Ensuring the Wonder of Mammoth Cave Endures
Hundreds of feet below the hills and hollows of south central Kentucky, lies the longest cave system known to mankind – the Mammoth Cave System. With more than 400 miles explored and new passageways being discovered every year, Mammoth Cave National Park’s caves are unlike anywhere else on earth – a fact that has earned the park a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the core area of an International Biosphere Reserve.
Established in 1941, Mammoth Cave National Park covers 52,830 acres both above and underground. Limestone strata capped by a layer of sandstone make the cave incredibly stable and allow for underground tours and cave exploration. Some of the more notable features of the cave include Grand Avenue, Frozen Niagara, and Fat Man’s Misery.
Ironically, no fossils or remains of the woolly mammoth have ever been found inside the cave system and the name refers to the large width and length of its passages. Not only does the park contain hundreds of underground passageways, but there are numerous hiking trails winding though the sloping hills and forests of the national park.
Mammoth Cave National Park is visited by thousands of people each year. Visitors come from all over the country, and world, to tour the underground passageways. Managing the volume of visitors is no easy feat, so the Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park was established as the official nonprofit partner of the park to fund projects and programs that protect, preserve, and enhance the park’s resources and the visitor experience.
The Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park offer many wonderful opportunities for guests to visit and experience the wonder of the park. The group’s involvement with the Ticket to Ride program, which brings school groups to the site, is a shining example of how they create ways for youth to enjoy the park. So far this year, the Friends have committed to helping over 1,700 children from almost 30 schools make the trip to participate in environmental education programs, citizen science collaborations, and school-produced film projects.
To celebrate National Public Lands Day in 2016, the Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park hosted the second annual Mammoth-on, a cave-hike-bike triathlon. Forty participants entered the cave as a group, then hiked at their own pace on a woodland trail and biked on the rail-trail, up to 22 miles total.
The Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park are working closely with the National Park Service to develop an interactive kiosk on a large touch-screen monitor in the visitor center. Features will include an interactive map with downloadable links for self-guided hikes, links to the history and culture of the park, and links to natural resources found above and underground. This touch-screen monitor will enable visitors of all backgrounds to dive deeper into the rich history, biology, and ecosystems found inside Mammoth Cave National Park.