We found approximately 85 feet of walking passage leading to a small (30 feet ong (sic) by 15 feet wide by 3 feet high) room, from which proceeded a number of deadend crawlways. We observed some dripstone, some small, dry rimstone pools in the three inch calcite crust which covered the room floor, and a few pure white stalagmite and stalactites, 2 to 12 inches long. The limestone was believed to be a member of the Helderberg series.
“One of the crawlways showed some promise; so while Mr. Byrd’s boys went to work with shovels, we did some surfacing and Mr. Byrd went for box lunches. Our exploration disclosed no other limestone outcroppings, and we concluded that the limestone was very deep beneath the surface.
“The blast of a horn brought seven hungry spelunkers galloping down the mountain to a hearty lunch, after which we explored the now channeled out passage. But to no avail. Beyond the channeled part, the passage opened for a few feet, then ended in impenetrable silt and we turned back.
“We gave our verdict to Mr. Byrd and Mrs. Knight, to wit: that commercialization of the cave in its present state would be fruitless; and that in our opinion, further excavation would not discover anything to make it any more worthwhile.
“We were then taken on a tour of the resort; and after a delicious dinner as guests of the hotel, left for home. All in all, a worthwhile trip and an enjoyable one.
“Bev and Jerry.”
In November of 1960, the Nittany Grotto described an October 9 trip to the cave (Nittany Grotto News, Volume 9, Number 3, Page 58) by Joe Banks, Chuck Boster, Fonda Ghiardi, and Rebne Thomsen:
“Bedford Springs Cave has been dug larger than when first reported in the Nittany Grotto Newsletter. There is now about 50 feet of walking passage to a large room. On two sides of the room there is evidence of formations that have been broken off. A tight crawl was pushed by Fonda and Joe to a point where digging is in order. It is believed that this cave is being opened as a hotel attraction. Chuck Boster.”
The entrance passage is of stooping and walking height, between four and seven feet high, trending southwest. Continuing in that direction, most passages are between one and three feet high, closer to the one-foot type. To the northwest of where the walking passage ends are a series of crawls and crevices where additional passages trend.
The entrance passage is floored with dirt and leaves, the dirt often becoming mud when the stream outside overflows into the cave. Once the stand-up room is reached, the cave passages branch out in many directions, some as belly crawls and others a little higher. Water dripping from the ceiling frequently forms small puddles in some of these crawlways.
There are a number of small calcite formations in the cave, many of which have been broken. Note that in the “olden” days before cave visitors understood that it takes thousands of years for a formation to grow an inch, it was common, not just in this cave, but in many caves, for them to take a piece of the cave with them as a souvenir. As cave scientists studied caves and discovered the thousands of years it takes formations to grow, “the word” got out and the caving public became educated about removing formations or soils or artifacts from caves and about not disturbing animals that inhabit caves.
The cave at Bedford Springs contains a small number of soda straws, flowstone, bacon, rimstone and other calcite formations. Fortunately, today’s visitors are much more aware of all of the resources that are inside the cave, and practice the “leave no trace” ethic.
Kirk Taylor and John Ganter mapped the cave in 1983 and did a surface map for the Bedford County Mid-Appalachian Region (MAR) Bulletin #19, Caves of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, which was published in January, 1993. Taylor, Ganter, Will White and Bette White edited the publication. They reported a length of 876 feet, with internal relief of 30 feet. This map is © copyright by the cartographer Ganter, and by law cannot be reproduced or distributed in any published or electronic format without written consent of the copyright holder. It is permissible for cavers to make one copy of the map for personal use in the cave, so as not to ruin the copy that came from MAR 19.
Bedford County is located in the Valley and Ridge Province. The county’s southern boundary is the Maryland border. To the west is the Allegheny Front, “a major topographic escarpment and geologic boundary that separates the strongly folded and faulted rocks of the Valley and Ridge from the more gently folded rocks of the Allegheny Plateau. The topography consists of roughly parallel ridges underlain by erosion-resistant sandstones and intermediate valleys formed on softer rocks. The Silurian Tuscarora Quartzite supports the high ridges (mountains) of the Valley and Ridge with mountain tops rising to elevations greater than 2500 feet. The Devonian Oriskany Sandstone supports secondary ridges with elevations on the order of 1500 feet. Because the Silurian-Devonian carbonate rocks directly underlie the Oriskany Sandstone, these secondary ridges are the location of many Bedford County caves.” (Caves of Bedford County, Pennsylvania).
“The Bedford Springs Hotel was originally built because of Magnesia Spring, located at the base of the ridge east of the hotel buildings,” wrote Ganter in Caves of Bedford County, Pennsylvania. “The spring waters contain about 2000 ppm dissolved solids, mostly magnesia and calcium sulfates. Another spring emerges from limestone at creek level a few hundred feet north of Magnesia Spring. Crystal Spring and Black Spring also emerge from the Silurian-Devonian Limestones at 0.3 miles and 1.0 miles south of Magnesia Spring along the same ridge. On the top are a number of sinkholes indicating the general karstic character of the area.”
A small stream flows into the cave entrance, but quickly disappears into a debris-choked crevice.
MAKC will do a thorough inventory of cave biota. Cave life observed include harvestmen spiders, a cave cricket, and some small insects in areas where an animal, perhaps a raccoon, had left droppings. Unexpectedly during an assessment visit, two hibernating bats were discovered. Due to this discovery further assessment was abandoned and a recommendation made to post an educational sign for visitors to stay out of the cave between October 15 and April 15 so as not to disturb the bats.
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.
MAKC will assess the cave for any paleontological finds.
In The Caves of Pennsylvania: A Guidebook to the 2013 NSS Convention, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, edited by Kimberley A. Opatka-Metzgar and Thomas J. Metzgar, Thomas Metzgar delves into “Authors, Outlaws and Hermits,” in Chapter 13. He notes that David Lewis, the Robber (1788-1820) had at least three caves named for him: Davey Lewis Cave in Bedford County, Doubling Gap Robber’s Den and Lewis Rocks in Adams and Cumberland counties.
“Son of Lewis Lewis, an Oxford-educated land surveyor, and his wife Jane Dill, David Lewis was raised by his twice-widowed mother. Poor and fatherless, Lewis decided to join the U.S. Army. He began his life of crime by deserting from the Army shortly before the War of 1812. He fled to Canada, where he was captured and returned to the Army. While he was imprisoned at Fort Niagara, New York, and set to be hanged, fate intervened. The war began, focusing the Army’s attention away from deserters. The British captured Fort Niagara on December 19, 1813. During the battle, Lewis slipped away unharmed.”
Counterfeiting banknotes, as well as stealing genuine money were among his talents. He was captured several times, but always managed to escape, with Metzgar noting that “the number of jails he was imprisoned in may approach the number of caves he hid in. Newspapers described each jailbreak as more cunning and clever than the one before.”
Lewis was jailed in Philadelphia in 1816 with a six-year sentence, but cleverly obtained a pardon from Governor William Findlay in 1819 after Lewis instigated his fellow prisoners to plan an escape, then exposed the scheme to the warden. After his release he returned to counterfeiting. Within three weeks he robbed a Pittsburgh merchant traveling to Bedford County and the embarrassed governor issued a proclamation and reward for his recapture. Imprisoned in the Bedford County jail he broke out and spent the winter in Cumberland and York counties. Captured again in 1820, this time the governor made a classic “dead or alive” reward. The Lewis gang moved to Centre County, then Clearfield and Cameron counties. Lewis was wounded during his capture and left lying in the water in a canoe, and subsequently died in the Bellefonte jail, from gangrene.
Metzgar noted that “Lewis and his associates operated across most of central Pennsylvania, parts of southwestern Pennsylvania, and also in New Jersey, New York and Ohio. Dozens of late 19th century county histories from many locales, written two generations after Lewis died, elevated David Lewis to almost mythological proportions…. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, seemingly every cave discovered in central Pennsylvania was immediately declared one of Lewis’s lost lairs. Newspapers and magazines told and retold tales about Lewis’s life.
Modern-day websites, YouTube® videos, and treasure hunting guides frequently speculate about finding Lewis’ hidden treasure in “Davey Lewis Cave.” These scenarios are unlikely, especially given the speculative size of the cache and the size of the cave passages, which are barely large enough to contain a crawling human, let alone a treasure chest. Most of these caves, such as the Bedford County Davey Lewis Cave, are on private property. The Pennsylvania Cave Protection Act prohibits disturbance of cave resources.
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. The owners reserve the right to comment upon published papers which might reveal sensitive information, and specifically prohibit publishing reports on the internet without their approval.
The MAKC seeks to publicize caves only 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. Release of specific cave location information on the internet or to the general public, or published in any written form should not be undertaken without written permission of the owners.
SURFACE AND CAVE ACCESS AND MANAGEMENT
The cave is open from dawn to dusk every year between April 15 and October 15. There is a small parking area near the path to the cave that is for use by the Bedford Heritage Trail, a trail that connects downtown Bedford with the Omni Bedford Springs Hotel and the trailhead to Fort Bedford Park. Parking at the Omni Bedford Springs Hotel is reserved for guests. Thus small groups of cavers wishing to visit the cave are encouraged to park in downtown Bedford and carpool to the Heritage Trail parking area.
Helmets and at least two sources of light are recommended for each visitor to the cave.
Given the muddy nature of the cave, gloves, lug-soled boots and warm clothing are advised.
Cave visitors who are not hotel guests should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, the email established for the cave managers, about their expected trip date and time. The cave managers will then notify the hotel security team, so they will be aware of visitors to the cave, their expected time in and expected time out.
The heritage trail parking area is near a road and in view of the hotel, so the management team asks that cave visitors change clothes near the cave area and be discreet so as not to offend hotel guests.
Visitors should practice “leave no trace” ethics, removing all trash and waste. The MAKC will install a register book inside the entrance room so visitors can make note of their passage in a cave-friendly way.
Visitors should follow the credo of the National Speleological Society: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”
Cavers who wish to visit the resort following their trip may be interested in The Tavern and Tillies near the golf course, which has more of a resort casual dress code as opposed to the five-course dining facilities in the hotel proper. The hotel has additional activities that are available to visitors, such as Segway tours, UTV Tours, archery, skeet shooting (offsite), golf, a spa, horseback riding, horseshoes, bocce ball, hiking and mountain biking. Some items are available for a fee while others are free of charge.
An educational brochure will be created and distributed in a brochure rack outside of the cave. The brochure will display information about the cave, a cave map, emergency contact information, and educational resources, including web links and regional caving groups, as well as information about safe caving.
PRESERVE MANAGEMENT TEAM
The MAKC board of directors will designate a preserve management team to oversee the property. The committee shall report directly to the MAKC board of directors on any issues concerning the Bedford Springs Cave.
Persons reading this policy and leading trips to the Bedford Springs (Davey Lewis) Cave should understand that exploring underground holes, caves, crevices and passageways can be inherently dangerous and those persons assume all risks, known and unknown, which may arise from such exploration. Any and all losses, claims or liabilities which visitors or their heirs may have for any and all losses and damage which may occur to visitors or their property while engaged in such exploration are hereby waived and the owners are released and held harmless from such claims or liabilities.
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.
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.
This management plan was approved by the MAKC board of directors and the Omni Bedford Springs Resort in the winter of 2017-2018. The MAKC board of directors and Omni Bedford Springs reserve the right to update, adjust, alter or amend this plan at any time and thereafter will be publicized in the MAKC newsletter and/or website at the discretion of the MAKC board of directors. This lease is being undertaken as a cooperative effort between the MAKC and the Omni Bedford Springs Resort. The cooperation of all visitors to the cave is essential to the success of this partnership.