VALLEY HEAD, Ala. (WHNT) -- 2014 would be the 50th year in business for Sequoyah Caverns in DeKalb County, but the owner is closing the caves on September 3.
John Jones took over as manager of Sequoyah Caverns 10 years ago, but his ancestors bought the property in 1841. The Ellis and Jones families kept it closed to prevent vandalism, but allowed some kids from camps in Mentone to visit. A friend approached the family in 1961 to discuss a tourist attraction, which opened to the public in 1964.
"Every cave that you go to is unique," Jones said. "Everyone that comes here, just about, it seems like it's very interesting to them that it has remained in the same family.
"Each one has its special attraction and ours are the reflective pools. It's much easier to look down at the attractions, at the stalactites that are hanging overhead than it is to try to look straight up. It's a very interesting and unique cave to come to."
Time created these caves, with water eroding rock. But time also took its toll on Jones, and he said he is getting too old to manage. He said the public's interest has also eroded.
"People tend to go to one place now and stay and then tour the area," he said.
"Well, we're way out in the sticks and there's not much around else for them to go to."
The executive director for DeKalb County Tourism, John Dersham, said about 12,000 people visit the caverns every year, and said he is said the caverns are closing.
Jones is as well.
"Yeah. Yeah, I have to admit I am. The fact that some of my ancestors sacrificed to keep it in the family, and they never saw it reach its full potential. That's probably the sad part."
The property will stay in the family, and Jones said perhaps one day, one of his grandchildren will reopen it, although there are no plans for that at present.
The caverns will be open through Labor Day weekend.