Copyright 2008 by Dale Cox
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Mammoth Cave National Park - Kentucky
ExploreSouthernHistory.com
Mammoth Cave National Park
The "Historic Entrance" at Mammoth Cave is one of
the South's most awe-inspiring sights.
(National Park Service Photo)
Mammoth Cave - Kentucky "Down Under"
The world's longest known cave system, Mammoth Cave is one of
the true natural wonders of the world. Longer than the second and
third longest known caves combined (with 100 miles to spare!), this
National Park in Kentucky is an amazing Southern treasure.

It is believed that Native Americans discovered and entered
Mammoth Cave some 4,000 years ago out of curiosity and in search
of minerals and raw materials. They continued to use the cave for at
least 2,000 years and archaeologists have found many signs of their
presence deep underground in the park.

The early Native Americans were followed by Kentucky pioneers and
settlers who "discovered" the cave soon after coming over the
mountains to settle in the "dark and bloody land." By 1816, those
who had explored and knew the cave best began providing guided
tours to others. One of the South's first great tourist attractions,
Mammoth Cave was a popular destination long before the Civil War.

In fact, the cave system figures prominently in the black history of
America. Many of the earliest tour guides at Mammoth Cave were
slaves who lived and worked in the area. One of these men,
Stephen Bishop, is now widely recognized as one of the greatest
explorers in Mammoth Cave history. He first entered the cave in
1838 and soon discovered many areas that no other human being
had ever seen. Many of the modern names applied to the unusual
formations in the cave were originated by Bishop, who gained his
freedom from slavery in 1856, but sadly died the next year. He is
buried at the "Old Guide's Cemetery" in the National Park. To learn
more about Stephen Bishop and the other African American
explorers who helped make Mammoth Cave one of the world's most
famous attractions, please
follow this link.

The caves, of course, are much older than their human history.
Declared an International Biosphere Reserve in 1990, they were
formed over many, many centuries by the combination of water and
Kentucky's karst topography. Water running through the limestone
slowly carved the fascinating chambers and passages and carried
the minerals that created Mammoth Cave's unique and beautiful
formations. Today the caves have been explored to a length of 360
miles, but all experts agree that hundreds of additional miles remain
to be mapped. Some believe that Mammoth Cave may ultimately
prove to contain more than 1,000 miles of underground rooms and
passages.

In addition to the remarkable cave system for which it is named,
Mammoth Cave National park also preserves a beautiful and
pristine above ground ecosytem. The cool, clear Green River flows
through the park, that also offers picnic areas, spectacular scenery,
miles of hiking trails and more.

Mammoth Cave National Park is located off Interstate 65 in
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, an easy drive from Louisville, Frankfurt,
Lexington and Bowling Green, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee.
The Drapery Room at Mammoth Cave
Beautiful and unique formations fill the ceiling and
walls of the "Drapery Room" at Mammoth Cave.
(National Park Service Photo)
"Broadway" at Mammoth Cave
One of the main entrance chambers, "Broadway"
helps explain how Mammoth Cave was named.
(National Park Service Photo)
"...Where cool water flows, ya'll..."
The Green River flows through Mammoth Cave
National Park in Kentucky.
(National Park Service Photo)