Cavers select Tennessee for national convention

Cookeville will welcome approximately 1,500 cavers for the National Speleological Society’s 2019 Convention. Pictured is Secret Cave in Putnam County, one of the thousands of caves in the surrounding area. Credit: Chuck Sutherland

Largest speleological organization in the world to meet in Cookeville in 2019

 COOKEVILLE –With more than 10,000 caves in Tennessee and its majority located along the Cumberland Plateau, the National Speleological Society saw no better fit than Cookeville to take their next national convention underground, taking place June 17-22, 2019.

Tennessee has not served as host for the annual NSS Convention in 21 years, since hosted in Sewanee in 1998. With most of the expected 1,500 attendees staying in Cookeville, the group plans to explore caves throughout the Upper Cumberland with educational and scientific presentations being conducted at Cookeville High School, as well as on the campus of Tennessee Tech University.

NSS leadership began coordinating the convention with the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau in April 2017, even prior to the organization’s official selection of Tennessee as home to the 2019 event. The visitors’ bureau offered lodging options, connections with local stakeholders, e.g. city, county, and university officials, as well as recommendations for additional itinerary activities outside of the educational and caving opportunities.

“The NSS chose Cookeville for our 2019 Convention due to its proximity to some of the best caving in the world,” said 2019 NSS Convention Chair Maureen Handler. “Cookeville offers all of the facilities needed to host up to 1,500 cavers for the week of convention. The wonderful small town, welcoming feel ensures that all of our participants will experience all that Cookeville and the area have to offer.”

“Our convention offers the opportunity for our members to present their science, exploration and education initiatives to the membership. We are excited to call Cookeville our home for a week,” added Handler.

Areas of focus for the NSS include promoting safe and responsible caving practices, effective cave and karst management, speleology and conservation. Educational sessions and presentations will feature domestic and international cave exploration, the use of geological and biological science and other new technologies in cave exploration and study as well as a special session on Tennessee caves: “Land of 10,000 Caves.”

Cookeville and the Upper Cumberland region offer a centroid of caving opportunities as one of the highest density areas of Tennessee’s more than 10,000 caves. Credit: Chuck Sutherland

“With thousands of caves within a 50-mile radius of downtown Cookeville, we are certain these guests will find our community to be one of the best in the world for cave exploration,” said Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton.

“We are very excited to host the NSS National Convention in Putnam County,” said Putnam County Executive Randy Porter. “This is a unique and interesting group to host, one that can truly appreciate all our natural resources including our great caves, waterfalls and parks. NSS has a great history of helping preserve natural resources, and we are excited to welcome them.”

The NSS holds 10,000 members and 250 grottos (chapters) and is the largest organization in the world working every day to further the exploration, study, and protection of caves and their environments, and foster fellowship among cavers.

The mission statement of the National Speleological Societyis a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the scientific study of caves and karst; protecting caves and their natural contents through conservation, ownership, stewardship, and public education; and promoting responsible cave exploration and fellowship among those interested in caves. To learn more about NSS, go to:

 The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, a program of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, serves as the designated destination marketing organization (DMO) for Putnam County and is funded by a portion of the Putnam County lodging tax, a tax paid by visitors’ and collected by local lodging partners such as hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc. Ranking at 17th of Tennessee’s 95 counties, the visitors’ bureau is tasked with inspiring travel and overnight stays in Putnam County. Primary marketing pillars in drive and fly markets include outdoors; fitness/sports; motorcycling; arts/culture; and culinary/crafts. Most recent U.S. Travel Association statistics note visitor spending in Putnam County generated $2.7 million in local tax revenue, providing a tax relief for local residents of $358.47 per household. To learn more about the work of the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, go to www.VisitCookevilleTN.comor request additional information at

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