Cave Densities By State By County

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Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Caving Guru » Aug 2, 2014 1:29 am

So I have made a spreadsheet for each state that I have the total number of caves for each county. I have posted below the spreadsheets for West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. I also have as an added bonus, a spreadsheet showing the difference between the number of caves in Virginia by county in 1964 and in 2004.

West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland:
Image

Pennsylvania:
Image

Tennessee:
Image

Virginia (1964 & 2004 Compared):
Image

So to summarize what I have so far:
1. White County, TN has the highest cave density with 3.09 caves per square mile.
2. Van Buren County, TN has the 2nd highest cave density with 3.03 caves per square mile.
3. Jackson County, AL has the 3rd highest cave density with 1.70 caves per square mile.
4. Putnam County, TN has the 4th highest cave density with 1.43 caves per square mile.
5. Greenbrier County, WV has the 5th highest cave density with 1.34 caves per square mile.
6. Fentress County, TN has the 6th highest cave density with 1.31 caves per square mile.
7. Overton County, TN has the 7th highest cave density with 1.30 caves per square mile.
8. Marion County, TN has the 8th highest cave density with 1.29 caves per square mile.
9. Warren County, TN has the 9th highest cave density with 1.14 caves per square mile.
10. Pickett County, TN has the 10th highest cave density with 1.07 caves per square mile.

If anyone would like to share the total number of caves for each county for any of the states that I have not mentioned so far, please do so I can calculate more county cave densities.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby rlboyce » Aug 2, 2014 9:24 am

It would be interesting to see the percentage of karst topography for each county and how that compares with your data. Another interesting metric would be to compare average cave length per county.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Caving Guru » Aug 2, 2014 8:31 pm

rlboyce wrote:It would be interesting to see the percentage of karst topography for each county and how that compares with your data. Another interesting metric would be to compare average cave length per county.


Some counties that have caves don't have any karst. These caves are mainly talus and boulder caves. I don't know how I would even calculate or be able find the percent karst of each county with karst though. The average length by county has already been done such as by the Virginia Speleological Survey (http://www.virginiacaves.org (Under "VA Cave Stats")). I am more interested in doing original work that has not been done before than doing work that has already been done before. When I made the Spreadsheets for the cave densities by state by county, I was not aware of such a thing already existing. This is also the case (that I was doing the work because I believed that it was original work that had not been done before) when I was making:

1. A list of the deepest vertical cave pits in the United States (started this in 2010)
2. A list of the longest cave for each country in the world (started this in 2010)
3. A map with every county in the United States with at least one cave over a mile of passage highlighted (started this in 2011)
4. A list of the gated caves in the United States (started this in 2011)
5. A map of the location of every caving organization in the United States (started this in 2011)
6. A map of the location of every National Speleological Society Convention (started this in 2012)
7. A map of the location of every International Congress of Speleology Convention (started this in 2012)
8. A map of the pin-point location of the longest cave for every state in the United States (started this in 2012)
9. A list of every project caving group in the United States (started this in 2013)
10. A list of every grotto in the United States listed in order of their grotto cave trip activity level (started this in 2013)
11. A list of the state cave books (sorting the ones that can be accessed online and not online) (started this in 2013)
12. And many others
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Lava » Aug 4, 2014 11:54 am

This is very interesting, and very pertinent to a comparison I have been attempting to make recently. It looks like TN is the most limestone cave-dense state with 10k caves in 42k square miles. I just recently got back from Slovenia, and was wondering how it compared. Well, Slovenia has 11k caves in just 8k square miles! I'm wondering if there is anywhere else on earth with a greater density of caves than that? I guess it all changes as you narrow the search area. There may be small regions within TN with a similar cave density?
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby trogman » Aug 4, 2014 12:19 pm

Caving Guru wrote:So I have made a spreadsheet for each state that I have the total number of caves for each county. I have posted below the spreadsheets for West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. I also have as an added bonus, a spreadsheet showing the difference between the number of caves in Virginia by county in 1964 and in 2004.


So to summarize what I have so far:
1. White County, TN has the highest cave density with 3.09 caves per square mile.
2. Van Buren County, TN has the 2nd highest cave density with 3.03 caves per square mile.
3. Jackson County, AL has the 3rd highest cave density with 1.70 caves per square mile.
4. Putnam County, TN has the 4th highest cave density with 1.43 caves per square mile.
5. Greenbrier County, WV has the 5th highest cave density with 1.34 caves per square mile.
6. Fentress County, TN has the 6th highest cave density with 1.31 caves per square mile.
7. Overton County, TN has the 7th highest cave density with 1.30 caves per square mile.
8. Marion County, TN has the 8th highest cave density with 1.29 caves per square mile.
9. Warren County, TN has the 9th highest cave density with 1.14 caves per square mile.
10. Pickett County, TN has the 10th highest cave density with 1.07 caves per square mile.

If anyone would like to share the total number of caves for each county for any of the states that I have not mentioned so far, please do so I can calculate more county cave densities.


I may be accused of beating a dead horse here, since this has been discussed previously, but here goes: :beatinghorse: Since TN recognizes 30' pits as caves, whereas AL does not, is this really a "fair" comparison? If all of the pits less than 50' deep were omitted from the TN list, how would it compare to AL? Since I am not a TCS member, I don't have access to their data. Since we are comparing numbers here, it seems like we should compare apples to apples.

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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Extremeophile » Aug 4, 2014 2:09 pm

I'm not sure it's possible to do an apples to apples comparison, even if the state survey criteria were the same. There may be fewer caves per square mile in a place like Edmonson county, KY, but probably more miles of cave per square mile. The cave density has dropped as cave systems have been connected. Other places like Custer county, SD have relatively few entrances, and lots of miles of cave, but the geology is entirely different from TAG.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby trogman » Aug 4, 2014 3:13 pm

Extremeophile wrote:I'm not sure it's possible to do an apples to apples comparison, even if the state survey criteria were the same. There may be fewer caves per square mile in a place like Edmonson county, KY, but probably more miles of cave per square mile. The cave density has dropped as cave systems have been connected. Other places like Custer county, SD have relatively few entrances, and lots of miles of cave, but the geology is entirely different from TAG.


You make some good points, Derek. Also, when I gave Greg the number of caves per sq. mile in Jackson County, AL, I filtered out all but the primary entrance (E1). If cave entrances were counted, the number would be a bit higher. I'm not sure if that's how he did it with the other states listed. It'd be no trouble to go back and re-calculate, though.

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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Caving Guru » Aug 4, 2014 11:06 pm

Lava wrote:This is very interesting, and very pertinent to a comparison I have been attempting to make recently. It looks like TN is the most limestone cave-dense state with 10k caves in 42k square miles. I just recently got back from Slovenia, and was wondering how it compared. Well, Slovenia has 11k caves in just 8k square miles! I'm wondering if there is anywhere else on earth with a greater density of caves than that? I guess it all changes as you narrow the search area. There may be small regions within TN with a similar cave density?


So since Slovenia has about 11,000 caves in 7,827 square miles that puts Slovenia's cave density at about 1.41 caves per square mile (11,000 caves divided by 7,827 square miles). Of the counties in the United States that I am currently aware of their cave density (which requires that I know the number of caves in the county), I only know of four counties with a higher density than Slovenia's cave density. Those counties are White County, Tennessee with a cave density of 3.09 caves per square mile (1,170 caves divided by 379 square miles), Van Buren County, Tennessee with a cave density of 3.03 caves per square mile (834 caves divided by 275 square miles), Jackson County, Alabama with a cave density of 1.77 caves per square mile (1,992 caves divided by 1,127 square miles), and Putnam County, Tennessee with a cave density of 1.43 caves per square mile (575 caves divided by 403 square miles).

And as far as countries go, I am sure that Slovenia has one of the highest cave densities of any country in the world. In general, it is always easier to have a higher density of something, the smaller the area is. Slovenia is a very small country so that makes it easier for it to have a high cave density especially being paired with having a lot of karst topography. The only country that I can think of off the top of my head that might have a higher cave density than Slovenia is Montenegro. I have not calculated what Montenegro's cave density is yet though. I have not looked up how many caves Montengro has or what the area in square miles is of Montenegro either. But what I do know is that Montenegro is smaller in size than Slovenia and that Montenegro has a lot of karst topography.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Caving Guru » Aug 4, 2014 11:47 pm

trogman wrote:
Caving Guru wrote:So I have made a spreadsheet for each state that I have the total number of caves for each county. I have posted below the spreadsheets for West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. I also have as an added bonus, a spreadsheet showing the difference between the number of caves in Virginia by county in 1964 and in 2004.


So to summarize what I have so far:
1. White County, TN has the highest cave density with 3.09 caves per square mile.
2. Van Buren County, TN has the 2nd highest cave density with 3.03 caves per square mile.
3. Jackson County, AL has the 3rd highest cave density with 1.70 caves per square mile.
4. Putnam County, TN has the 4th highest cave density with 1.43 caves per square mile.
5. Greenbrier County, WV has the 5th highest cave density with 1.34 caves per square mile.
6. Fentress County, TN has the 6th highest cave density with 1.31 caves per square mile.
7. Overton County, TN has the 7th highest cave density with 1.30 caves per square mile.
8. Marion County, TN has the 8th highest cave density with 1.29 caves per square mile.
9. Warren County, TN has the 9th highest cave density with 1.14 caves per square mile.
10. Pickett County, TN has the 10th highest cave density with 1.07 caves per square mile.

If anyone would like to share the total number of caves for each county for any of the states that I have not mentioned so far, please do so I can calculate more county cave densities.


I may be accused of beating a dead horse here, since this has been discussed previously, but here goes: :beatinghorse: Since TN recognizes 30' pits as caves, whereas AL does not, is this really a "fair" comparison? If all of the pits less than 50' deep were omitted from the TN list, how would it compare to AL? Since I am not a TCS member, I don't have access to their data. Since we are comparing numbers here, it seems like we should compare apples to apples.

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Yes, Trogman. I agree that it would be more accurate comparing counties if each state was on agreement with the same standards on what counts as a cave. I have actually thought about this before myself. For example as of 2007, the North Carolina Cave Survey listed about 1,300 caves but if 50 feet in length was used as the standard minimum length then the total number of caves for North Carolina would be about 60.

You are right, Trogman, that the comparison that I made is not a 100% fair comparison but it is better than not having a comparison at all in my opinion. If all of the pits in Tennessee less than 50 feet were omitted then I would guess that White County, TN and Van Buren County, TN would still have a higher total number of caves. According to you, the latest Alabama Cave Survey update stated that Jackson County, AL has 1,992 caves in 1,127 square miles. And according to the latest update from the Tennessee Cave Survey, White County, TN has 1,170 caves in 379 square miles and Van Buren County, TN has 834 caves in 275 square miles. White County, TN would have to lose exactly at least 500 caves out of their current 1,170 caves (670 total caves or less) that are counted as caves so the county would have below a 1.77 caves per square mile cave density that Jackson County, AL currently has. Van Buren County, TN would have to lose at least 348 caves out of their current 834 caves (486 total caves or less) that are counted as caves so the county would have below a 1.77 caves per square mile cave density that Jackson County, AL currently has. Therefore, I do not believe that omitting Tennessee pits that are between 50 feet deep and 30 feet deep will make a difference because White County, TN would need to lose at least 42.74% of their caves that are currently counted as caves and Van Buren County, TN would need to lose at least 41.73% of their caves that are currently counted as caves for the two counties to have a lower cave density than Jackson County, AL. I don't believe that at least 40% of the counted caves in both White County, TN and Van Buren County, TN are pits between the depth of 30 feet and 50 feet that have no passage at the bottom.

I do not have access to the Tennessee Cave Survey's data directly since I am not a member of the Tennessee Cave Survey. Someone provided me the data from the Tennessee Cave Survey so that I could calculate the cave densities for each of its counties.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Caving Guru » Aug 5, 2014 12:37 am

trogman wrote:
Extremeophile wrote:I'm not sure it's possible to do an apples to apples comparison, even if the state survey criteria were the same. There may be fewer caves per square mile in a place like Edmonson county, KY, but probably more miles of cave per square mile. The cave density has dropped as cave systems have been connected. Other places like Custer county, SD have relatively few entrances, and lots of miles of cave, but the geology is entirely different from TAG.


You make some good points, Derek. Also, when I gave Greg the number of caves per sq. mile in Jackson County, AL, I filtered out all but the primary entrance (E1). If cave entrances were counted, the number would be a bit higher. I'm not sure if that's how he did it with the other states listed. It'd be no trouble to go back and re-calculate, though.

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I actually did not go as deep as you did Trogman where you filtered out all but the primary entrance. I actually do not have access to any state cave survey database. Most of my information came from state cave books that I have. I have The West Virginia Speleological Survey Bulletin #19 (2012), Caves Of Virginia (1964), Caves Of Maryland (1971), and the 2013 Pennsylvania NSS Convention Guidebook. The West Virginia Speleological Survey Bulletin #19 has a page in it that has a chart with the number of caves by county so I didn't need to calculate the counties for West Virginia. For Virginia, the 761 page book had no chart or anything of the sort as to how many caves it had by county. But what it did have was an index at the beginning of the cave descriptions for each county listing all the caves for that specific county. But I had to flip through nearly all the pages of the book to find these lists for each county and count every cave listed because none of the totals by county had been calculated. For Maryland, there was an index at the beginning of the cave descriptions for each county similar to Virginia but for Maryland, the book had a number next to each cave in the index (ex: "1) Atheys 2) Bowmans Addition 3) Cumberland Bone" etc.) so I just needed to look at the last number to find out how many caves that county had. For Pennsylvania, it was even easier than for Virginia and Maryland. For Pennsylvania, there was a map of Pennsylvania with each county outlined and labeled and below each labeled county there was a number signifying how many caves were in that specific county. And for Tennessee I was provided by someone with screen shots of the Tennessee Cave Survey database for each county with thirteen columns for each county with the thirteen columns being labeled "Co_name", "County", No_caves", Total_len", "Av_len", "Av_depth", "Caves_1m", "Caves_400", "Pits_100", "Map_caves", "Map_len", "Per_mcave", and "Per_mlen". I am still not exactly sure what all of these abbreviations mean but I only needed two of the columns to calculate the cave densities anyways. And then when I was notified by someone that the Virginia Speleological Survey had statistics on their website as to how many caves each county had, I used that information to calculate a more updated cave density by county chart than what I previously had with the 1964 data that I had calculated. So I analyzed the chart that the "virginiacaves.org" website had under "VA Cave Stats": "Virginia Cave Stats-2013 (coming soon!)" to figure out each county's cave density.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Caving Guru » Aug 5, 2014 12:55 am

Extremeophile wrote:I'm not sure it's possible to do an apples to apples comparison, even if the state survey criteria were the same. There may be fewer caves per square mile in a place like Edmonson county, KY, but probably more miles of cave per square mile. The cave density has dropped as cave systems have been connected. Other places like Custer county, SD have relatively few entrances, and lots of miles of cave, but the geology is entirely different from TAG.


You bring up another good point, Extremeophile. It is true that the cave density is skewed for certain counties where there is a large cave system or cave systems with more than one entrance such as Edmonson County, KY with Mammoth Cave having 400 miles of surveyed passage with Mammoth Cave having around 30 entrances to my recollection. So there is the factor of the cave having many miles of passage and then there is the factor of having more than one entrance where certain caves used to be thought of as separate entities and after being connected they become a single entity. I believe for Custer County, SD, Jewel Cave and Wind Cave each have only one entrance. According to Bob Gulden's website, Edmonson County, KY has 11 caves with 1 mile or more of passage and Custer County, SD has 4 caves with 1 mile or more of passage. And you are probably right that there cannot be a 100% fair comparison even if the state cave survey criteria were the same.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby LukeM » Aug 5, 2014 7:31 am

A miles of passage per square mile metric would be useful to compare areas that contain lots of horizontal cave.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby trogman » Aug 5, 2014 9:39 am

Interesting discussion. I went back and looked at the total number of cave entrances in Jackson County, AL. It comes out to 2297, which equals 2.04 cave entrances per sq. mi. Also, the ACS lists karst features, 39 of which (in Jackson County) have pits 30' or deeper. That would bump it up to 2.07 per sq. mi. Given that many ridgewalkers like myself don't usually turn in karst features, there are probably a lot of 30-49' pits in Jackson County that are unreported. It still may not be enough to come anywhere close to the 3.09 claimed by White County, TN, but it would make some difference. Sigh :sad: I guess I will just have to concede that those 2 counties in TN have Jackson County, AL beat as far as cave density.

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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Caving Guru » Aug 5, 2014 7:30 pm

LukeM wrote:A miles of passage per square mile metric would be useful to compare areas that contain lots of horizontal cave.


It is true that measuring the miles of passage per square mile would be useful to compare areas that contain lots of horizontal cave. But it would measure something totally different than the cave density. In my opinion, the cave density shows how likely you are to randomly find a cave, say if you are ridge walking in an area that you are unfamiliar with. If you were ridge walking in say Custer County, South Dakota there may be a lot of horizontal passage below but there are very few entrances to access that passage.
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Re: Cave Densities By State By County

Postby Extremeophile » Aug 6, 2014 9:32 am

Caving Guru wrote:In my opinion, the cave density shows how likely you are to randomly find a cave, say if you are ridge walking in an area that you are unfamiliar with.

I'm not really sure who goes ridge walking in areas they aren't familiar with, and I don't think very many ridge walkers use random chance to find caves.

In general (there may be exceptions) it seems that cave density is higher when there are lots of caves in a relatively small area. I'm not a mathematician, but after studying the equation for several hours I've deduced that having more caves in a fixed area, or a smaller area for a fixed # of caves will both increase the cave density.

I'm not as interested in the cave entrance density or cave passage density as much as I am interested in knowing the density of unexplored cave. If cavers weren't so secretive then these statistics might be more readily available.
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