Friends Sponcered Annual Events

Walk in the Park
Sept. 27, 2014

Pedal for the Park
May 09, 2015
The Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park, works in cooperation with the National Park Service, to fund projects and programs that protect, preserve, and enhance the natural and cultural resources, and the visitor experience of Mammoth Cave National Park. We can only accomplish our goal with the support of individuals and organizations that care about Mammoth Cave and want to help ensure that its magic endures forever.
Superintendent's message:

Mammoth Cave is a special place, well protected as a national park, a World Heritage Site, and as the core area of an International Biosphere Reserve.  It is known around the world for its premiere karst landscape, biodiversity, and of course, the longest cave.

That’s the big picture, but how did each of these designations come to be?  Through people who had a passion for the park.  You could call them friends of the park.  People like you!

You can help protect and promote Mammoth Cave by becoming a Friend.

The Friends of Mammoth Cave:

•    add a margin of excellence to the park and increase the stewardship of the caves, forests, rivers, and rugged karst terrain of Mammoth Cave.
•    find and build new partnerships to fund a wide variety of park programs and research.  
•    get kids into the woods and into the cave by funding bus transportation to schools that could not afford a field trip without the Friends’ help.
•    provide a means to accept donations to further the park’s educational efforts and research.
•    recruit volunteers who donate their sweat-equity in the park’s resource protection projects.

We truly appreciate the work of our Friends.

Sarah Craighead

Here's the latest news
Lora Peppers returns to Mammoth Cave as Chief Ranger
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., September 24, 2014 – Lora Peppers already feels at home at Mammoth Cave National Park even though she assumed her new post as chief ranger only in May.  Why?  Peppers grew up in the hills and hollows of Edmonson County, and is pleased to be back home again.

“Lora’s first job was here at Mammoth Cave as a student aid working with the cave guides,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead, herself a native of the Mammoth Cave region.  “She quickly switched to law enforcement and moved up in the ranks as she transferred from park to park over the span of her career.  Now Lora has returned as the park’s top law enforcement officer, and to enjoy the landscapes and people she grew up with.”

Born in Tampa, Florida, Peppers’ family came to Edmonson County, Kentucky, when she was in second grade.  In 1985, she graduated from Edmonson County High School and started working at the park the same year.  She attended Western Kentucky University, working summers at Mammoth Cave, and earned a bachelor of science degree in park management (1990).

“At that time the Park Service offered a co-operative education program to college students, which led to full-time employment,” said Peppers.  “I already had a taste of law enforcement at Mammoth Cave thanks to a detail with that division.  My first permanent position was at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1990, and I received my federal law enforcement commission while I was there.”

After graduating (1991) from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., Peppers was stationed at Fort Matanzas, a unit of Castillo de San Marcos.  In 1992, she transferred to the Shark Valley district of Everglades National Park, and moved to the Flamingo District in 1994.

“My work at Flamingo as a backcountry ranger was fascinating,” said Peppers.  “I tracked manatees, monitored archaeological sites, and tagged crocodiles and alligators.  I found the first crocodile nest to be seen on East Cape Sable in 100 years.”

She left the Everglade swamps for Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1997, to deal with bears and Cades Cove crowds.  In 1999, Peppers transferred to Shenandoah National Park as a patrol ranger, took a one-year detail as an investigator, and accepted the post of Central-district ranger in 2001.

As the chief ranger at Mammoth Cave, Peppers oversees all law enforcement, emergency services and response, and search and rescue.

“Out of all the responsibilities that fall within the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Division, the one I am most passionate about is resource protection,” said Peppers.  “The resources – that is, the caves, river, and forest habitats – are what attract visitors to Mammoth Cave.  To damage or take from that resource diminishes a visitor’s experience, as well as their appreciation for the park and surrounding area.”

While at Shenandoah National Park, Peppers married Greg Roth, who is now a retired ranger.  They have two golden retrievers, Deuce and Cooper.  When not on the job, Peppers enjoys traveling and quilting.

“It’s great to be back home,” said Peppers.  “I feel like I have a built-in support system.  I look forward to making new acquaintances and renewing old friendships.”

Photo credit:  NPS photo
Caption:  As chief ranger at Mammoth Cave National Park, Lora Peppers manages the division of Law Enforcement and Emergency Services.

TNC meets and works at Mammoth Cave National Park
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., July 29, 2014 – Staff members of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Kentucky Chapter visited Mammoth Cave National Park last weekend to view the work TNC has accomplished within the park, and as an orientation for the group’s new state director, David Phemister.  Also attending were six high school students from Atlanta, Ga., interning with TNC through its Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future, or LEAF.

“Mammoth Cave National Park has a long, productive relationship with The Nature Conservancy,” said Acting Superintendent Lizzie Watts.  “TNC staff, interns and volunteers have assisted the park with prescribed fires, in controlling invasive plants, and in improving mussel habitat in Green River through the Sustainable Rivers Program.”

Park Ecologist Rick Olson led the group on a special cave trip through the Violet City Lantern Tour route, to the Dead Sea, up through Mammoth Dome, and out the Historic Entrance, about 3.5 miles underground.

“It was a pleasure to introduce Mr. Phemister, his staff, and the LEAF interns to a few of Mammoth Cave’s passageways,” said Olson.  “We looked at 2,000-year-old gourd bowls left by the prehistoric miners and discussed the power of water and time in forming the world’s longest cave.  Mammoth Cave is one of those places that you have to see to believe.”

On July 21, 2014, Phemister was named TNC’s State Director of the Kentucky Chapter. Phemister oversees the strategic direction and management of the Kentucky Chapter’s eleven-person staff, system of 36 nature preserves totaling 7,665 acres and array of conservation projects taking place around the state.

“Our LEAF interns have primarily been working on urban conservation in Louisville,” said Gerry James, TNC-Kentucky’s Donor & Community Outreach Coordinator.  “But we wanted them to get a well-rounded ‘#ExploreKentucky’ experience, so they have also worked at the  Sally Brown Preserve in Garrand County, and visited Shaker Village, Campbellsville University, and now Mammoth Cave National Park.”

This week, TNC staff will be back at Mammoth Cave to remove invasive plants from the park barrens, near Park City.  “This is a reclaimed prairie,” said Olson.  “About 70 acres along the parkway were covered with cedar and brushes.  The 50-year-old seed bank seemed intact, and it appeared that the seeds were still viable, but just needed sun to grow.  We removed the trees and shrubs and the prairie plants returned.  Unfortunately, undesirable came up, too, like stilt grass, perilla, and lespedeza.”  The TNC crew and Olson will spray invasive plants that crowd out native species.  The application is done in a very targeted manner to avoid damage to native plants and wildlife.

Tourism to Mammoth Cave NP creates $40 million in Economic Benefit
Friday, July 18, 2014

Report shows visitor spending supports 567 jobs in local economy

MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., July 18, 2014 – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 494,541 visitors to Mammoth Cave National Park in 2013 spent $40 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 567 jobs in the local area.

“At Mammoth Cave, we welcome visitors from every state and from around the world,” said Acting Superintendent Lizzie Watts.  “It is an honor to share stories of Mammoth Cave’s history and scientific research, and help people experience the cave, the rivers, and the beautiful karst landscape of the park.  Mammoth Cave National Park draws thousands of people to south central Kentucky, benefiting local communities and businesses.  Many people make return visits.”

Mammoth Cave is one of 401 areas managed by the NPS across the country.  National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning an average of $10 for every $1 invested in the NPS.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and  Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service.  The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, most visitor-spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent).

The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

To download the report visit

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about national park areas in Kentucky and how the National Park Service works with Kentucky communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to

Eagle Scout installs horse rest-area on Collie Ridge Trail
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., July 9, 2014 – Thanks to Eagle Scout Michael Kern, Mammoth Cave National Park has a new horse trailside rest-area along Collie Ridge Trail, deep in the park’s backcountry. Kern planned and constructed 10 hitching posts to earn his Eagle Scout designation.

“Each year, more than 10,000 visitors enjoy the park by horseback,” said Lizzie Watts, Acting Superintendent. “Now, many of them will use this spot to rest during their ride. Kern did an excellent job in determining the work to be done and organizing volunteers from his troop. The site is adjacent to the trail, convenient for riders, and will wear well. We truly appreciate his work.”

Kern is presently a member of Troop #710 from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and started out as a Tiger Cub in 2004. Twelve scouts and six adults contributed a total of 184 hours to the project. The project consisted of clearing the site of downed trees, stumps and brush; digging holes; cutting and drilling the hitching posts; and setting the posts in concrete in the ground. The entire area, about 240 square feet, was then covered with geo-fabric and hardened with eight tons of gravel – moved with shovels and wheelbarrows.

With funding from a National Park Foundation Active Trails Grant, the park purchased supplies for Kern’s project. “The National Park Foundation has been a great friend and supporter of Mammoth Cave in the past,” added Watts. “This grant has helped us promote healthy outdoor recreation and proper use and care of our trails so they will be in good condition for years to come.”

“I chose to install hitching posts as my Eagle Scout project based on my previous volunteer work at Mammoth Cave, where I saw the damage that horses can cause if they are tied to trees,” said Kern. “The park provided some rest stops for horses, but I could see that more were needed. This project gave me a chance to directly help the environment and the backcountry horsemen. I knew it would stand for quite some time as a testament to what scouts and the National Park Service can create together.”

Photo caption: In June, Marsha Stewart, Eagle Scout Michael Kern, Acting Supt. Russ Runge, and Brenda Cecil, president of the Mammoth Cave Horsemen, posed for a picture at the hitching post rest area that Kern installed along Collie Ridge Trail.

Trail enthusiasts celebrate Big Hollow Trail
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., June 10, 2014 – About 80 people gathered at Maple Springs Trailhead on Saturday, June 7, National Trails Day, to celebrate the Big Hollow Trail, a new 8-mile trail constructed in Mammoth Cave National Park for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers.

“With Big Hollow Trail, we add a new way for visitors to experience the park,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead.  “Trails are good for the park, and good for the visitor.  Trails exercise your heart, mind, body, and soul.  Trail use promotes healthy living – it re-creates, refreshes and revives.  Last year, about 32,000 people used Mammoth Cave’s trails via bikes, on foot, or on horseback.”

Mammoth Cave NP has more than 90 miles of trails in the park.  Hikers can use all 90 miles, plus go off-trail.  There are 60 miles for horses and riders, and 25 miles of trails are designated for bikes.

The development of Big Hollow Trail was an action item listed in the park’s Comprehensive Trail Management Plan, and parallels the 2010 National Park Service agreement with the International Mountain Bike Association to increase biking opportunities in parks and increase volunteerism.

“Big Hollow’s purpose, design and maintenance are models for all national parks and public lands,” said Craighead.

•           The purpose of Big Hollow Trail is two-fold – it initiates a new way to use the park that is compatible with protecting its resources; and it is a trail where hikers, runners, and bikers can share a common space.

•           The trail design is sustainable, meaning it is easy on the landscape and will be easy to maintain.

•           The maintenance – the users of the trail will maintain it.  Members of the Southwest Kentucky Mountain Biker Association have signed a partner agreement with the park, making them the stewards of Big Hollow Trail.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Nick Daniels, Sierra Club; Chip Winger, Southwest Kentucky Mountain Bike Association;  Andy Williamson, International Mountain Bike Association; and Russ Runge, Acting Superintendent at Mammoth Cave NP (Runge is sitting in for Craighead while she is on assignment in the Southeast Regional Office of the National Park Service in Atlanta).

Runge noted that urban forestry students from Great Onyx Job Corps also played an important role in creating Big Hollow Trail.  “Last year, Great Onyx students cleared more than 100 dead or hazardous trees from the route of the trail, to make way for the contractor to begin his work,” said Runge.

In addition to those speaking, Runge invited several park partners and trail enthusiasts to help cut a ribbon on the trail.  The complete list of the ribbon-cutters (corresponding to the photo):

Daniel Crow, Acting Center Director, Great Onyx Job Corps Center
Michael Moore, Lightsey Corporation, on-site project manager
Richard Lightsey, Lightsey Corporation
Russell Runge, Acting Superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park
Johnny Johnson, Bowling Green League of Bicyclists
Chip Winger, Southwest Kentucky Mountain Bike Association
Ed Sutton, Trail Dynamics (constructed Big Hollow Trail)
Nick Daniels, Sierra Club
Brenda Cecil, Mammoth Cave Backcountry Horsemen
Andy Williamson, International Mountain Bike Association
Edith Conyers, Kentucky Backcountry Horsemen
Sarah Craighead, Superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park
Gayle Giesecke, Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park
Henry Holman, Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park
P.J. Pethalsky, Bowling Green Road Runners

Mammoth Cave NP begins public scoping for cave management plan
Monday, June 02, 2014
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., June 2, 2014 – Mammoth Cave National Park Acting Superintendent Russell Runge announced planning has begun for development of a cave management plan for the park.  The park is now seeking public comment regarding the scope of the plan, June 2 through July, 31, 2014.

“This plan will address how we manage the park caves,” said Runge.  “Research projects, construction and maintenance of tour trails, cave wildlife, and water quality are a few of the items that park staff have asked to be included in the scope of the plan.  Now we are asking cave constituents and the public in general to give us their ideas.”

As planning begins, park staff will compile a list of items and actions that need to be considered in the planning process; the list will comprise the scope of the plan.

“Comments from the public will help shape the cave management plan’s development,” said Runge.

In order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, environmental documentation (an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement) will be completed.

The public scoping period will be open June 2 through July 31, 2014.  The public may provide written comments about the scope of the project online at the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website at, or by letter to Mammoth Cave National Park, Attn: Ranger Larry Johnson, P.O. Box 7, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259.

Comments are typically treated as public record and made available for public review.  Individuals may request that the National Park Service withhold their name and address from disclosure.  Such requests will be honored to the extent allowable by law.

Friday, April 04, 2014

MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., April 3, 2014    Its time to work on First Creek Trail, said Russell Runge, Acting Superintendent at Mammoth Cave National Park, following a planning meeting.  As a result, 1.5 miles of First Creek Trail, from Temple Hill Trailhead to the bridge near First Creek Lake, will be closed for the next six weeks while an American Conservation Experience work crew repairs and rebuilds the trail.
Click title to read the east of the story

Raymer Hollow Trail reroute complete
Monday, March 24, 2014
(MAMMOTH CAVE, March 24, 2014)  Seventeen American Hiking Society volunteers and a crew of Great Onyx Job Corps urban forestry students worked in Mammoth Cave National Park last week to reroute a mired section of Raymer Hollow Trail.  The work is complete and the trail is open again.
“We really appreciate the volunteers and the Job Corps students,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead.  “The park did not have the manpower to do the work, and it would have been months before we could reopen Raymer Hollow Trail, had it not been for the American Hiking Society and the Great Onyx students.”
The American Hiking Society volunteers came to Mammoth Cave from across the country and donated 510 hours of their time to lop limbs, cut small trees by hand, dig and rake, grub roots, and drag tree limbs.  Each day they walked one mile into the work site, and one mile out.
Nine Great Onyx students, under the direction of their instructor John Pitonyak, cut and cleared 17 large, downed trees along a two-mile section of the trail.

Mammoth Cave National Park releases Finding of No Significant Impact for its EA on Improvements to Concession Facilities
Friday, March 21, 2014
(MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky. – March 21, 2014) Superintendent Sarah Craighead announced today the next step toward completing the Mammoth Cave National Park Improvements to Concession Facilities environmental assessment: a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Preferred Alternative has been signed by NPS Regional Director Stan Austin and is now posted online.

“We carefully reviewed the comments received from the public,” said Craighead.  “Overall, people were interested in some kind of change to the facility.  Unfortunately, our budget is limited and we will do what we can.  In the end, the practical solution is still Alternative B, which we presented as the preferred alternative in the environmental assessment.”

The environmental assessment examined two alternatives in detail, addressed the environmental impacts of each alternative, and identified a preferred alternative. The FONSI explains why the Selected Alternative (Alternative B) will have no significant effects on the human environment. It is based on the environmental assessment and the comments received from the public, agencies, and staff during the public review period, which concluded December 28, 2013. The FONSI summarizes the public comments received, lists the responses to those comments, and identifies the changes to the text as a result of the public and agency comments.

The FONSI for the Preferred Alternative is posted on NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website (  Hard copies are available for viewing at the park visitor center and the superintendent’s office.

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Working Together for a Better Park
Photos courtesy the U.S. National Park Service
Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park