Dam Four Cave. Photo Courtesy of Amanda Barber.

Get in the Halloween spirit by exploring these caves near Shepherdstown

By Amanda Barber

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. – The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a challenge for Shepherd University students to find ways to have fun while remaining safe.

Trying to keep students healthy, clubs and organizations have had to hold some events online rather than on campus. 

Shepherd student Tasha Carpenter said she has noticed this decline in activity on campus.

With Halloween approaching, Carpenter and her friends are looking for outdoor activities they can do while social distancing. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that safe social activity includes gathering outdoors while wearing masks and remaining six feet apart from others. 

Fortunately, Shepherdstown is located across the Potomac River from the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historical Park.

“Because of [the coronavirus], there doesn’t seem to be a lot to, so being able to go down to the Canal and explore is very interesting,” Carpenter said.

Along the C&O Canal towpath, there are various trails, campsites and boat ramps. In addition to these attractions, there are three small, explorable caves located within proximity to Shepherdstown.

Killiansburg Cave

Killiansburg Cave. Photo courtesy of Amanda Barber.

Three miles from Lock 38 (Shepherdstown), one will find Killiansburg Cave at mile marker 75.7 on the Canal towpath. The cave, which is more of a rock overhang, is located slightly off the towpath and up a hill. It can be accessed by a path that has been made by human foot-traffic.

During the Battle of Antietam in 1862, residents of Sharpsburg, Maryland fled from the violence and took refuge in Killiansburg Cave. The cave is also rumored to have been a hiding spot for the Underground Railroad.

Killiansburg Cave is reported to be about 20 feet tall and 35 feet deep.

How to get to Killiansburg Cave from Shepherdstown:
        1. Drive from Shepherdstown toward Sharpsburg to Snyder’s Landing (Driving directions are included in the blue weblink).
        2. Park in the small parking lot located off Snyder’s Landing Road.
        3. If facing the Potomac River, take a left onto the Canal towpath.
        4. Walk 1.1 miles southeast on the path. 
        5. Reach Killiansburg Cave at mile 75.7.
        6. Used cleared path for access.
Or you can: 
        1. Drive or walk from Shepherdstown across the James Ramsey Bridge.
        2. After crossing the bridge, take the first right onto Canal Road. If walking, use the stairs at the Sharpsburg side of the bridge to get down to the towpath.
        3. Parking is available in either one of the two parking lots located on Canal Road at Lock 38 (driving directions are included in the second blue weblink).
        4. If facing the Potomac River, take a right onto the Canal towpath.
        5. Walk three miles northwest on the path. 
        6. Reach Killiansburg Cave at mile 75.7.
        7. Used cleared path for access.

 

Snyder’s Landing Cave

Snyder’s Landing Cave. Photo Courtesy of Amanda Barber.

Snyder’s Landing Cave is located on the Canal towpath between the Snyder’s Landing parking area and Killiansburg Cave. Multiple online sources have incorrectly reported that the cave is at mile marker 75.5. However, sources at The Picket have found that Snyder’s Landing Cave is located approximately halfway in between mile markers 76.6 and 75.7. This makes the cave about 3.5 miles from Lock 38 (Shepherdstown).

Snyder’s Landing Cave is visible from the towpath and can be accessed via a path cleared by human foot-traffic. The cave is reported to be approximately 120 feet long.

How to get to Snyder’s Landing Cave from Shepherdstown:
        1. Drive from Shepherdstown toward Sharpsburg to Snyder’s Landing (Driving directions are included in the blue weblink).
        2. Park in the small parking lot located off Snyder’s Landing Road.
        3. If facing the Potomac River, take a left onto the canal towpath.
        4. Walk southeast on the path for about half a mile.
        5. Reach Snyder’s Landing Cave.
        6. Used cleared path for access.

 

Dam Four Cave

Dam Four Cave. Photo Courtesy of Amanda Barber.

Dam Four Cave is located at mile marker 83.3, which is approximately 10.6 miles away from Lock 38 (Shepherdstown). The cave is named after the nearby Dam Four on the Potomac River.

A small stream runs through Dave Four Cave and trickles out from the large entrance of the cave. The entrance is clearly visible from the towpath and can be accessed via a path cleared by human foot-traffic. A pool is located about 50 feet inside. Dam Four Cave is reported to be a few hundred feet.

How to get to Dam Four Cave from Shepherdstown:
        1. Drive from Shepherdstown through Sharpsburg.
        2. Drive to Dam Four (driving directions are included in the blue weblink).
        3. Park in the small parking lot located off of Dam Four Road.
        4. Cross the footbridge.
        5. If facing the Potomac River, take a left onto the canal towpath.
        6. Walk 1.3 miles southeast on the path. 
        7. Reach Dam Four Cave.
        8. Use cleared path for access.

 

The conditions webpage for National Park Service says they are working to increase access to the C&O Canal in a phased approach. Visitors centers are currently closed and access is limited for certain parking areas and water sources. 

Video courtesy of Amanda Barber: 

Sources include: 

Caves along the C&O Canal

C&O Canal Trust

Atlas Obscura

TripAdvisor

National Park Service

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 

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