Caving Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)

Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave) Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave) Hot

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Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)

Cave Details

Accessed Length
Approx 1 mile
The site is privately owned. Visitors must follow the directions provided below to the landowner's house. Upon arriving, go to the front porch of the landowner's house where the sign-in sheet and the cave gate keys are kept. Sign in and obtain a key to the cave gate. Lock the gate behind you after entering the cave and secure the key where it will not be lost. Lock the gate after you leave the cave and return the key to the porch before leaving the site. You may go into the cave even if the landowner is not home.



Geographic Location


Morrill (or Worley) Cave is a very large and well-known cavern which opens in a huge sink 3 or 4 acres in area. It is the longest known cave in East Tennessee. There are two entrances, an upper dry mouth and ...


a lower wet mouth, corresponding to the two levels of the cave, both located on the southeast side of the sink. The cave stream flows from the lower mouth, across the bottom of the sink, and disappears into the ground at the northeast side. It may well be the same stream that emerges from a low, cavelike opening on the bank of the Holston River at Morrils Spring, 0.4 mile away. A strong blast of air issues from this spring during warm weather. 

The wet mouth is 25 feet wide and 15 feet high and opens into a huge room fully 100 feet wide and 50 feet high. The dry mouth is 12 feet high and 18 feet wide. The cave is an excellent example of the Appalachian pattern, the two levels following the strike with but minor deviations, and the lower of the two developed downdip from the upper. For 2,000 feet the upper level is dry or damp, and earth-floored, aver­aging 8 feet high and 15 feet wide.

 At 2,000 feet occurs the first junction of the upper and lower (stream) levels (fig. 117); here a large chamber is developed, 75 feet wide, 100 feet high, and 250 feet long. It contains two large stalagmites and many smaller formations, including a series of rimstone pools. The cave stream flows through the chamber and disappears under a rock ledge at the northeast end. Upstream the cave averages 25 feet wide and 15 feet high. It runs for an additional 2,200 feet to a point where the ceiling meets the water level. 

In the large room where the two levels meet, a climb extends up into the upper level, which may be followed to a point a mile and a half from the entrance. Just past this climb is a chamber containing a huge flow-stone drapery 35 feet wide and 15 feet high. At several places the upper and lower levels intersect.

 The accompanying map of Morrill Cave has been prepared by L. Powell Foster and L. Clarke Johnson, of Kingsport, who have conducted an extensive study of the cave and of neighboring karst areas. East of the cave lies a limestone area riddled with caves, pits, and plugged sinkholes. Fully 25 of these solutional features have been charted by Foster and Johnson in the Walnut Grove area, in the range Latitude 36°25'19" to 3612714911, Longitude 82°12'30" to 82°15'00", which lies between Hol­ston River and the west base of Holston Mountain. Somewhere in this area is the source of the Morrill Cave stream, and it may well be from the many small tributaries arising in the solutional cavities of the Walnut Grove area. The water table in these caves is at 1,480 to 1.500 feet above sea level, 20 to 40 feet higher than the elevation of the sink at the mouth of Morill Cave to the west. These karst features are located on the Keenburg quadrangle (207-NW).

Image Gallery

Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)
Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)
Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)
Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)
Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)
Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)
Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)
Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)
Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave)


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Editor reviews

Worley's Cave (Morrill Cave) 2012-02-28 23:50:44 Craig Patton
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Reviewed by Craig Patton    February 28, 2012
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

Worleys Cave 2-25-12

Time 10:10am, the date is 2-25-12. We entered the Worley’s Cave on a day of frigid temperatures after a powerful cold front blew through overnight, replacing temperatures in the high 60’s the day before with highs in the 30’s with 20-30 mph winds, gusting higher. We had five men entering the cave, 3 cave virgins, one experienced spelunker, and one guy with one other spelunk under his belt (that was me). There is a landowner who owns the rights to the cave, but he is very gracious to allow unfettered access to the cave for a modest $5/head parking fee (that’s per person, not per car). We met in two vehicles at the house and after signing the release form and paying the fee, we headed down the path to the cave where we did a gear check, talked about safety, and headed to the cave. Worley’s Cave has two entrances adjacent to one another. The lower entrance on the left is beside a stream exiting the cave, and the preferred entrance on the right leads to the upper passage of the cave which more or less parallels the lower passage zigzagging in and out of the creek. The temperatures inside the cave remain a balmy 58 degrees year round, so it was necessary to ditch some of the winter gear because the exertion level inside this cave is quite high so you get warm really quickly. If you’ve never been caving before, the first thing you notice is that it’s dark. Unlike on Indiana Jones movies where there always seems to be light all inside of caves and tunnels, the reality is that if you lost your light source then you would really be in a predicament. There is no feeling your way out. So if you go on our next expedition, you will have to take lots of batteries and at least 3 independent light sources. We had a plan to spend the night in the cave, but we decided to leave the sleeping gear in the car and even if we wanted to camp inside, we could come back and grab the gear relatively easy. Worleys’ Cave is not terribly difficult to navigate, there aren’t a great deal of diverging passages of any real length. It’s basically a long upper cave that goes about 5 total miles back paralleling a stream. At any rate, it has some decent formations, some challenging terrain, and is an excellent cave for first time, intermediate, or advanced cavers. It really does have something for everyone, and you can modify your route quite easily based on your group’s skill level. We were attempting to make the 6 mile round trip to the back of the cave, but we later opted to turn it into a 2.5 mile loop coming out of the river in the lower cave. That basically involved half walking/half swimming out of an underground river. It was a bit quicker and definitely more adventurous than coming out the way we came in. There is a decent amount of athleticism needed to successfully navigate this cave. There are places where you need to be able to pull your own body weight (and gear) up slippery embankments, and there are numerous places where you have to learn the art of “cave sliding”, which essentially involved squatting down on your butt and feet at the same time and sliding, using your hands as paddles. There is a lot of clay and moisture in this cave, so it’s definitely slippery in some places. There was a hidden passage, of sorts, that we were unsuccessful in locating that granted access to the back third of the cave. By the time we got back to where we thought we had missed it, we had met up with a pretty large group of fellow adventurers (male and female) who had “official” tour guides. We were kind of amazed that out of the 3 “guides” that we inquired of, none of them had actually been to the back of the cave. How lame is that? But by that time we realized that it might be better left for another expedition, so that’s when we made the decision to go ahead and egress via the underground stream. We all later agreed that it was the highlight of the trip jogging through an underground river tunnel with water going from ankle depth to hip depth at places. All in all, we were 5 hours inside the cave. It didn’t even require a change of batteries on any of our parts, but a change of clothes was definitely in order. We’re already talking about setting up round two with this cave. Stay tuned to for information and sign ups for the next trip!


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0 #5 Dimitri Faircloth 2013-12-22 20:49
My friends and I are heading here on 12/28/13 if anyone is interested in joining us please contact me at mitri.faircloth
we really hope to see some of you guys (: have a nice holiday
+1 #4 Guest 2013-12-22 20:32
My girlfriend roommate and I are serious cavers and are planning to go on 12/28/13 if anyone is interested in meeting with us please send me a message at We look forward to seeing any of you (:
0 #3 Guest 2013-12-07 03:28
iv been going in that cave since i was in my early teens and its awesome, me and about 7 or 8 buddies went in for 3 days one time and it goes and goes, we made a pretty good video of it. there's plenty of places to repel and the climb at the entrance is pretty good to, tho i doubt the owner would want ppl doing that. o and btw, Shane's comment is right. the guy don't have to be there but don't rip him off leave the money, its costs him to keep the place up....
+1 #2 Shane Lewis 2013-03-20 11:08
Hi Amanda,

There is no need to contact him. Simply drive to the location and you will see a White House with a field on the right with a dirt road. Go up on the porch and there is a sign in sheet. Simply put your info on there, supposed to leave $5/person with the person at the house. Seems strange but it actually works.
0 #1 Guest 2013-03-20 01:10
I'd love an opportunity to go there, but cannot find any information about the landowner or how to contact him. Help?

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