Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Snivelys Caves, Washington County

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The Tomstown Dolomite, in which the cave is developed, is a massive blue-black dolomite about 1000 feet thick that becomes light gray on weathering. The cave lies in beds 100 feet above the base of the formation. It is located on the east limb of a minor anticline dipping 20º E. The strike is due north. A major joint system trends N. 60º E., and subordinate systems strike N. 20º E. and N. 55º W. All joint planes are vertical.

Snivelys Caves (photo by Dennis Slifer)
Snivelys Caves


Snivelys No. 1 Cave was more extensive at one time but a great part has been removed in quarry operations carried on over a generation ago. The back room of the cave is a veritable guest register with its walls and ceiling covered by names and initials. The oldest is dated 1908 but most are 1921 and 1925.

The entrance to Snivelys No. 1 Cave is a horizontal hole 1 to 2 feet in diameter. Projecting spines from the ceiling make it difficult to crawl through it. At 10 feet the crawlway ends in an overhanging ledge with a drop of 8 feet to a room. The room is 15 feet in diameter and 20 feet high with a conical cross section. A passage, 8 feet high, leading from the room pinches down beyond 50 feet to a small crawlway 10 feet long. Midway along the passage a short side passage connects with a room on the east. From this room a narrow passage leads to the third and largest room in the cave. Midway along this passage a formation blocks the way, making it necessary to crawl a short distance. The large room is 40 feet long, 10 to 15 feet wide, and 8 feet high. At the end of the room a beautiful, pure white flowstone, resembling a frozen waterfall, is developed. This formation is among the largest and prettiest in any of the caves of Maryland but, unfortunately, has not escaped defacing. A narrow low crawlway leads behind the formation and trends towards the second room of the cave. It is 20 feet long and ends in a pool.

The cave is relatively dry except for a small poolroom that is floored with wet clay, the floor of the cave is soft dry earth or broken stone. Air circulation in the cave is poor, and large parties (8 people) have raised the temperature from 57 to 70ºF. in a short time.

The second cave, Snivelys No. 2 Cave, is located on top of the bluff a short distance to the east and north of Snivelys No. 1 Cave. It is in a steep-sided shallow ravine, 10 to 20 feet below the surface of the hill, that has formed by the settling of rock into large solution channels. The surface of the ravine is covered by large broken rocks, and entrance to the cave is gained through passages in the debris. The drop at the entrance is about 15 feet vertical. The cave is a fissure, 5 to 10 feet wide at the entrance, becoming progressively narrower until beyond 100 feet it is too narrow to traverse. The fissure is vertical and continues to the surface. The roof of the cave is broken limestone blocks that are wedged in the fissure. The floor is covered by a 6 inch layer of black dirt and leaves under which is yellow clay mixed with small chips of decayed limestone. The cave is dangerous and should be traversed with caution because of loose rocks.

In the rocky upland adjacent to the caves are several smaller passageways. Fifty-five feet to the east of Snivelys No. 2 Cave is a narrow ravine at the head of which is a fissure-like passage, but it is too narrow to traverse. At the north end of the upland is an elliptical pit 35 feet deep, 50 feet long, and 20 feet wide that probably leads to passages but is now filled with debris at the base.

Snivelys No. 3 Cave is approximately 100 feet north of Snivelys No. 1 Cave and is located near the mouth of a ravine under a mass of breakdown. The entrance is now a crawlway but prior to quarrying the cave was undoubtedly much larger and easier to enter. The entrance crawlway which is 2 to 4 feet in diameter trends northwest for 10 feet and intersects a larger passage which is 6 to 10 feet high and 4 feet wide. This passage trends northeast for 20 feet to breakdown.

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