I’ll start out by admitting that I’m not all that fond of caves. I’ve toured a few caves over the years, but only because they were in national parks. Mammoth Cave National Park, however, has been on my bucket list for some time, and Tim and I spent the entire day at the park.
Mammoth Cave National Park contains the most extensive cave system in the world. Almost 400 miles of passageways have been surveyed, which is twice as long as any other known cave. It is likely that twice that many additional miles have yet to be explored. The rooms and passageways here are vast, hence the name “Mammoth.” Mammoth Cave has been a tourist attraction since 1816.
This is a perfect time of year to visit Mammoth Cave, since the crowds are almost nonexistent. I can’t imagine being on a tour with 120 other people. Talk about experiencing claustrophobia. We took two tours today, and there was only one other couple on our afternoon tour. It was like having a private tour, and even the ranger enjoyed the small size.
Tim and I decided to take both of the two-hour, general tours that are offered in the winter. The Historic Tour began at the natural entrance to Mammoth Cave and followed the route that has been followed since the 1800s. We learned how the cave was a source for saltpeter during the War of 1812, heard about the early tour guides and the stories they told and witnessed the “historic” graffiti on the walls. Adding one’s name to the cave walls was a popular component of the early tours. We squeezed our way through Fat Man’s Misery and gazed down at Sidesaddle and Bottomless Pits.
|The Natural Entrance|
|One of the Early Tour Guides Signed His Name|
|Vast Passageways Distinguish Mammoth Cave|
Unlike most other caves like Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Cave has few decorative areas of stalactites, stalagmites, draperies and other dripstone formations. Instead, it is known for its length and size. Although those elements were certainly impressive, I prefer to be “rewarded” with “pretty” formations if I’m going to drag myself into a cave. That said, I really did enjoy both tours, and the small size of our groups made the visit that much more pleasant.
|Water Created Frozen Niagara|
|Features at Frozen Niaagra|
|More Dripstone Formations|