By Bill Balfour
While visiting relatives in Kentucky as a 13-year-old youngster, Bill Balfour—plus his dad and his uncle—drove over to Mammoth Cave. Balfour was particularly fascinated by the Rotunda and begged the adults for another commercial tour. But, having had enough fun for one day, Bill’s father allowed his boy to go on another guided trip that same afternoon, while dad waited outside. Bill was entranced and soon bought each book about caves that he could find. He also lobbied for stops at any show caves that the family passed during their assorted travels.
During Spring Break in 1968, Bill Balfour and a friend did a productive trip to West Virginia, operating out of Bill’s 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. They entered the Lipps Entrance to Organ Cave and climbed at Seneca Rocks. With topographic maps and a copy of William Davies’ classic Caverns of West Virginia in hand, the team was also able to locate Cass, Culverson Creek, Schoolhouse, and other great caves.
West Virginia now firmly in his heart, Balfour began his long association with the West Virginia Association for Cave Studies (WVACS) and the West Virginia Speleological Survey (WVASS). A prominent figure in both WVACS and WVASS for decades, Bill has surveyed in several of the extensive contact caves in Greenbrier County; co-authored a pair of WVASS bulletins; computerized the West Virginia cave database; and has served as President, Chairman of the Board, and a Director of WVACS. In addition, Balfour has been the Executive Director and the Greenbrier County Director for WVASS.
As an aspiring architect at the initial explosion of his caving career, Bill could draw. As such, he became extremely interested in surveying and was only too glad to keep book, do the in-cave sketching, and draft the resulting map. His output is voluminous—several hundred maps of caves both large and small. Recalling the most productive part of his caving career, Bill Balfour estimates that perhaps 90 percent of his trips involved surveying.
One of Bill’s favorite locations is the Culverson Creek Cave System. The historic entrance to this cavern is located near the tiny community of Unus, West Virginia. Balfour jokes that he became so enchanted with Unus that he bought the town. In fact, Bill does own a beautiful farm in the area and, each year, many cavers park on his property while visiting Culverson Creek. A short walk from his house is what is now known as the Balfour-Hinkle-Unus Entrance to the cave, and Bill owns that too. And, across the way is the Wild Cat Entrance to Culverson Creek.