Big Bone Cave

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Big Bone Cave
82 Beach Rd.
Rock Island, TN 38581
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Big Bone Cave is a 400-acre natural area located in Van Buren County on the Cumberland Plateau escarpment. It is named for the discovery of the bones of a giant ground sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii) in 1811. This skeleton, now on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, represents the only known specimen of a giant ground sloth with a complete pelvis. Also significant was the 1971 discovery of the bones of a pleistocene jaguar (Panthera onca augusta). The cave also has historical significance as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812 and the Civil War, when as many as 300 miners mined the nitrate. The artifacts are remarkably well preserved in the dry cave and represent the state’s best-preserved saltpeter mining artifacts. Artifacts in the cave include wooden water pipes, railways, catwalks, ore carts, hoppers, vats and ladders.