Karst Springs Tours During
Virginia Cave Week
April 18 (Tues), 6–8:30 p.m.
Jonesville, Lee County. Participants will be led by Cave Board members and DCR Staff on a walking tour highlighting some of the more significant springs in the Cedars area of Lee County. Call 804-786-7951 to reserve a space.
April 18 (Tues), 7–8 p.m.
Free Caving movies. Not directly karst spring related, but it is about caving during Cave Week. There will be a free showing of Murder Hole at the Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge. They will also show the program "Caving in China: A Little Something for Everyone" by Dave Socky. Tables will be set up with free information on bats, caving, and other information. DVDs and books will be for sale. There will be a Question and Answer session after the showing. See this link for the Masoniic Theater Announcement and this one for the Masonci Theater Facebook Event. The Masonic Theatre is at 510 Main Street, Clifton Forge, VA 24422. See this link for a Google Map Location. Also, see this link for the Murder Hole Facebook Event.
April 19 (Wed), 4–7 p.m.
Where does the water come from? Connections among the springs, geology, and water resources of Clarke County.
Meeting Location: Blandy Experimental Farm/Virginia State Arboretum. Meet in the Peetwood Pavilion east of the main parking lot.
Directions: Blandy is located about 1.5 miles east of the Waterloo intersection of Route 340 and Route 50/17 near Boyce, VA. Blandy is approximately 15 minutes from Winchester, two hours from Charlottesville and one and a half hours from Washington D.C. The main entrance is located on Route 50/17 and the address is 400 Blandy Farm Lane, Boyce, VA 22620. Click here to get driving directions from your address to Blandy Experimental Farm.
Contact Information: Dr. Daniel Doctor, U.S. Geological Survey, 703-648-6027, email@example.com
Program Description: Clarke County is rich with natural springs. The U.S. Geological Survey has identified over 85 perennial or ephemeral springs in the county. The majority of these springs are in areas underlain by limestone bedrock, also referred to as karst terrain. This outdoor presentation and walking tour will describe the intimate connections among the geology and water resources of Clarke County. You will learn about the rocks and springs exposed on the Blandy Farm property, and in other parts of the county. Recent research in Clarke County on how past climate change in the Shenandoah Valley region has affected its water resources will be discussed. Appropriate for all ages.
April 20 (Thur), 6–8 p.m.
McKay Spring in Front Royal
Stop by to view McKay Spring, a significant feature representative of the Karst Geology and Hydrology of northern Warren County.
Directions: Located on Route 340/522 North, 1+ mile from I 66. Travel north from Front Royal, turn left onto Reliance Road. In a short distance, turn right onto the gravel drive where parking is available within walking distance of the springhouse. As you walk across the field you’ll pass the remnants of the chimney from the historic McKay house.
Contact Information: 540-933-6850 or firstname.lastname@example.org
McKay Spring in Cedarville in northern Warren County was quickly tapped as a water supply by European colonists arriving in the Shenandoah Valley in the late 17th and 18th centuries and almost certainly was known to and used by countless generations of Native Americans before them. Built between 1731 and 1734, the McKay house near the spring was the oldest structure in Warren County when it tragically burned in 2009, and the Warren Heritage Society considers its builder, Robert McKay, Jr., to likely be the first settler in Warren County. Upwards of a million gallons of water per day, depending on climatic conditions, flows from this spring, which has never been known to dry up.
The water flowing from McKay Spring all originated as precipitation falling on the limestone bedrock of the Shenandoah Valley floor, a karst landscape. Rainwater and snow melt works its way downward, taking and dissolving rock with it along its journey before rising at the spring. Investigators from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and members of the local caving community used geologic mapping and dye tracing to determine that the limestone area to the east of the spring, between present-day 340/522 and the Norfolk Southern railroad, extending north to the Warren County fairgrounds, accounts for a significant portion of the “spring-shed” or recharge area of McKay Spring. In addition, chemical analyses by the U.S. Geological Survey suggest that at least some of the water that flows from McKay Spring has been underground for several decades or even longer, reflecting the complex combination of pathways water takes before arriving at the large springs of the Shenandoah Valley.
Until recently, McKay Spring provided water for a mobile home park at the intersection of US 340 and Cedarville Road. In addition, the Town of Front Royal purchased McKay Spring about 20 years ago for future use as a water supply to support continued economic development along the US 340 corridor.
Unfortunately, much of the recharge area for McKay Spring has land uses that place it at risk. In addition to the US 340/522 corridor and the railroad, an industrial area known as the Cedarville Enterprise Zone overlies the recharge area, posing a constant risk of groundwater contamination. This industrial area was well underway before the hydrology of the spring was understood, and Warren County has invested significant resources and enacted policies to reduce the risk to the spring. However, as long as the transportation corridors and industrial park are in place, McKay Spring will need to be closely monitored, especially if it is to be used as a water supply. Even now, the effects of human activity are evident in the chemistry of the water, which includes among other things, consistent but very low levels of chloroform.
April 22, 12 noon
Karst Springs Tour covering Aqua Cave and its Sinking Creek, Owl Cave, and Water Sinks Cave recharge points. It will cover a short walking tour of Water Sinks Cave. We will also look at Coursey Spring, which is the third largest karst spring in Virginia. Please call 540-468-2722 to reserve a space.
April 22, 12–4 p.m.
Karst Springs of Winchester
Tour Length: Approximately 1 mile. The tour will be all walking on paved and gravel paths, so comfortable shoes are highly recommended. Call 703-727-5925 to reserve a spot.
The tour will start at the Abram's Delight Historic Home and Museum Parking Lot (1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, same lot as the Visitor Center). Abram's Delight is the oldest standing house in Winchester (c. 1754), and at this site in 1732, Abraham Hollingsworth built a small cabin situated close to several springs that the local Shawnee people assured him were a reliable source of drinking water. The springs were channeled into a lake built in the 19th century by one of Hollingsworth's great grandsons.
We will then walk to the Shawnee Springs Preserve, a new park managed by the City of Winchester's Park and Recreation Department, and centered on the historic Shawnee Springs. The 14‑acre preserve protects several natural features including springs, wetlands, and forests. It also contains part of the Sheridan’s Field Hospital site. This temporary federal Civil War facility operated between September 1864 and January 1865 after the Third Battle of Winchester, and was one of the largest field hospitals of the Civil War. The Shawnee Springs were considered sacred by the local Native American people, who attributed healing powers to the water.
All of the springs we will visit are developed along an unnamed "transform" fault where there has been horizontal movement of the karst bedrock of at least 4,500 linear feet. Water traveling through fractures and joints that intersect the fault collects in the broken rock- and solution-enlarged fault zone, and emerge as the springs rise where near-surface joints and fractures daylight. The combined output of the Shawnee and Abram's Delight Springs has been estimated at more than 5,000 gallons per minute (7.2 million gallons per day), and it was the presence of these springs that led to the founding of Winchester, just as other springs have determined the locations of nearly all of the major towns and cities in the Great Valley Province of Virginia and West Virginia.