EXPLORE HUMAN HISTORY AND MORE AT THE WORLD’S LONGEST CAVE IN KENTUCKY
By: Pro staff Nile
Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky is a trail that has been created by thousands of footprints over thousands of years. With rolling hills, river valleys, and with wonderful sights to behold, it’s no wonder why this heritage site has earned the title International Biosphere Reserve and after 75 years, continues to bring in two million tourists a year for special experiences.
The cave is home to thousands of years of human history and has a rich diversity of plant and animal life. Mammoth Cave, which is the longest cave in the world, is a limestone labyrinth with more than 400 miles of it explored, and the park estimates another 600 miles may be discovered.
The name doesn’t have anything to do with the woolly mammoth. The name was used long before the extensive cave system was more fully explored and mapped, to reveal a mammoth length of passageways.
According to their website, “The first human to enter Mammoth Cave passed under its imposing arch about 4,000 years ago.”
The curiosity of generations led the way to discoveries of minerals, and miners plumbed the rocky halls for nearly 2,000 years before the cave again fell quiet. The cave remained quiet and would not again echo the sound of human feet clattering the floor stones until the very end of the 18th century.
Once European settlers discovered Mammoth Cave, they began to tell each other stories that are both inspiring and strange depending on how they handled their underground adventures. Stories about the cave brought about curiosity, excitement, exploration, and exploitation.
For instance, the remains of cane torches used by Native Americans, along with other artifacts such as drawings and woven grass moccasin slippers are found in the Salts Cave section of the system in Flint Ridge. Therefore, there is undeniable proof of their existence and that they made use of the cave. On the other hand, there isn’t any evidence of further use past the archaic period. This means, both historians and scientist do not have an answer as to why this is or what their purpose was, making it one of the greatest mysteries of Mammoth Cave to this day.
Now, over 200 caves in the park exist and one may see the passageways through tours. Visitors can engage themselves with tours of the cave, ranger-led programs, hiking, camping, boating, horseback riding, and more productive nature activities.
Mammoth Cave National Park is also home to over 70 threatened, endangered, and state listed species.
“The Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 recognizes that many of their species across the United States have been lost and others are close to extinction. This act enables agencies to have the necessary means to aid these species in retaining their existence.”
Some of these species include birds, fish, insects, mammals, mussels, plants, and reptiles. An example of this would be one of the park’s most well-known, yet strange species, the Eyeless Cave Fish. This fish has adapted to the lightless environment by nature and evolution deciding, the fish no longer needs to grow eyes.
Mammoth Cave National Park also features about 1,500 flowering and plant-life species in its more than 500,000 acres, Mammoth Cave National Park supports more than 1,300 species in only one-tenth of that acreage.
So supports, go exploring, and plan your leave your mark at Mammoth Cave National Park.