Inside Ellison’s Cave in Walker County, Georgia, is a truly mind-blowing sight: Fantastic Pit, the deepest cave drop in the continental United States. Plunging vertically for 586 feet (179 meters), it’s almost as tall as Seattle’s Space Needle and about twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.
Ellison’s Cave is the 12th-deepest cave in the United States, stretching for about 12 miles in length with a total vertical descent of 1,063 feet. That alone would be a viable claim to fame, but it’s the cave system’s unobstructed underground pits that make it truly special. These include the perfectly named Fantastic Pit, the tallest and most spectacular of them all.
On the opposite side of the cave is Incredible Pit, with an unobstructed depth of 440 feet. Smokey I (500 feet), Smokey II (262 feet), The Warm Up Pit (125 feet), and a few other pits of lesser depth complete what is an amazing solutional cave system, formed in the soluble limestone rock.
The result is a dark, echoing, and labyrinthine system with seven different routes to the cave floor (including Fantastic) and plenty of horizontal passages.
To get to Fantastic Pit, cavers first have to descend the aptly named Warm Up Pit, which is a challenge all on its own. Once at the top of Fantastic there is a cramped space called the Attic; from there cavers descend into the gigantic pit. It’s certainly not for beginners, and only experienced spelunkers are encouraged to enter Ellison’s Cave, let alone tackle the dark Fantastic.
Know Before You Go
Cavers entering Ellison's Cave to descend Fantastic and other pits need extensive knowledge and experience of single-rope technique climbing in wet conditions, with heavy ropes. They also need to be properly prepared with the right equipment and appropriate clothing. There have been three fatalities in Ellison's Cave since 2009, all the result of cavers becoming entangled and stuck on their ropes, after which they died from hypothermia. This is an advanced cave system and therefore is not the proper place for beginner cavers and certainly non cavers. One has to have extensive vertical caving experience to "tour" this cave.