Mammoth Caves National Park

We visited Mammoth Caves National Park in late May.  It became a two night stop between Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky.  A travel goal is to visit our National Parks as we can.  Those we are not able to visit, we mark for a future visit.  To this point we have done well.

The visit to Mammoth also presented a first for us on the road.  We stayed, for the first time, at a park with no hooks-ups.  For us that meant no water, electric or sewer.  The major challenge was to see how our solar system would work and how long our fresh and waste water tanks would hold out!

The Mammoth Cave complex is the worlds largest cave system, with more than 400 miles of it having been explored.  There is much more of the cave that has been untouched and unseen.  The best way to visit is to take a tour.  Underground.

Historic Entrance

Historic Entrance

The limestone labyrinth is capped by a layer of sandstone making the complex very stable.  There are "wet" areas where stalactites and stalagmites of calcium form making curtains, columns and frozen waterfalls.  "Dry" areas are composed of hollowed out caverns, forming vast rooms and canyons where ancient rivers cut their way through the limestone.

My Bride selected the Domes and Dripstones Tour which is about 3/4 of a mile long and lasts two hours .  I settled for the Grand Avenue Tour, spending four hours underground while covering four miles of passageways.

Fearless Leader
I found it interesting that from where we entered at the Carmichael Entrance, there was another entrance a 10 minute over ground walk away, that would have taken hours to reach underground.  Such is the nature of these underground passages.  My tour took us some 300 feet below the surface. It covered not only the geology and ecology, but much of the history as well.

Historical Graffiti - this one is Civil War Era


The area was a tourist attraction for many beginning around the time of the civil war.  There was a Hotel and estate near the entrance.  Visitors came by stagecoach, until the small Mammoth Cave Railroad began operating on the 9 mile leg in 1886.  The train operated until around 1926.  By that time the area had been designated a National Park, and roads for motor vehicles had been built.

The history of this area is fascinating from ancient peoples using it for shelter; it's accidental discovery and mining of nitrate to make saltpeter for gunpowder; it's use as a sanitarium to treat tuberculosis (unsuccessfully); to a popular tourist attraction and spawning the Kentucky Cave Wars; until eventually becoming a a National Park in 1941.  Of real interest is the history of African Americans and Mammoth Cave.


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