Right in the midst of Clarksville, Tennessee is a very cool cave with some fascinating history. I learned about this cave on a recent hosted visit to Clarksville. Dunbar Cave was used by Roy Acuff ,King of Country Music and American Record Company recording artist as a stage.
This singer that once wanted to play pro-baseball and was the republican nominee for governor in 1948 was fiddle player and is famous for iconic songs like “Wabash Cannonball”, “Wreck on the Highway”, “Pin and Needles” and “Night Train to Memphis”.
The first living inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Roy Acuff in 1948 became associated with Clarksville and the Dunbar cave when he bought the cave and built an 18-hole golf course that is still there today. People came to see him play and to dance the nights away at the Cave. A radio show was even broadcast directly from the cave.
After the cave was sold, fewer people came and the cave eventually came under the State’s control and they constructed a natural area and park. It became a park in 1973.
While in Clarksville I wanted to see this place where music sang out below the cool overhang of the limestone outcropping. At the Custom House Museum I read about how the cave was still cool during the heat of the summer so it was a great place for the locals to enjoy the music and get relief from the heat.
Today, you can walk out to the cave and it is still set up a bit like the former attraction it was. In the visitors center there is information about Roy and his band as well as history of the cave.
The cave has a lot of prehistoric history and was used long before Roy and the citizens of Clarksville came along. Paleo Indians most likely used the cave as a stopover during hunting forays and later the Archaic period and Woodland Indians did the same. When the Mississippian Indians came along, they too used the caves, there have been cave drawings found that have marked their existence.
On occasion you can take tours through the cave. It is part of a 141 acre Park with numerous sinkholes. The cave is named after Thomas Dunbar, on of the early European-American settlers that arrived in the late 1770’s.
The cave has over eight miles of passageways. Several rare animals such as the Northern long eared bat, a blind cave crayfish and the southern cavefish make forays into the cave prohibited on a regular basis.
A visit to the area offers hiking, a walk through the museum, picnic opportunities and fishing. Call the visitors center at 888-867-2757 for more information about this cool site where country music once mingled with the sways of dancers on warm summer nights. Today there is still big band music played at selected times, I hope to be here one day to see it and relieve those bygone days.