National Wildlife Refuge
|2700 Refuge Headquarters Road
Decatur, AL 35609
Phone Number: 256-353-7243
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|Fern Cave NWR is named after the endangered American Hart's Tongue fern but is also home to other endangered species like the Grey bat and Indiana bat.|
Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge
Fern Cave NWR was purchased in 1981 to provide protection for the federally endangered gray and Indiana bats. It consists of 199 acres of forested hillside underlain by a massive cave with many stalactite and stalagmite-filled rooms. The cave has five hidden entrances with four occurring on the Refuge. Fern Cave contains the largest wintering colony of gray bats in the United States with over one million bats hibernating there in the winter. Bat experts also think that as many as one million Indiana bats may be using the cave and an expedition into the cave is being planned for the future.
Getting There . . .
Fern Cave NWR is located on the western slope of Nat Mountain. From Huntsville, take highway 72 north to Gurley. North of Gurley, turn left on County road 500 just past where hwy 72 crosses the Paint Rock River. CR 500 is closed at a gate but access by foot traffic is still allowed. Follow the old road as it winds along the Paint Rock River along the southwest base of Nat Mountain and look for National Wildlife Refuge signs.
Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:
Fern Cave itself is not open to the public due to the potential for disturbance of federally endangered gray and Indiana bats.
Fern Cave NWR is a satellite Refuge of Wheeler NWR in nearby Decatur, AL. The Refuge is currently unstaffed and all management activities are carried out by Wheeler NWR staff. The predominant management activities are law enforcement and resource protection aimed at protecting the critical habitat of the bats. Law enforcement patrols are conducted to ensure that people are abiding by Refuge regulations, particularly rules prohibiting entrance into the cave itself.
Land acquisition continues to be a priority as there is still adjoining private land that contains a cave entrance. The Service cannot fully control access into the cave and protect the bats from disturbance as long as there is still access off-Refuge. Land will continue to be purchased if there are any willing sellers and funds are available.