It not just Big, it’s Mammoth Cave

ToadDate 0392.10.25.17-KY

We have spent the last ten days at Mammoth Cave National Park. This is a beautiful park that is heavily wooded, with very little cell service and WI-FI is only available in the hotel and visitor center. The focal point of the park is Mammoth Cave.

Mammoth Cave is described as a bowl of spaghetti, with tunnels leading from one large open area to the next. Over 420 miles (yes, miles) of the cave have been mapped. The cave is deep and not spread out over the 420 miles. All 420 miles is within 7 miles of the opening. The cave is still being explored and mapped. It is estimated there are several hundreds of miles left to be explored. Unlike Carlsbad Cavern, this cave is mostly dry, there are only a few areas that have stalagmites and stalactites. There is a river in the lower portions of the cave; they no longer allow boat tours.

We took a couple of the tours that were great fun. One tour took us down to the Snowball Room. This large domed area was used as a restaurant in the late 1800s-early 1900s. There are still beer bottles and chicken bones in the area. The big menu item was fried chicken; hey it’s Kentucky and they fry chicken. But all that cooking damaged the gypsum that grows on the ceiling and walls. It was white and appeared to be snowballs, hence the name.

The cave has the only upside down well in the world. When workers were pouring concrete for the Snowball Room and some of the walkways, they were having to carry water from the surface, about 170 feet down. They decided to drill a well since the river runs through the cave. Problem was they drilled down and ran into another tunnel and no water. One of the locals said, “Drill up. There’s a lake above your heads.” Sure enough they hit the lake and installed the pump upside down. Everything worked, so no more having to carry water into the tunnel.

There are several places in the cave where people used smoke to leave their names in the rock. One of the names left is Hoofland’s Tonic (1869). Some enterprising tonic salesman, took the time to leave the name of his product in 3 places in the cave, all near places where people would gather. Might not be the first billboard, but certainly is a unique one.

Formations throughout the cave are massive. Photos don’t do justice to these underground works of art. You just got to see them to appreciate them.

Tours range in difficulty from accessible tours to spelunking with lit hard hats, gloves, knee pads, and coveralls. You can take short tours that last an hour to day long adventures. They have a tour for your schedule.

One of the benefits of traveling is being able to see family and friends along the way. My sister, Carol, and her husband, Bob, came out to visit us at our campsite. We cooked hamburgers, toured the visitor center displays, and had some great ice cream.

The park is heavily wooded, has many trails, and a river. There is a hotel on the grounds and four campgrounds, only one is set up to handle RVs and trailers.

The communities around the park are geared towards the cave. Lots of places to buy rocks, go caving in other area caves, and tourist attractions you would expect in the area. They do have a fudge making place, Chasers Kentucky Chocolates, that is wonderful. If you are over you 21 you can purchase fudge bourbon balls; it’s Kentucky and they make bourbon.

Do put Mammoth Cave National Park on your “Gotta See” list!

 


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