Company closes Seneca Caverns, W.Va.’s largest cavern system

Charleston, West Virginia (AP) 2-08

West Virginia’s largest known cavern system has been shut down.

A lawyer for Seneca Caverns owner Greer Industries Inc. says the business plan simply was not working.

The lawyer, J. Robert Gwynne, told The Charleston Gazette via an e-mail that the limestone producer doesn’t have any plans to mine through the Pendleton County caverns or in the area where the caverns are located.

Bill Smith, director of the nearby Tucker County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, said the dozen or so Seneca employees have been let go. The staff included not only tour guides, but also gift shop and restaurant workers.

According to the tourist attraction’s Web site, the Riverton caverns were first discovered around A.D. 1400 by the Seneca tribe, which used them for rituals and shelter during harsh weather or to hide from enemy tribes. In 1742, European explorer Laven Teter rediscovered the entrance and began exploring the cavern interior. Commercial tours began in 1928.

Liz Chewning, the state travel director for the Division of Tourism, said she’s sorry to see Seneca shut down because it was a great attraction.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many tourists visited Seneca Caverns annually. Chewning said Tourism doesn’t keep figures for individual attractions. Gwynne couldn’t be reached for comment in mid Febuary.