Mammoth Cave: National Park, Natural Wonder
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky is the world’s longest known cave system, with almost 400 miles explored to date. Located in Kentucky’s lush and beautiful Mammoth Cave National Park, the cave is an exciting and educational destination for all ages. Guided tours of all lengths and levels are offered daily. Some are challenging (Wild Tour), others are mysterious (Lantern Tour) and the lengths of tours and physical abilities required to participate vary to fit all families and individuals.
The history of the cave is worth researching before you go (although when you are there, many shops offer a wide variety of literature on the area, which you can read in the relaxed atmosphere of the spacious lobby of The Mammoth Cave Hotel or in one of the hotel’s restaurants). School students often learn about Mammoth Cave via the biography of Stephen Bishop, a slave who bravely explored the unknown labyrinth became a cave guide while still in his early teenage years. Stephen was responsible for the discovery of much of the cave and loved the mystery and adventure of exploring it and sharing the exploration with visitors. Bishop’s story is told in the book Journey to the Bottomless Pit, by Elizabeth Mitchell (2004). On the property of Mammoth Cave Hotel, which is filled with walking, hiking, and bicycling paths, is a small graveyard, where Stephen Bishop is buried.
Animals abound in the park, and evenings at the amphitheater include free lectures from park rangers about a wide range of subjects. Also within the park limits is another cave with an interesting but tragic story. The story is that of Floyd Collins, an adventurous man who entered Sand Cave in 1925 and became trapped, followed by a publicity and media circus. The book Trapped by Roger Brucker (1979) relays the history of the event and gives the reader a great feel for life in Kentucky in the 1920s. Informal tours of Sand Cave, led by volunteers, are available and include a drive to Floyd Collins’ home and his grave.
Horseback riding, camping, fishing and boating are all accessible in Mammoth Cave National Park. It is rare to find a vacation destination to fit the entire family that is healthy, educational, adventurous, entertaining, and affordable for everyone. Natural treasure Mammoth Cave, Kentucky is all of these things.