Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Gary A. O'Dell

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Willard Rouse Jillson and the Crystal Cave of Sloans Valley, Kentucky NSS News (National Speleological Society) 77(August 2019), 12-24 With nearly 25 miles of passages, Sloans Valley Cave in the southeastern part of the state is the 4th longest cave in Kentucky and ranks #23 in the United States. The imposing karst window known as Great Rock Sink has historically been the most popular access point and the area within, known as Crystal Cave, was operated as a show cave until submerged in early 1951 by the impoundment of Lake Cumberland. This presentation traces the exploration history of Sloans Valley, focusing primarily upon the Crystal Cave section. Highlighted are the explorations and surveys carried out in 1950 by Dr. Willard Rouse Jillson and his geology students from Transylvania University (Lexington). Jillson was the Kentucky State Geologist from 1918 to 1932, being reappointed by five successive governors, and was an enormously prolific writer, authoring nearly 100 books and more than 500 shorter works including The Geology of Crystal Cave (1954) based upon his earlier fieldwork. Jillson was also a strong advocate for the conservation of Mammoth Cave and had been in part responsible for establishment of the national park in 1941. Jillson and his students mapped 6,300 feet in the Crystal Cave section during October and November 1950, intended as salvage geology in advance of the impending submersion of the cave by Lake Cumberland. The presentation also covers exploration and surveys of Sloans Valley made during the 1960s and 1970s by the combined efforts of the Greater Cincinnati, Central Ohio, and Bluegrass chapters of the National Speleological Society.



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