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Central Kentucky

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Park: #10

Established: 1941

Acres: 52,830

Annual Budget: $5,694,000 (FY 2004)

Visitation: 1,888,126 (FY 2004)

Highlights: World's longest recorded cave system (almost 350 miles), 200 animal species found within the cave, huge caverns, underground food court, excellent tour guide, rich and interesting history, World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, an abundance of wildlife above ground.

Location: Mammoth Cave, KY 42259

Hours: Sun-Thu: 8am–6pm (CT), Fri-Sat: 8am–6:30pm (CT)

Phone: 270.758.2180

Park Fees: $4 to $45 for cave tours, make reservations online at

NPS Website:

Addl Website:

Cave Tours:

Detailed Travel Log:

Top Pics: 21 Images

Personal Rating:   (5 thumb max)

What do you get when you mix together a thick layer of limestone and shale, a thin layer of sandstone, 350 million years, the Green River, rain water, and acidic soil? Give up? You get Mammoth Cave National Park, that's what you get! While I've wildly oversimplified the process of creation, the end result has caught the attentions of humans for well over 4000 years.

The longest recorded caving system in the world at 348 miles, Mammoth Caves still holds many secrets, for the scientific community estimates she's squirreled away another 600 miles under her earthen covers. Speleothems, or in laymen's terms, "cave decorations", adorn this underground beauty and include such formations as gypsum flowers and needles, stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, dams, and pools.

Down deep within the caves depths, one could easily come to the conclusion that the seemingly never ending string of passageways are devoid of all life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Up to 200 different animal species exist within the cave system and are classified by funny names such as troglobites, troglophiles, trogloxenes, and incidentals. By the way, you and I are considered incidentals.

Before its establishment in 1941 as a National Park, Mammoth Cave was well known throughout the country by the early 1800s and soon thereafter around the world as a natural wonder. At the time, America was too young a nation to have any measure of noteworthy human antiquity. Focusing on nature instead, the country boasted of its great natural treasures with such superlatives as grand (Grand Canyon), giant (Giant Sequoia), and mammoth (Mammoth Cave).

A variety of cave tours are available through the National Park Service. There's a little of something for everybody here, from an easy 30 minute self-guided tour to a bad boy 6 hour guided tour that'll have you free-climbing cave walls, squeezing through areas as tight as 9 inches, crawling through wet places, and crying for mommy before it's all over.

I've just arrived at the park's entrance. Hey! Are you interested in exploring the cave with me? I think I'm going to give the Grand Avenue Tour a try. In 4.5 hours I'll cover 4 miles and in the process I'm supposed to see the following landmarks: Carmichael Entrance, Cleaveland Avenue, Snowball Room, Boone Avenue, Thorpe's Pit, Mt. McKinley, Grand Canyon, Aerobridge Canyon, Hippodrome, Grand Central Station, Frozen Niagara, and Travertine Tour Route.

Oh, come on, you'd have to be dead not to want to see all this!

Description & Pics

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