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Cave Preserves

Merlins CAVE

    Merlin's Cave Preserve consists of 35 acres and is located in the town of Canaan in Columbia County, New York.
  Merlins Cave currently exists in nearly pristine condition. Therefore, the cave is currently open only for survey, exploration, documentation and very small group guided trips at the discretion of the Preserve Manager. All trips require qualified leaders who are thoroughly familiar with the cave and have participated in leader-training exercises. Leader trainings are held periodically and will be announced via the NRO/NSS and Northeastern Cave Conservancy list-serves (link to the following:

Cavers visiting Merlin's cave should be aware of areas marked by caution tape, as these areas are either particularly fragile or unstable. A trail is marked from the parking area past the Dragon Bones Cave entrance to the Merlins Cave entrance. Established trails should be used to access the caves.

Due to the nature of the cave, at this time institutional users may give surface tours of the property only. Please contact the NCC special use coordinators for more information.

  • Minimum group size is 3; maximum group size is 8; maximum number of simultaneous trips is 3.
  • All persons entering the cave must have at least the following minimum equipment: helmet with a chin strap; three (3) sources of light, one of which must be helmet mounted; and knee pads. In addition, some parts of the cave also require vertical gear to safely negotiate.
  • Cave exploration and hiking on karst terrain may involve risk or injury, even death from various hazards, both obvious and obscure, including, but not limited to, slippery and uneven ground, open pits, injury by acts of other people, falling, being struck by falling objects, becoming lost, the presence or sudden appearance of water, and hypothermia. All cave visitors are expected to abide by the normally accepted rules of safe and conservation minded caving as outlined by the National Speleological Society, 6001 Pulaski Pike, Huntsville, Alabama 35810-1122.
  • Merlin's Cave must be treated as a unique natural resource, and nothing should be taken out of the cave except trash.
  • All work projects must be clearly defined and authorized beforehand.
  • Each group is expected to clean up any trash in the cave or on the property.
  • Periods of Access: At the present time Merlin's Cave and Dragon Bones Cave are closed from October 1st until May 15th as the caves are both bat hibernacula.
  • Special Use Groups: Insurance or certificate thereof may be required for private groups such as schools, camps, and scouts. A waiver of liability form must be signed for each and every minor by parents. Groups such as the Boy Scouts will be required to show proof that they are complying with their own rules regarding caving.

If you have questions about this preserve, please contact the Merlins preserve manager at


Please see the links page for information on the permits and procedures for visiting these caves.

Management Plan

The management plan for the Merlins Cave Preserve can be found here.

The forest management plan for the Merlins Cave Preserve (appendix to preserve management plan) can be found here.

Maps and Photos