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Logo. Feature : Cave
One example for Feature : Cave
How to map natural caves




A cave or cavern is a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter (spread about at least 5m). Most caves are in karst areas.

Speleology is a cross-disciplinary field that combines the knowledge of chemistry, biology, geology, physics, meteorology and cartography to develop portraits of caves as complex, evolving systems. For many nations there are cave cadastres (land registers). Most of them are measured in 3D and have a special "cave plan" or a 3d model of it.

Man Made

This page is about natural caves, for man made underground objects which are sometimes also called "cave" some of the following might be helpful:

A special type of man-made (or man-altered) cave is the Grotto, which is made to resemble a (romantic view of a) natural cave.

Protection of bats (in Europe)

In winter (around Mid of October till April) entering some caves is prohibited. Bats are having winter sleep in that time. They reduce their energy expenditure down to 1%! Waking them would cause a high energy consumption, that could lead to their death.

Tagging in OSM

Cave entrances are mapped as natural=cave_entrance (see below). There is also a proposal to map the cave itself including paths etc, see below.

Mouth/entrance of a cave

See natural=cave_entrance

Mapping the cave

See Proposed features/natural=cave.

Previously paths in caves have been variously mapped as highway=footway (or highway=steps) + tunnel=yes or tunnel=cave and/or cave=yes.

Some paths in caves are mapped in this example. discuss.

For lava tubes geological=volcanic_lava_tube has been proposed.

Cave relation

has been proposed as part of Proposed features/natural=cave, some mappers think it is sufficient to indicate a relation with cave:ref or variants.

Cave:ref and variants

cave:ref=* can be used to hold an official identifier. Because such identifiers are typically valid statewide or issued by private organisations variations such as cave:ref:es:CEA=... can be used for a Spanish cave with an id issued by the CEA club. It could also happen that one cave has several cave:ref type identifiers.

cave:ref and variants can be also used to relate together unconnected features belonging to a single cave, however a relation has also been proposed for this and other purposes, see Proposed features/natural=cave

Some ideas

  • cave:equipment=* (none|light|helmet|climbing_gear)
  • cave:features=* (stalactites|cave-paintings|corpses|…)
  • cave:depth=### (maximum depth)
  • cave:length=#### (measured total entire length)
  • cave:difficulty=* (tourist|easy|climbing_gear|dangerous)
    • tourist for developed caves with regular guided tours
    • easy for undeveloped caves which are safely accessible without equipment other than light
    • equipment when specialized equipment is necessary, or there are moderately dangerous places like narrow points dangerous when special hazards (e.g. flooding, very branched) are present
  • cave:size=* (small|medium|large)
    • small when there's a single hall or passage
    • medium when there are several halls or branching passages
    • large when it's bigger than medium. :-)

Note: depth and length are useful, but often not known. So the rougher size Tag could be used to specify what to expect.

Ideas that probably should not be used as they are solved by generic tags:


List of caves

Caves all over the world
Caves by country
caves by continent (german)
caves in Europe (german)
Caves in the US
Caves in Australia
Show caves

See also

Surveying caves (SOTM 2007)