Map of Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park in south-central Kentucky, northeast of Bowling Green. Short description of Mammoth Cave National Park.
Mammoth Cave National Park in south-central Kentucky, northeast of Bowling Green
The Mammoth Cave network is the world's longest, extending for more than 360 mi beneath the mountains of southern Kentucky. This incredible maze of underground passages, endless vertical shafts, and cold, black rivers also hides many unusual nocturnal creatures: eyeless fish, cave spiders, white crayfish, and rare beetles, among many others. Above ground the park has 70 mi of backcountry hiking and horseback riding trails, plus 31 mi of scenic shorelines along the Green and Nolin rivers. The site was established in 1941, designated a World Heritage Site in 1981, and declared an International Biosphere Reserve in 1990.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Bird-watching, canoeing (rentals Brownsville), cave touring, fishing, hiking, horseback riding (rentals nearby), kayaking, picnicking. Facilities: Visitor center, hiking trails. Book-and-gift shop, covered picnic tables, picnic tables with fire grills. Programs & Events: Daily ranger-led cave tours, talks, and slide presentations. Ranger-led nature walks, evening programs (May-Oct.). Wildflower Day (Apr.), Roots in the Cave (Oct.). Tips & Hints: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a jacket for inside the cave. Go in spring for dogwood blooms, Aug. for wildflower peak. Busiest July and Aug., least crowded Dec. and Jan. Winter visits yield gorgeous icicle formations along the rivers.
FOOD, LODGING & SUPPLIES
Camping: 3 campgrounds in the park: Headquarters (109 sites; $16; flush toilets; closed Dec.-Feb.), Houchins Ferry (12 sites; $12; pit toilets), Maple Springs (7 group sites; $25; pit toilets). Backcountry camping available (permit required, see below). H Hotels: In the park: Mammoth Cave Hotel (Rte. 70, tel. 270/758-2225; 62 rooms, 20 cottages, 10 cabins; $35-$75; cottages closed Oct.-mid-May, cabins closed Nov.-mid-Mar.). In Horse Cave: Budget Host Inn (Rte. 218 at 1-65, tel. 270/786-2165; 80 rooms; $30-$47), Hampton Inn Horse Cave (750 Flint Ridge Rd., tel. 270/786-5000 or 800/426-7866; 101 rooms; $74-$79). X Restaurants: In the park: Mammoth Cave Hotel (Rte. 70, tel. 270/758-2225; $2-$8). In Cave City: Sahara Steak House (413 E. Happy Valley Rd., tel. 270/773-3450; $9-$30). 6 Groceries & Gear: In the park: Service Center-Caver's Camp Store (near Headquarters Campground, tel. 270/758-2232).
FEES, HOURS & REGULATIONS
Free. Scenic cave tours $5-$ 12, Introduction to Caving tour $22, Wild Cave Tour $45; children ages 6 or under or less than 42 inches tall not allowed on some tours. Other restrictions apply. Backcountry camping permits (free) required. No pets on cave tours or off leash. Mountain bikes and in-line skates in designated areas only No fireworks. No Jet Skis on river. No off-road motorized equipment. Park open year-round, with daily cave tours. Visitor center open Jan-Feb., daily 9--5; Mar.-mid-June and Labor Day-Dec, daily 8-5; mid-June-Labor Day, daily 7:30-7.
HOW TO GET THERE
Via 1-65 to Cave City or Park City exits, then head west on Rte. 70 or Mammoth Cave Parkway. Closest airports: Louisville, KY (90 mi), Nashville, TN (100 mi).
Mammoth Cave National Park (Box 7, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, tel. 270/758-2178; 800/967-2283 for activities requiring reservations or online at fax 270/758-2349, ). Cave City Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center (Box 460, 502 Mammoth Cave St., Cave City, KY 42127, tel./fax 270/773-5159). Edmonson County Tourist Commission (Box 628, Brownsville, KY 42210, tel. 800/624-8687,).
Mammoth Cave National Park In south-central Kentucky, northeast of Bowling Green. Short description of Mammoth Cave National Park.
Above right: Mammoth Cave National Park offers the opportunity to explore a fascinating subterranean world.
Right: The forces of water—and time—carved the stalactites, stalagmites and columns of limestone.
Facing page: The sheer size of Mammoth Cave is overwhelming—passages stretch on for miles, domes reach vast heights and pits seem to go to the very center of the earth.
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Established: 1941 Acreage: 52,370
From the beginning, underground explorers doubted that they would ever find the end of Mammoth Cave. The cave system goes on and on for more than 300 miles of known passages, and there is yet more cave to be explored. It is the longest cave in the world, with none others even coming close. In this huge subterranean world, there are giant vertical shafts, from the towering 192-foot-high Mammoth Dome to the 105-foot-deep Bottomless Pit. Some passages and rooms are decorated with sparkling white gypsum crystals, while others are filled with the colorful shapes of stalactites, stalagmites and other formations. The area is known as a karst landscape, a region of limestone caves, underground rivers, springs and sinkholes.
Water has been the guiding force in the creation of this landscape. Underground water working in cracks and
between rock layers has carved out Mammoth Cave's long, horizontal passageways over the past few million years. Mammoth's huge vertical shafts, called pits and domes, have been created by groundwater seeping downward through sinkholes or cracks behind the edge of the protective hard layer of sandstone that overlies much of the cave.
Although the cave was explored by prehistoric Indians as many as 4000 years ago, modern-day encounters with the cave supposedly began in the late 1790s, when a hunter chasing a bear fell into its gaping entrance. The cave became commercially valuable during the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain. Cave sediments with abundant quantities of nitrate, an essential ingredient of gunpowder, were mined by slaves during the war. By the war's end, Mammoth was famous and soon became one of the nation's popular attractions. During the 1800s and early 1900s the cave was host to all kinds of events - weddings, stage performances. Even a tuberculosis hospital was established.
Today, Mammoth Cave National Park provides the extraordinary world of the underground and the more familiar surface world of oak and hickory forests, meandering rivers and woodland wildlife.