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Caving Celebration

Largest speleological organization in the world returns to Elkins

Photos courtesy of the National Speleological Society A drone photograph shows a recent National Speleological Society’s annual convention campground.

ELKINS — More than 1,500 cavers from around the world will be visiting Elkins in July 2020, for the National Speleological Society’s (NSS) annual convention.

This will be the third time the NSS will be held in Elkins, West Virginia with the first being held in 1983 and the second convention in 2000.

“The NSS Convention is returning 20 years after the 2000 convention,” states Rich Giesler, 2020 NSS Convention Chair. “Everyone who attended the 2000 NSS Convention enjoyed it so much and had memories about their time in Elkins. When the question arose on where to host the 2020 NSS Convention, we wanted to return it to Elkins to showcase what has changed and developed over the years. We also wanted to give those who haven’t been to Elkins before a new experience.”

With 10,000 members and 200 grottos (chapters), the National Speleological Society is the largest organization in the world working every day to further the exploration, study, and protection of caves and their environments. For over 70 years, the NSS has promoted safe and responsible caving practices, effective cave and karst management, speleology, and conservation.

The convention allows the attendees to learn, study, and explore the caves throughout the region as well as listen to presentations on world caving experiences and research throughout the week.

“Anyone is able to sign up and attend the convention,” said Giesler. “We encourage the public to come and tour the facility, sit in on a talk, or buy from the variety of vendors who set up at the convention. Please visit the registration table to get a local community day pass.”

A caving simulation will also be available for free to anyone wishing to participate. The group in charge of the caving simulation encourages individuals of all ages and youth organizations to come and try out the activity and learn more about caving.

The NSS leadership began coordinating with Elkins-Randolph County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau (ERTCVB) in April 2018.

Director of Marketing for ERCTCVB, Taira Landavere, states, “We have had several meetings with the National Speleological Society since 2018. It has been very exciting for us to work with the leadership team in charge of the Elkins convention. We were even able to attend the 2019 convention in Cookeville, Tennessee to see the ins and outs of how the convention runs.”

“Although we are extremely pleased to be able to host this organization, the possible economic effect this group will have on our county is invaluable. These individuals will shop, eat out, buy gas and groceries and many will need lodging. These types of events make people aware of the beauty West Virginia has to offer and bring people back to the area” Anne Beardslee, Executive Director of the ERCTCVB and Welcome Center.

Randolph County is ideal for the 2020 NSS Convention because of over 500 caves in our region, featuring a very diverse caving system. Almost all of these caves are closed to the public due to white nosed bat syndrome, but nearby visitors can tour through Seneca Caverns and Smoke Hole Caverns in Pendleton and Grant County.