I was able to squeeze in a quick visit to Mammoth Cave National Park this past week. I haven’t been there since I did a school trip as a 4th grader—such a long time ago! I was in Bowling Green KY and wrapped up my appointments a little early. Mammoth Cave is an easy 25 minute drive from Bowling Green, so I zipped over to the Park and was able to just barely get on the last tour of the day — The Frozen Niagara Tour. Normally all tours have to be booked in advance, but fortunately for me only 3 folks had booked this tour today so there was plenty of room for me. The cave tour was great and I took so many pictures that I’ll save that for it’s own blog entry, so watch for that soon.
The entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park
After completing the tour, I went back into the Visitor’s Center to regain my bearings (and to get out of the rain). I have had the great fortune to have perfect cloudless blue skies during most of my National Park visits the past few years. Not so today, it varied from a light drizzle to heavy downpour the entire evening I was in the park.
Mammoth Cave National Park is only 56 acres in size. The 400 miles of caves are almost entirely under the 56 acre park, just layered “like a big bowl of noodles”. I had pictured that you could enter the cave and come out in West Virginia somewhere, which is not the case. In the Visitor Center is a small museum detailing the history and how the caves were created. Definitely worth a few minutes.
After leaving the Visitors Center, I walked about a half mile around the back and down a paved drive to the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave. This area is beautiful and there is a very strong cold breeze coming up out of the cave entrance. Once you enter the cave you see that they have a fence and door blocking further travels down the corridor. Nowadays all the tours come in through man made entrances and the Historic Entrance isn’t used at all.
The Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave
Peeking into the Historic Entrance
The gate and locked door to keep hooligans like me out of the cave
Looking back out of the Historic Entrance
This area by the Historic Entrance is also a trailhead for a variety of trails. Despite the rain, I walked/jogged through some or all of them as they were all pretty short. The best ones were the Dixon Cave Trail (.4 mi), the Sinkhole Trail (1.0 mi), and the Heritage Trail (.5 mi). I took a bunch of picture,s but my iPhone got so wet that it took about a day for the volume to start working again.
Train car exhibit at the end of the Mammoth Cave Railroad Trail
Much of the Heritage Trail is a raised boardwalk
Mist rising out of the forest at the overlook on the far end of the Hermitage Trail loop
Heading down the Sinkhole Trail
The Mammoth Dome Sink
The entrance to Dixon Cave. The sign says that Indiana Bats hibernate here.
The terrain above ground is heavily wooded and green with wildlife everywhere. I saw dozens of turkeys and at least 8 deer just in the area around the Visitors Center. One tidbit I picked up from the park ranger was that before this area became a National Park it was all pasture land. In the 1930’s during the New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps was sent to the newly minted Mammoth Cave National Park and they planted literally millions of trees changing the entire landscape. Also, at that time deer and turkey had been hunted to extinction in this area. In the 1970’s they were reintroduced and are now commonly seen in the Park.
Blurry turkey because I was jogging past
Weird deer stalking me in the woods
As it was now getting dark and I was completely soaked, I grabbed some clothes to change into and went to the Mammoth Cave Hotel for dinner. I looked pretty funny in my khakis/polo shirt/dress shoes soaked completely when I entered the Hotel I am sure. The lodge restaurant there was good, like most National Park lodge restaurants are. I relaxed with a cheese plate and glass of wine before heading back to Bowling Green to my hotel.
The Mammoth Cave Hotel architecture is definitely 1970’s era
Cool gift shop in the Mammoth Cave Hotel
Great way to end a fun evening at Mammoth Cave NP
All in all, it was a quick trip but I was glad I made the effort. I would like to come back and do some of the longer cave tours that I didn’t get to do on this trip. I hope you enjoyed my quick review and thanks for reading. rk