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Mammoth Cave National Park (5)  


Introduction

History

Cave Entrance

Cave Trails

Cave Passages

Speleothems

Above Ground

Trails

Green River

Animals

Buildings

References


Above Ground

Mammoth Cave National Park is rightfully known for its extensive cave system, the longest in the world. And it is primarily for that reason that this slice of Kentucky has been set aside as a national park. However, a side benefit of this conservation effort is that quite a bit of land above and around the caves has been saved as well, and the beauty of this area is easy to appreciate for park visitors.

Not far from the main visitor area in the park is the lovely Sloan's Crossing Pond. This area features a trail around the pond as well as a picnic area for visitors.



The land in Mammoth Cave National Park is comprised of a series of ridges separated by valleys. The most well known ridge is Mammoth Cave Ridge, under which the Mammoth Cave system is found. The valley to the southwest of this ridge is the Doyel Valley, shown below.

Below is a view of the forest and valley from Sunset Point. This overlook is located on the Heritage Trail which runs above the Green River near the Visitor Center and Park Headquarters.

Most of the forest currently in the park is second-growth forest, the result of logging of white oak and other trees, but about 300 acres of the old growth forest which once covered most of Kentucky remains in the park. The woods in the park contain oak, shagbark, hickory, persimmon, sassafras, yellow poplar, loblolly pine, and eastern red cedar.

There is some regrowth in areas which were once used to grow crops such as corn and tobacco and animals including cattle and pigs.

Another overlook is shown in the photograph below.

One area worth visiting is Echo Spring, pictured below. This spring contains water which is actually coming out of the cave and flowing from the Echo Spring River a short ways into Green River.

Trails

The Heritage Trail is a short (0.3 mile) trail in the vicinity of the Visitor Center, hotel, and Historical Entrance to the cave. Portions of this trail have been used by visitors walking to the cave entrance since 1817. The trails is accessible to a people with a wide variety of capabilities.

This short trail leads to the entrance to Sand Cave. Sand Cave is probably most famous as the place where veteran cave explorer Floyd Collins in 1925 was pinned by a rock and trapped in the cave, eventually perishing despite a large and well-publicized rescue operation. This sad episode s credited with focusing a great deal of national attention to Mammoth Caves.

The entrance to Sand Cave can be found at the end of Sand Cave trail. The actual entrance to the cave, which is guarded by a gate, can be found at the left side of the sandstone cave. Sand Cave has been visited by humans for a long time, and the walls an ceiling of the cave are covered by soot from the torches of prehistoric visitors some 3000 years ago.

Many trails in Mammoth Cave National Park are relatively flat and easy to hike, as can be seen in this section of trail near the Green River.

The Green River Bluffs Trail, approximately 1.1 miles in length, runs alongside the Green River on the south bank. It provides some excellent views of the Green River Valley.

This trail leads to the River Styx through the Kentucky forest.



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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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