Shawnee Karst Preserve
The Shawnee Karst Preserve consists of nearly 68 acres located in Lawrence County, east of Mitchell near Spring Mill State Park. The original 50+ acre preserve was acquired in 2012 with an additional 17.5 acres acquired in 2020. Owning this preserve helps protect the watershed of Upper Twin Cave, including habitat for the Hoosier cavefish Amblyopsis hoosieri, the depigmented Northern cave crayfish Orconectes inermis, and several other rare invertebrates. Water flowing through the multi-mile cave system originates at the sinks of Mosquito Creek and continues downstream into Lower Twin and Shawnee caves in Spring Mill State Park, exiting at the Donaldson entrance. The cave system is world-famous for the cavefish studies conducted in the 1890s by the noted IU ichthyologist, Dr. Carl Eigenmann.
Upper Twin Cave is mostly a single stream passage with swimming required in some places, particularly upstream from the IKC’s entrance. There are some potholes and drop-offs, and the cave is known to extensively flood after heavy rains. This, along with the presence of sensitive cave fauna, presents some unique management challenges. A Management Plan for the property has been approved by the IKC Executive Board, and cave access is available to responsible and experienced cavers. This is not a cave for a novice. There is also a short, dry cave, Whittaker Cave, located on the preserve.
The surface of the property contains typical karst topography with many examples of classic karst features including deep sinkhole depressions, active swallow holes, and a sinkhole pond. Most of the property is mature woodlands, but there are examples of successional stages and some remnant prairies/openings. A portion of the original preserve was heavily timbered before IKC purchase, but with proper management is now recovering. Some of the open areas are being reforested with tree plantings, while other areas are being managed to remain open for wildlife and flora diversity, specifically native prairie plants, and warm-season grasses. Several old structures on the property have been demolished and removed, and two sinkhole dumps have also been cleaned up.
To facilitate use of the property, a 1500-foot hardened lane has been installed into the core of the property, several primitive campsites have been designated, and approximately two miles of hiking trails have been established and are being maintained.
Photos are also available of the property and cave.
Although the IKC is no longer actively soliciting funds for the acquisition of the preserve, additional donations for on-going stewardship and maintenance are always appreciated. Donations may be made online using PayPal or any major credit card, or by mailing a check.
Special thanks to all the people and organizations who contributed to the Shawnee acquisition fund. The IKC would also like to recognize the Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, without whose financial assistance the original purchase would not have been possible.
For cave access requests, please contact:
Dave Everton, Cave Patron
Questions or suggestions about the preserve may be directed to:
Keith Dunlap, Property Manager
At this time, access for Upper Twin Cave is only being arranged through the Cave Patron (no Grotto Liaisons access). Permission to visit Whittaker Cave and for camping on the property is arranged through the Property Manager.
Shawnee Karst Preserve Documents:
- Shawnee Karst Preserve Management Plan (2021)
- Shawnee Property Boundaries with Trails
- Our Management Agreement with The Nature Conservancy (2012)
- IDNR Forest Stewardship Plan (2019) (northern tract)
- IDNR Forest Stewardship Plan (2019) (southern tract)
Sollman, T., "A History and 2017-2018 Survey of the Aquatic Fauna of Upper Twin Cave, Lawrence County, Indiana" (2018).
- Chakrabarty, P. et al., "The Hoosier Cavefish, a new and endangered species (Amblyopsidae, Amblyopsis) from the caves of southern Indiana", ZooKeys 412: 41–57 (2014).
- Scott, W., "An Ecological Study of the Plankton of Shawnee Cave, with notes on the cave environment", Biol. Bull. v. 17 No. 6, pp. 386-406, 3 figs (1909).
- Eigenmann, C.H., and Beeson, C.H., 1894, “The Fishes of Indiana”, Indiana Acad. Sci. Proc., v. 8 pp 76-108.
- von Osinski, W., "Karst Windows", Indiana Acad. Sci. Proc., v. 44 pp 161-165, 2 figs (1935).
- Lewis, J., "Shawnee Preserve Faunal Inventory", personal communication (2012).