Thursday, October 16, 2008
Mammoth Cave National Park
Since we were going right by Mammoth Cave National Park, we decided to stop in and do some hiking and take at least one tour of the cave. We have been here several times over the years when we were traveling with our daughters. We are staying in Cave City and it is almost like time has stood still here, in some ways. There are no new construction projects or high tech tourist gimmicks to get you to spend your money. There are still the attractions that you might have seen in the 1950’s. Dinosaur Park, old fashioned souvenir shops, classic motels, and even a place that offers to let you sleep in a wigwam.
The park itself holds the world’s largest cave system. It fact, if the next two largest caves were placed within it, there would still be over 100 miles of cave to spare. To date there are known to be 313 miles of cave tunnels and they are still exploring. It is certainly not the most attractive cave, but its sheer size is so impressive, you forget about the rest. We took the historic tour which covered two miles of the cave in two hours and descended some 350 below the surface.
As luck would have it, our ranger guide is the great grandson of one of the first slaves that was employed to explore the caves when it was in private hands. There were many interesting tales related about the use of slaves in the cave and I can recommend more research on this topic for anyone interested in this topic.
The cave has had human visitors for at least 3000 years. They know this because they have found physical evidence of their presence on the form of artifacts and some mummified human remains. During the war of 1812 the cave was mined for elements to make black powder and they used a water system using hollowed out tree trunks, which still remain in the cave today.
In addition to the cave system itself, the park is over 52000 acres and miles of hiking and biking trails. It also offers lots of opportunity for waterborne exploration, as well.
We have enjoyed our visit, but did not get to do the hiking we hoped for as it managed to rain all day today and tomorrow we are off to Decatur, AL.