This week is Virginia Cave Week – April 16 through Earth Day, April 22 – and promotes an understanding of Virginia’s caves and limestone habitats known as karst. The theme for 2017 is “Celebrating Virginia’s Karst Springs.”

Much of Botetourt is karst terrain.

Water flows from the ground at springs, usually out of a hillside or rising from a valley floor. Karst landscapes are formed over thousands of years as acidic water dissolves limestone bedrock, creating a network of voids and tunnels that store and transport water underground. Because of this, springs in karst areas typically convey more water as they are the endpoints of water-filled cave systems.

Karst springs support surface aquatic systems and provide much of Western Virginia’s drinking water at domestic and municipal scales.

Virginia Cave Week is among activities coordinated by the governor-appointed Virginia Cave Board. The board was established in 1979 to conserve and protect the state’s caves and karst landscapes and to advocate the wise use of cave-related resources.

In addition to significant karst features, Virginia has more than 4,000 caves. They provide habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat (Virginia’s state bat) and the Madison Cave isopod.

During Cave Week, the Virginia Cave Board, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and partners will offer six tours of karst springs around Virginia. To learn more about these tours and to reserve a spot, visit www.vacaveweek.com.

In addition to information about Cave Week tours, the website offers classroom resources including lesson plans, local field trip locations and virtual cave tours.