Located in central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park includes portions of Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest cave system, the Green River Valley and the rolling hills of south-central Kentucky. Its official name is Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System for the ridge beneath which the cave was formed. As a national park, the area was established to protect and preserve the cave system.
Covering 21,380 hectares, most of the park is in Edmonson County, Kentucky, with the remainder in Hart County and Barren County. The Green River and Nolin River flow in the park and many activities can be carried out there.
The cave does not bear its name Mammoth Cave because mammoth fossils were found here, which has nothing to do with the extinct mammals.
Rather, “mammoth” refers to the length and width of the passageway that connects to the rotunda that is behind the entrance. Despite this, mammoths can be found in Kentucky, for example at Big Bone Lick State Park.
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History of Mammoth Cave National Park
Human history relating to Mammoth Cave dates back over 6000 years. Native American remains have been found from this period. Legend has it that the first European to discover Mammoth Cave was either John Houchin or his brother Francis Houchin while hunting a bear in 1797.
Records of the caves were first recorded by the slave Steven Bishop who explored the cave between 1840 and 1850 and recorded the first plans of the cave and names for some formations. The caves were not professionally surveyed until 1908.
When Wilkins died, the cave passed to Gratz. In 1838 the Gratz brothers sold the cave to Franklin Gorin, who ran Mammoth Cave as a tourist attraction.
During the 19th century, Mammoth Cave was so well known that it became an international sensation. In addition, a railway line was built, the Mammoth Cave Railroad, which brought visitors to the cave. Since the area around the cave was not suitable for specialized farming, the owners of surrounding caves began a competition for tourists, dubbed the Kentucky Cave Wars.
Initial research began in the late 1950s by Patty Jo Watson of Washington University in St. Louis. He determined the relative content of plants and meat in the culture’s diet over a period of several thousand years. In addition, many ancient human remains and artifacts have been found in the caves during this period.
Private individuals formed the Mammoth Cave National Park Association in 1926 to protect the area. The park was then approved as a national park on May 25, 1926. Funds raised were used to purchase farms in the area. The area was declared a national park in Kentucky on July 1, 1941.
In the aftermath many caving explorations followed such as exploration of the Flint Ridge System which also includes Crystal Cave, Onyx Cave and Salts Cave. In total, the cave systems of Flint Ridge are 139.2 km long. Other massive cave systems within short distances of Mammoth Cave have been discovered and explored: the Fisher Ridge Cave System and the Martin Ridge Cave System.
On October 27, 1981, the Cave Park was declared a World Heritage Site and on September 26, 1990, an International Biosphere Reserve.
Visit and guided tours of the Mammoth Caves
The National Park Service offers a variety of cave tours for visitors to Mammoth Caves. Cave tours include some notable cave features such as Grand Avenue, Frozen Niagara and Fat Man’s Misery. Parts of the cave are electrically lit, other areas are illuminated by lamps carried along.
Mammoth Cave tours provide a wealth of information about the caves, human history and the legends of the cave.
Visitor Center in Cave Park
Mammoth Cave Headquarters and Visitor Center is located on Mammoth Cave Parkway. Here you will find a lot of important information about the caves and you can book tours through them.
Geology of Mammoth Cave
With 400 miles (640 km) of passageways, Mammoth Cave is by far the world’s longest cave system. It is more than twice as long as the cave systems of Mexico’s Sac Actun Underwater Cave. In addition, the caves of Mammoth Cave are traversed by numerous underground watercourses. The largest river is the River Styx.
The Mammoth Cave Park region consists of a thick layer of limestone overlaid by a layer of sandstone. During the British-American War of 1812, the caves were an important source of saltpetre, which was used to make gunpowder.
Mammoth Cave National Park Biology and Ecosystem
Bats are particularly at home here. The following species of bats live in the caves: Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), gray bats (Myotis grisescens), lesser brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), greater brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus). Other animals found in Mammoth Caves include: crickets, olms, cave fish and cave crabs. Mammoth Cave is also home to the endangered Kentucky Cave Shrimp, a blind albino shrimp.
Activities at Mammoth Park
Activities such as caving, hiking, canoeing on the Green River, picnicking, horseback riding, biking, camping and much more can be experienced when visiting Mammoth Park. Here we have put together some activities in the park for you:
Biking Trails in Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park offers numerous opportunities for cyclists to explore the great outdoors. There are some paved roads, mountain bikers are allowed to ride on the unpaved roads. There are also special routes for off-road cycling.
Canoeing on the Green River Kentucky
‘s Green River runs more than 30 miles through the park and offers a wealth of recreational opportunities such as fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
Hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park
Nearly 84 miles of hiking trails in the backcountry, frontcountry and visitor center areas can be found here. They are combined from easy to difficult.
Six trailheads at Maple Springs, Lincoln, Big Hollow, Erste Creek, Temple Hill and White Oak allow you to hike inland.
Horseback Riding in Mammoth Cave National Park Horseback riding
tours are offered throughout the National Park. But you also have the opportunity to ride a horse alone through the area.
Sights in Mammoth Cave NP
Many visitors come to Mammoth Cave National Park to see the cave. But there are other attractions in the park such as Cedar Sink, a place where the earth opens a window into her inner secrets; rotunda; Turnhole Bend; Green River Bluffs Overlook; The Big Woods; Cave Island; Sand Cave; Cathedral Domes and Frozen Niagara.
Hotels, Lodges & Campgrounds in Mammoth National Park
Accommodation in Mammoth Cave Park is available at the Mammoth Cave Hotel, Sunset Terrace Rooms, Hotel Cottages and Woodland Cottages. For camping, there are a few campgrounds in the park such as Mammoth Cave Campground and Houchin Ferry Campground.
Weather in the national park in Kentucky
Kentucky has a temperate climate with warm, humid conditions. Summers are generally warm and winters are cool. Much of Kentucky’s precipitation falls in spring, the rainiest season.
Entrance fees to Mammoth Cave National Park
Most park resources and facilities are free. Fees are taken for cave tours and camping.
Getting to Mammoth Park
From the North, take Interstate 65 to Exit 53 (Cave City Exit). Turn right onto KY-70. Follow 70/255, it becomes Mammoth Cave Parkway and takes you into Mammoth Park.
From the South, take Interstate 65 to Exit 48 (Park City Exit). Turn left onto KY-255 and follow the 255, which becomes Park City Road and takes you into the park.
Address of the Mammoth Cave National Park attraction in Kentucky
Mammoth Cave National Park
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
latitude/longitude: N 37°11′ 13.115”| W 86 ° 06′ 05.197” Decimal
degrees: +37.186976 | -86.101444
UTM (Zone 16N, NAD83): 579779.491 | 4115977.605 m