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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dunbar Cave

Dunbar Cave

Dunbar Cave is a scenic State Natural Area in the middle of a residential area in Clarksville, but a hundred years ago it was a rural tourist destination.

At one time, a resort hotel operated here. More significantly, the opening of the cave became a popular party spot for big bands in the 1930's and 40's. (So popular, that Roy Acuff bought the area in 1948).

Caves tend to maintain a nice cool temperature, and having lots of people hang out by the entrance would be a cool place on a hot summer evening, plus the rock formations around the entrance make for a nice bandshell. The springs from the cave were dammed to make the picturesque Swan Lake.

The typical picture of the area shows the triple arches of the white concrete. As soon as I got here, I went down there, and there was nothing there. It looks like it should be an entrance, but it isn't. Instead, it's purpose from the big band era was to hold up the concrete dance floor. The reason the arched area was made accessible was so you could walk the nature trail along to the other side of the lake. The actual entrance is of course above the arches.

Today, Dunbar Cave is owned by the state and operated by the State Park service. As of the day I was there (July 2010), the actual cave itself and maybe all commercially open caves in the state were closed while researchers study the white nose syndrome which has been plaguing bats in many caves around the country. Now that it just turned 2011, I haven't heard whether or not they have reopened. A cave is one of those attractions you can enjoy in the winter.

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