Our country has beautiful lands and amazing creations made by Mother Nature alone. One such creation is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, which has a very interesting, yet not widely promoted history. This monstrous cave system is like stepping into another world, and well worth a visit if you haven’t been there.
14. Mapping the labyrinth
The majority of the mapping at Mammoth Cave was done by slaves, including freed slave Stephen Bishop. He took the name of his previous master and continued working in the caves mapping out the passages. He and several other family members are buried near the cave entrance in the Old Guide’s Cemetery.
13. Old Guide’s Cemetery
The onsite cemetery holds not only the remains of the first guides to map Mammoth Cave, but also those of several Tuberculosis patients that passed there. For a short time, TB patients were housed in the caves in hopes that the environment would help to heal their lungs in the early 19th-century.
The most famous deaths in Mammoth Cave are that of the ancient Native mummies, and Floyd Collins from 1925. Floyd became trapped while mapping out and exploring a previously unexplored area. Several TB patients and slaves also passed away inside Mammoth Cave. The exact number of deaths is unknown, but Mammoth Cave is also considered one of the largest haunts in the world. Many have claimed to sense spirits and unexplained orbs show up in pictures frequently.
11. Ancient history
The cave system has been used for more than 4,000 years ago by the original occupants of Kentucky. The area was primarily used as a shelter during harsh weather while hunting. Mummified and skeletal remains have been found in different areas during exploration, along with pottery, primitive tools and other remnants of the past. The evidence collected over the decades leads explorers to believe the Natives only went about 20 miles into the caves. The image shown is a 2,100-year-old pictograph.
10. Longest cave system in the world
There are more than 400 miles of interlinking caves running under Kentucky, and that is just what has been “officially” mapped. The total depth is still unknown.
The formations are incredible and vary in size, color and size. The Drapery Room looks like pleated drapes in a pale limestone. The Snowball Room has the appearance of hundreds of snowballs, varying in size. Frozen Niagara looks like a waterfall, frozen in time. These are just a few of the unique formation waiting to be seen at Mammoth Cave. Each area seems to be a doorway into another new world of shapes, colors, sizes and creatures.
It is believed that public tourism started at Mammoth Cave in 1816. Slaves began leading those tours in 1830. Travelers would examine the inside of the cave with oil lamps and simple torches. Sometimes they used these torches to “smoke” their names into the limestone as shown in the image. These names were smoked into the stone back in the 1800s.
7. We're number 2!
Mammoth Cave is officially recognized as the second largest tourist attraction in the U.S., only falling short of the famed Niagara Falls. During peak seasons, more than 4,000 people visit and tour the caves daily.
6. International Biosphere Reserve
In 1990, this mysterious underground world was recognized as a natural site to be preserved forever. This decision will allow visitors from around the world to experience nature’s magical underground labyrinth.
5. Old Saltpeter mine site
The cave was useful to Europeans for more than shelter. Slaves were used to mine saltpeter from the sediment in the cave during the war of 1812. The saltpeter was used to create gunpowder to aid in the war efforts.
4. Unique species
The cave system is home to more than 12 unusual species, such as the rare Albino Shrimp, Kentucky Eyeless Cave Shrimp, Southern Cave Fish, and Indiana Eyeless Crayfish. There are also a variety of bats such as the Indiana Bat and the Eastern Pipistrelle Bat. The Kentucky Cave Shrimp, Indiana Bat and Gray Bat are all listed as endangered and limited numbers survive in the caves.
There are a variety of different tours available, all varying in sites, length and exertion. They range from 2 -6 hours in length, all offering an incredibly memorable experience. A few of the more popular tours are Frozen Niagara, Fat Man’s Misery and the Grand Avenue.
2. World Heritage Site
In 1981 Mammoth Cave was dubbed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, recognizing the labyrinth as a unique type of cave system incomparable to any other caves in the world. The closest comparisons are the Sistema Sac Actunand and Sistema Ox Bel Ha, both located in Mexico. However, both systems combined still do not come close to Mammoth Cave’s length.
1. One of the 7 Natural Wonders of the United States
According to SevenWonders.org and other sources, Mammoth Cave is listed as one of the natural wonders along with Crater Lake, Niagara Falls, Hawaii Volcano Natural Park, Devil’s Tower, Old Faithful and Death Valley.
Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is a magical place to experience, filled with mystery, otherworldly formations and history. What do you find most amazing about Mammoth Cave? Is there another unique site you’d like to learn more about?