National Wildlife Refuge
|2700 Refuge Headquarters Road
Decatur, AL 35603
Phone Number: 256-353-7243
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|Key Cave is home to the endangered Alabama Cavefish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, a blind, pale fish found nowhere else in the world|
Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge
Key Cave NWR, about 5 miles southwest of Florence, Alabama, was established in 1997 to ensure the biological integrity of Key Cave, Collier Cave, and the aquifer common to both. Key Cave has been designated as critical habitat for the endangered Alabama cavefish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) and as a priority one maternity cave for the endangered gray bat (Myotis grisescens). Collier Cave, located approximately 1.5 miles upstream from Key Cave and within the acquisition boundary, is important to both species as potential habitat. Both caves are on the northern shore of Pickwick Lake in a limestone karst area that contains numerous sinkholes and several underground cave systems. The area's sinkholes are an integral component of groundwater recharge to the caves. The area directly north of Key Cave was identified as a potential high hazard risk area for groundwater recharge and this is where the 1,060-acre Refuge was established.
Getting There . . .
Key Cave NWR is located about 5 miles southwest of Florence, Alabama. From State Route 20, turn west on Lauderdale County Route 2 (Gunwaleford Road). Follow Route 2 for about four miles and turn south on Lauderdale County Route 223 (gravel road). Follow Route 223 for about 1.5 miles and turn west on Lauderdale County Route 204 (gravel road). Follow Route 204 for 0.25 miles and the Refuge is located on the south side of the road.
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The Refuge consists of rolling grassland, upland hardwoods, and crop land, including a 38-acre sinkhole pond. Past farming practices have led to severe soil erosion problems. Initial management efforts are to control the erosion problem, thus enhancing the water quality entering the underground cave system to benefit the endangered species inhabiting Key Cave. Currently, approximately 338 acres are in row crop production (corn, soybeans, or wheat) under a Cooperative Farm Agreement, 260 acres are in early successional fields or native warm season grasses (big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass, sideoats gramma, switchgrass, and eastern gamagrass), 122 acres of former crop land have been planted to hardwoods, 30 acres of erosion drainages are being restored to grassland or hedgerow habitat, 16 acres are managed as shallow water areas, and the remaining 256 acres is forested land dominated by upland oaks and hickories. Much of the remaining crop land will likely be planted to native warm season grasses.
Prescribed fire will be the primary management tool used to manage the grasslands. Management activities such as disking, haying, and grazing may also be used for grassland management.
Key Cave itself is managed for protection, therefore it is not open to the public due to the potential for disturbance of the federally endangered species, the Alabama cavefish and gray bats.