Park News 1

Subterranean Adventures

By Hope S. Philbrick

“Caves are like snowflakes,” says Dave Foster, geologist and executive director of Hidden River Cave and the American Cave Museum. “No two are alike. You need to see them all. They’re all different”

Indeed, after a week touring seven of the underground attractions Kentucky has to offer along Interstate 65-Kentucky Cave Country stretches from Bowling Green to Louisville, if driving north-it’s clear that a whole other world lurks beneath the bourbon distilleries, thoroughbred farms, quilt barns and museums, Lincoln historic sites and rolling fields of bluegrass that you may already think define the state.

Until you see what’s under Kentucky, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Timid? Fear not: In Kentucky’s caves there’s little chance of an avalanche or sinkhole. “The risk is considerably lower than getting struck by lightning,” says Foster. “These caves are formed naturally over a long period of time and are stable.” Temperatures are also consistent at a comfortable 56 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

Make the trip as adventurous as you dare: Crawl through crevices spelunking, stand upright in vast caverns, stroll along well-illuminated boardwalks, float in an underground river, rappel into the mouth of a cave or zip-line over it, take a guided historical tour, and even dance at the site of a former hidden nightclub.

Just be prepared to blink at the sunlight when you emerge.

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Free Mammoth Passage cave tours dates

(MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., January 13, 2014)  Circle the dates on the calendar and plan your trip  Americas 401 national parks will offer free admission on nine days in 2014, including several holidays!  Mammoth Cave National Park will provide free Mammoth Passage tours on Monday, January 20, 2014.

You are invited to come out and enjoy the day, said Superintendent Sarah Craighead.  We offer free Mammoth Passage tours to say thank you to our friends and neighbors, and as a way to introduce newcomers to the worlds longest cave.  Please join us!

The 2014 fee-free days are:
·       April 19-20: National Park Weeks opening weekend
·       August 25: National Park Services 98th birthday
·       September 27: National Public Lands Day
·       November 11: Veterans Day

On January 20, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the park will provide free guided Mammoth Passage tours.  Each tour is limited to 40 people; visitors must pick up their free tickets at the visitor center prior to departure times.  Mammoth Passage tours will depart from the visitor center at 10:00, 11:00, 1:00, 2:30, and 3:00.

Mammoth Passage is a ¾-mile, 1¼ hour cave tour, and requires a walk down and up the hill below the visitor center, as well as 68 steps at the Historic Entrance.

Note:  tour requirements regarding white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats:
While there are no known harmful effects to humans, WNS is responsible for the deaths of millions of hibernating bats across the eastern United States since its discovery in 2006.  WNS was found in outlying caves and passageways Mammoth Cave in winter 2012-13, but has not yet been found in the toured sections.  Park staff are taking precautions to minimize the spread of WNS fungus in and from Mammoth Cave.  When going on a Mammoth Cave tour, do not wear clothing or shoes that have been worn in other caves or mines.  All participants on cave tours must walk across bio-security mats to clean footwear immediately following the conclusion of their tour. 

Americas national parks welcome more than 280 million visitors a year, said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.  With more than 84 million acres of spectacular scenery, 17,000 miles of trails, 5,000 miles of shoreline, 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures, and 100 million museum items and an infinite number of authentic American stories to tell, national parks offer something for every taste.

National parks not only protect and preserve the places we most value, they also add enormous economic value to nearby communities and the entire nation.  Visitor spending represents a $30 billion annual benefit to the national economy and supports more than 250,000 jobs, said Jarvis.

In 2012, Mammoth Cave National Parks 508,000 annual visitors spent $33 million in the park and the surrounding area; visitor spending supports 508 jobs.

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