Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park is a U.S. National Park in south-central Kentucky, encompassing portions of Mammoth Cave, the most extensive cave system known in the world. The complete name of the cave system is the Flint-Mammoth-Joppa-Toohey Ridge Cave System, named for the ridges under which the caves have formed. It was established as a National park on 1 July 1941. It became a World Heritage Site on 27 October 1981, and an international Biosphere Reserve on 26 September 1990.
Stephen Bishop, an African-American slave and a guide to the cave during the 1840s and 1850s, was one of the first persons to make extensive maps of the cave. He also named many of the cave's features, describing the cave as "grand, gloomy, and peculiar."
The park's 52,830 acres (214 km²) is located in Edmonson County, Kentucky, with small areas extending eastward into Hart County and Barren County. It is centered around the Green River, with a tributary, the Nolin River, feeding into the Green just inside the park. The Green River is dammed near the western boundary of the park, so that the river only flows freely for a small section in the eastern part of the park.
Almost two million people visit the park every year.
Mammoth Cave is a system in thick limestone strata capped by a layer of sandstone, making the system remarkably stable. It currently comprises over 365 miles of passageway, with new discoveries and connections adding several miles per year to this figure. The cave was a significant source for saltpeter production for the manufacture of gunpowder at one time, especially in the War of 1812.
The sandstone capping layer has collapsed in one area in the southern park, resulting in Cedar Sink, a massive sinkhole that features a small river entering one side and disappearing back underground at the other side.
Table of contents
The park service offers several cave tours to visitors. Many of the most famous features of the cave, such as Grand Avenue, Frozen Niagra, and Fat Man's Misery, can be seen on lighted tours ranging from one to six hours in length. Two lantern tours, lit only by visitor-carried paraffin lamps, are a popular alternative to the electric lit routes. Several wild tours venture away from the developed parts of the cave into muddy crawls and dusty tunnels.
The Echo River Tour, one of the cave's most famous attractions, used to take visitors on a boat ride along an underground river. The tour was discontinued for logistic and environmental reasons in the early 1990s .
Interested members of the public can join an Earthwatch.org sponsored field survey of the history of Mammoth Cave . However, due to Mammoth Cave park regulations, participation on this project is restricted to US citizens only.
History of the cave
Legend has it that in 1790s a hunter, John Houchin, pursued a wounded bear to a large pit near the Green River and stumbled upon bat-guano clogged entrance.
The cave was owned by Franklin Gorin by the War of 1812 and the cave was being mined for calcium nitrate (refined from bat guano and converted into the saltpeter, an ingredient of gunpowder). A half interest in the changed hands for ten thousand dollars (a huge sum at the time). After the war when prices fell, the workings were abandoned and it became a minor tourist attraction centering on a native American mummy discovered nearby.
In the early 1900s, Floyd Collins spent ten years exploring the Flint Ridge Cave system before dying in 1925 after he became trapped by falling rocks.
In 1972 a party led by Dr. John P. Wilcox, Patricia Crowther, Richard B. Zopf, Dr. P. Gary Eller, Stephen G. Wells, and Cleveland F. Pinnix (a National Parks Service Ranger) managed to find the narrow crawl which linked the two cave systems. Crowther, a "gung ho caver" weighing in at 115 pounds, crawled through the narrow canyon to find the name "Pete H" inscribed on the wall with an arrow pointing in the direction of Mammoth Cave. The name is believed to have been carved by Peter Hanson, who was active in exploring the cave in the 1930's. Hanson was killed in World War II.
The cave is linked with computer games (see interactive fiction); one of the earliest such games, Adventure, is based on parts of the cave system (the Colossal section and the Bedquilt Entrance). The author of the game, Will Crowther, was married to Pat Crowther.
- Mammoth Cave National Park website
- Photos of Mammoth Cave National Park – Terra Galleria
- Mammoth Cave National Park Pictures
|National Parks of the United States|
Acadia | Arches | Badlands | Big Bend | Biscayne | Black Canyon of the Gunnison | Bryce Canyon | Canyonlands | Capitol Reef | Carlsbad Caverns | Channel Islands | Congaree | Crater Lake | Cuyahoga Valley | Death Valley | Denali | Dry Tortugas | Everglades | Gates of the Arctic | Glacier | Glacier Bay | Grand Canyon | Grand Teton | Great Basin | Great Smoky Mountains | Guadalupe Mountains | Haleakala | Hawaii Volcanoes | Hot Springs | Isle Royale | Joshua Tree | Katmai | Kenai Fjords | Kings Canyon | Kobuk Valley | Lake Clark | Lassen Volcanic | Mammoth Cave | Mesa Verde | Mount Rainier | North Cascades | Olympic | Petrified Forest | Redwood | Rocky Mountain | Saguaro | Sequoia | Shenandoah | Theodore Roosevelt | Voyageurs | Wind Cave | Wrangell-St. Elias | Yellowstone | Yosemite | Zion