Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park sees over a half million visitors a year

With more than 400 miles (640 km) of passageways explored, Mammoth Cave National Park is the world’s longest known cave system. Subterranean wildlife includes eight bat species, Kentucky cave shrimp, Northern cavefish, and cave salamanders. Above ground, the park provides recreation on the Green River, 70 miles of hiking trails, and plenty of sinkholes and springs.

Geology

The carbonate bedrock stretches across multiple states

The South-Central Kentucky karst is a crossroad of carbonate bedrock stretching north to Indiana, east to the Cumberland Plateau, south to Georgia and west to the Ozarks. The park is bisected east to west by the Green River, which defines the hydrologic base-level and divides the region into two distinct physiographic areas. North of the river an alternating series of limestones and insoluble rocks are exposed with the main limestone strata accessible only near the river and in the bottom of a few deeply incised valleys.

This has resulted in rugged topography with streams that alternately flow on insoluble rocks, over waterfalls, enter caves in limestone and resurface at springs perched on the next lower stratum of insoluble rock. South of the Green River the insoluble sandstone and shale caprock over the limestone has preserved significant portions of Mammoth Cave.

Cave Entrances
Natural, modified natural, and artificial cave entrances pose some of the greatest challenges in the management of karst resources because provision must be made for movement of air, water and wildlife within acceptable tolerances while simultaneously providing an adequate deterrent to illegal human entry. United States Fish and Wildlife Service approved bat gates have been installed on the entrances of caves supporting major bat hibernation areas. Cave gates are designed to accommodate bat movement, provide greater security, natural rates of air exchange and restore endangered Indiana and gray bat habitat. Airlocks have been installed on man-made entrances to restore cave atmospheric conditions.

Speleothems (Cave formations)
Within the cave, a vast array of subterranean geologic features have developed over millenia, including stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, travertine dams, and several types of gypsum formations such as the aptly-named “gypsum flowers.”

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/nature/geologicformations.htm

Native American History

There is a rich Native American history in Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave’s miles of hollow halls were already thousands of years old when the first human beings came on the scene, and the Cave stands as a natural wonder in its own right. But grandeur and fascination, awe and wonder, fear and courage, trepidation and daring – those feelings that have given the Cave its power to inspire millions – are a human contribution.

The people who have come to Mammoth Cave over the years represent a crazy-quilt of backgrounds, native and foreign, young and old, rich and poor, sacred and mercenary. Let these pages introduce you to some of the characters, communities, and cultures that have made Mammoth Cave a part of themselves, and left their mark in return.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/historyculture/people.htm

Park History

How Mammoth Cave became a National Park

The human experience of Mammoth Cave reflects one of humanity’s most potent emotions: wonder. The dark depths of a pit or passage trigger inborn questions – where does that go? How far? Is anything in there?
The first human to enter Mammoth Cave passed under its imposing arch about 4,000 years ago. His reason for probing the shadows? The same as ours today. Curiosity led the way to discoveries of minerals, and primitive miners plumbed the rocky halls for nearly 2,000 years before the cave again fell quiet. It would not again echo the sound of human feet clattering the floor stones until the very end of the 18th century.

Once European settlers discovered Mammoth Cave, stories both inspiring and strange began to accumulate about their adventures underground. The cave’s stories spoke of curiosity, cures, captivity and capitalism; excitement, exploration and exploitation.

And the story keeps on going. From the prehistoric torch-bearing Native American to yesterday’s park visitor, the fabric of the story-cloth of Mammoth Cave continues to be woven. Click the links on this page to discover the people, places, stories and objects that illuminate this special place.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/historyculture/index.htm

Attractions

The best things to do in Mammoth Cave National Park

The mysteries of the underworld beckon at Mammoth Cave National Park, but that’s not all … in addition to the many cave tours, you can hike, bike, ride your horse, canoe and kayak, enjoy a campfire program, and more.

Cave Tours

Camping On the Rivers

Trails

Horseback

Riding

Bicycling

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/maca/planyourvisit/things2do.htm

Vegetation

There is an abundance of plant life in Mammoth Cave National Park

Even without the world’s longest cave system, the land encompassing Mammoth Cave National Park would merit its National Park status due simply to its extraordinary density – and diversity – of plant life. While the acknowledged “showcase of vegetation” within the Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has approximately 1,500 flowering species in its more than 500,000 acres, Mammoth Cave National Park supports more than 1,300 species in only one-tenth of that acreage.

Past botanical surveys in the park have found 25 species listed as Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern by Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission. Mammoth Cave National Park is a vital refuge for the protection of plant communities and individual species in danger. This mosaic of habitats and diversity of forests types and grasslands is, unfortunately, just as attractive to a wide variety of introduced plants. Mammoth Cave National Park proactively works to control invasive alien species that compromise the integrity of its native plant communities.

The park is located within Hart, Edmonson, & Barren counties in south central Kentucky. To discover and learn about the tremendous diversity of flora, both native and invasive, within the area click here.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/nature/plants.htm

Animal Life

The cave species in Mammoth Cave biotic communities are among the most diverse in the world

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to over 70 threatened, endangered or state listed species. These species include birds, crustaceans, fish, gastropods, insects, mammals, mussels, plants and reptiles. The Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 recognizes that many of our species across the United States have been lost and others are close to extinction. This act enables agencies to have the necessary means to aid these species in retaining their existance. Through education and restoration programs we hope to prevent further destruction caused by human impacts. Cave Life: More than 130 species are regular inhabitants within the Mammoth Cave system. These species are divided almost equally among three classes of cave life: obligate cave dwellers known as troglobites, facultative species which can complete their life cycle in or out of caves (troglophiles), and those that use caves for refuge (trogloxenes). Because of the region’s biogeographic history, the tremendous variety of abiotic conditions, and the presence of key trogloxene species, the South-Central Kentucky karst has cave species and biotic cave communities among the most diverse in the world. The assemblage of cave fauna is diverse because both in-situ speciation and immigration of species that evolved in other cave regions has occurred.

Amphibians
Birds
Crustaceans
Fish
Insects, spiders, centipedes and millipedes
Other Invertebrates
Mammals
Mollusks
Reptiles

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/nature/animals.htm

Hiking Trails

The best hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park is a place for letting your feet lead you – or your horse’s hooves, or the tread of your bike’s tires. With nearly 84 miles of trail in the backcountry, frontcountry and Visitor Center areas combined, from easy to rugged, you’re certain to find just the one-on-one with nature you’re looking for.

Six trailheads, at Maple Springs, Lincoln, Big Hollow, First Creek, Temple Hill and White Oak give access to the backcountry’s 65.8 miles of trail. Most backcountry trails are for pedestrian and horseback use only, with the exception of Big Hollow Trail, which is for pedestrian and mountain bike use only, and Maple Springs Trail and White Oak Trail, which are all-use trails.

In the frontcountry, explore a total of 10.8 miles along the Cedar Sink Trail, Sand Cave Trail, Sloan’s Crossing Pond Walk, Turnhole Bend Nature Trail, and the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail.

The area around the park Visitor Center offers 7.2 miles of scenic trails that venture from ridgetop to river, from sinkholes to springs, from old guide’s cemeteries to overlooks, and from historic engines to the Historic Entrance.

To find your way around the park’s trails, useful park maps are available from the link below:

View Park Maps

Visitor Center Area Trails
Trail Starts at
Mi.
Km.
Amphitheater Trail Hotel parking/ Cavers’ Camp Store
0.2
0.3
Cabins Trail Hotel Parking
0.2
0.3
Dixon Cave Overlook Trail Picnic Area
0.1
0.1
Dixon Cave Trail Historic Entrance
0.4
0.6
Echo River Springs Trail Green River Ferry
1.0
1.6
Engine No. 4 Trail Hotel Parking/ Cavers’ Camp Store
0.2
0.3
Green River Bluffs Trail Picnic Area
1.3
2.1
Heritage Trail Mammoth Cave Hotel
0.5
0.8
Historic Entrance Trail Visitor Center
0.2
0.3
Mammoth Cave Railroad
Bike and Hike Trail –
Visitor Center Access Trail
Near Engine No. 4
0.2
0.4
Mammoth Cave
Campground Trail Park Amphitheater
0.2
0.3
Old Guides Trail Heritage Trail/ Historic Entrance
0.1
0.1
River Styx Spring Trail Historic Entrance
0.4
0.7
River Valley Trail Sinkhole Trail/ Echo River Springs Trail
0.3
0.5
Sinkhole Trail Heritage Trail/ Echo River Springs Trail
1.0
1.7
Sunset Point Trail Heritage Trail/Echo River Springs Trail
0.3
0.5
Whites Cave Trail Sinkhole Trail/ Mammoth Cave Campground Trail
0.6
1.0

Frontcountry Trails

Trail Starts at
Mi.
Km.
Cedar Sink Trail Cedar Sink Trailhead
1.0
1.6
Mammoth Cave Railroad
Bike and Hike Trail – North Hotel Parking
3.3
5.4
Mammoth Cave Railroad
Bike and Hike Trail – South South Park Entrance
5.1
8.2
Mammoth Cave Railroad
Bike and Hike Trail –
Furlong Cemetery Spur Spur entry point
0.2
0.4
Mammoth Cave Railroad
Bike and Hike Trail –
South Entry Spur South park entry sign
0.2
0.4
Sand Cave Trail Sand Cave Trailhead
0.1
0.2
Sloan’s Crossing Pond Walk Sloan’s Crossing Trailhead
0.4
0.6
Turnhole Bend Nature Trail Turnhole Bend Trailhead
0.5
0.9

Backcountry Trails
Trail Starts at Mi. Km.
Big Hollow Trail North Loop Big Hollow TH 5.3 8.6
Big Hollow Trail North Loop Shortcut Big Hollow Trail North Loop 0.1 0.2
Big Hollow Trail South Loop Big Hollow Trail North Loop Junction 3.7 6.0
Blair Springs Hollow Trail Collie Ridge Trail/ Wet Prong Trail 1.8 2.9
Bluffs Campsite Trail Sal Hollow Trail 0.6 1.0
Buffalo Creek Trail Maple Springs TH 4.4 7.0
Collie Ridge Trail Lincoln TH 3.8 6.2
Collie Ridge Campsite Trail Collie Ridge Trail 0.7 1.1
Dry Prong Trail Buffalo Creek Trail 2.4 3.9
Ferguson Campsite Trail Blair Springs Hollow Trail 0.5 0.9
First Creek Trail First Creek TH/Temple Hill TH 6.3 10.2
First Creek Campsite 1 Trail First Creek Trail 0.3 0.5
First Creek Campsite 2 Trail First Creek Trail 0.1 0.1
Homestead Campsite Trail Dry Prong Trail 0.3 0.4
Maple Springs Trail Maple Springs TH 1.0 1.6
Maple Springs Campground Trail Maple Springs Trail 0.2 0.3
McCoy Hollow Trail Temple Hill TH/ Wet Prong Trail 6.4 10.3
McCoy Hollow Campsite Trail McCoy Hollow Trail 0.1 0.2
Miles-Davis Cemetery Trail Sal Hollow Trail 0.4 0.6
Mill Branch Trail Maple Springs Trail/Collie Ridge Trail 3.0 4.7
Raymer Hollow Trail Mill Branch Trail/ Collie Ridge Trail 6.2 9.9
Raymer Hollow Campsite Trail Raymer Hollow Trail 0.1 0.2
Sal Hollow Trail Maple Springs TH 8.6 13.8
Sal Hollow Campsite Trail Sal Hollow Trail 0.1 0.2
Second Creek Campsite Trail First Creek Trail 0.2 0.3
Stables Trail Collie Ridge Trail 0.2 0.4
Three Springs Campsite Trail McCoy Hollow Trail 0.1 0.1
Turnhole Bend Trail Buffalo Creek Trail 1.8 2.9
Wet Prong Trail First Creek TH/ Collie Ridge Trail 4.6 7.4
White Oak Trail White Oak TH 2.5 4.0

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/maca/planyourvisit/trails.htm

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