Mammoth Cave: description, history and interesting facts
Unique natural masterpieces have always attracted people, and mysterious caves for many centuries were for them a reliable shelter from the weather and a place where various rites were performed. The miraculous speleological monuments possessing a special charm are full of mysteries, and every year an increasing number of tourists want to make exciting trips to the underworld to experience new sensations and see the fairy-tale world with their own eyes.
Where is the Mammoth Cave?
One of the most interesting non-human works is in Kentucky (USA), south of the city of Louisville, on the banks of the Green River. The cave stretching for several hundred kilometers, consisting of an extensive system of intricate corridors, deep holes and spacious halls on five tiers, is karst. Many millions of years ago, soft rocks were gradually washed by the watersin the limestone voids formed in the form of giant grottoes connected by several passes, and some of them broke off into natural wells. A lower level is unavailable for studying, where underground rivers flow and the halls are filled with water.
Lying in limestone layers under the Flint mountain range, the Mammoth Cave, which is more than 627 kilometers long, is the longest on our planet. However, every year cavers exploring underground grottoes map open new passages to the map.
Description of a natural masterpiece
Despite its name, the mysterious Mammoth Cave, formed over 10 million years ago as a result of karsting in a limestone layer, has nothing to do with extinct animals. Mammoth Cave got its name due to its gigantic size, since the word mammoth is translated not only as "mammoth", but also "giant." According to scientists, the Indians who lived in the Ohio Valley, have long been aware of the existence of underground labyrinths and first visited them more than four thousand years ago. They used dark grottoes to perform funeral rites, and this fact is testified by the findings discovered by scientists - burial grounds with well-preserved mummies and wall petroglyphs.
The Mammoth Cave, located in Kentucky, is always dry because it is protected from the water by a thick layer of sandstone that seals it like a lid. Visitors have a unique opportunity to stroll through the five levels of attractions, in which new passages, equipped for the convenience of tourists with lifts, are intentionally pierced. The dungeon corridors are so huge that a powerful river system was formed in it, and the groundwater found channels in the very base of the cave.
Mammoth Cave Discovery History
In 1797, hunters, the Gatchins brothers, pursuing a wounded beast, quite by chance find a mysterious manhole that led deep into the rock. Having returned with torches, they make their way along the underground corridor to the spacious hall, from which multiple branches-labyrinths begin. Afraid of getting lost, the inhabitants returned home, announcing unexpected findings: they found the mummy of a man crushed by a huge boulder near the entrance to the Mammoth Cave. The body and clothes of an Indian who died about two thousand years ago were in excellent condition.
Saltpeter production and tourism business
A year later, entrepreneurs engaged in the extraction of potassium nitrate, buy a cave and build a small plant for its production here. At that time, there was a war between the United States and Britain, and the American forces were in great need of gunpowder. And the thing is that saltpeter, which soared instantly in price, is its important component. Dozens of slaves worked around the clock in gloomy dungeons, but after the end of hostilities, the demand for potassium nitrate falls, and the owners close the plant forever and begin to organize tourist excursions to mysterious grottoes.
In 1838, the miraculous miracle of nature was acquired by the new owner, F. Gorin, who continued to do business. His slave S. Bishop, who has become a guide for visitors, explores the corridors and halls of the Mammoth Cave in North America and even gives names to many of them. Finding out that underground galleries are much longer than previously thought, he maps over 16 kilometers of underground passages, and this invaluable information has been used for many more years by other researchers. By the way, Bishop, who died a year after his freedom was granted, is buried in the complex.
Formation of a national park
By the end of the 19th century, the local landmark became known, and after the railroad was laid in these parts and the steamship traffic was opened, the flow of tourists increased several times. The authorities of Kentucky in the 20s of the last century bought all the land in the vicinity of a natural miracle from the last owner and evicted farmers through court who did not want to leave their homes.
1941 becomes the year of the formation of the national park called "Mammoth Cave" (Mammoth Cave National Park), which is visited by two million tourists a year. Soon UNESCO takes under the protection of the natural complex, and 27 years ago it was given the status of a biosphere reserve.
Now on its territory, occupying more than 21 hectares, free routes have been laid for tourists, where they can learn about the history of the park and have an interesting time. Studies of a unique work of nature do not cease to this day, and they are financed by both government agencies and private funds that protect the environment.
What hides the monument to the monastery?
The entrance to the Mammoth Cave is not visible at first sight: it is an inconspicuous iron door in the rock.Tourists descend a rather narrow staircase through a vertical shaft, after which they find themselves in a spacious hall and pass along a limestone corridor called Broadway. Reaching 15 kilometers in length, it resembles a mysterious tunnel with a semicircular arch that has many exits.
On a wide alley, visitors reach the small river Echo, cutting through the dungeon and bursting out. Previously, everyone could swim in a boat on an underground lake 10 meters deep, where any sound reflected from the walls changes to unrecognition. Next is the Concert Hall, where violinists often perform, and the Frozen Niagara Grotto will strike with frozen lime formations of bizarre shapes that excite the imagination of every visitor.
A new passage leads to a round church hall with a stepped floor, followed by a Gothic gallery about a kilometer long. It ends with the Star Grotto, which got its name because of small patches of shining quartz crystals on the arches of the cave. Having crossed Lake Summer, tourists disembark on the other side and pass the Great Avenue, where you can see an incredible amount of stalactites and stalagmites.
At the end of the excursion, everyone is waiting for the obligatory entertainment: the light suddenly turns off and the tourists stay in complete darkness in order to understand what the total darkness is. A tiny haze creates an unusual effect of the infinity of underground labyrinths. However, as time goes by, the tourists who re-earn the backlight are as happy as children.
Strict rules of conduct in the underworld
Near the information center, visitors gather with whom primary instruction is given and the rules of behavior in the cave are read out. One of the interesting points is the warning that any inscription made on the walls of dungeons is considered a federal crime. In addition, it is forbidden to take pictures with a flash, use a tripod and take anything out of the cave. The group must be accompanied by two rangers: one goes in front, including the light, and the other ensures that no one is behind.
After the end of the excursion and the exit from the Mammoth Cave, tourists treat the soles with a special tool that prevents deadly diseases for the bats living in the park.
Excursions for every taste
An extensive underground system is also a popular tourist attraction. It is easy to breathe here because the air is very dry, in addition, numerous mines provide powerful round-the-clock ventilation. Access is open all year round, but from the beginning of autumn to the end of winter the number of excursions is reduced. You cannot get inside the grottoes yourself so that you cannot explore them, so you need to book tours in advance.
Sightseeing tours offered by the Mammoth Cave Park lasts from one to six hours. There are a variety of routes, ranging from easy, designed for beginners to complex, requiring special training. There are also informative excursions, where visitors are introduced to how saltpeter was previously mined here.
You can also go on an exciting journey through the darkest corners of the dungeon, where tourists carry kerosene lamps to illuminate their way, and all extreme lovers are delighted with the route, in which visitors are allowed to independently master dusty, still unexplored passages.
Interesting facts about Mammoth caves
Numerous underground rooms are named after celebrities. So, here is the Washington Hall, the River Styx, the corridors of the Fatal Suffering and the Giant's Coffin, the Mouse Grotto.
At the request of environmentalists, boat trips were canceled a few years ago: they did not bring profits, but caused serious damage to river fauna.
To prevent visitors from spoiling the walls by cutting out words or drawings on them, the administration of the Mammoth Cave National Park created a special grotto where everyone can leave a small mention of themselves — the Record Hall.
Many directors who make films about speleologists asked permission from the administration to capture the beauty of underground labyrinths on film. And everyone got a hard rejection, because the spotlights would heat the air badly, thereby breaking the fragile microclimate.
Near the place where the Mammoth Cave is located, in the last century, cavers discovered other underground kingdoms, proving that they are closely connected with each other by intricate labyrinths.
At the beginning of the last century, concerts of jazz bands in the grottoes with excellent acoustics were especially popular, and memorable wedding ceremonies were held.
How to get, cost and hours of operation
Tourists, who are going to visit an unlicentiated monument, have a logical question: "How to get to the Mammoth Cave?" You can reach it by car, moving from the north along the highways 31W, 31E, I-65. The large city that is closest to the underworld is called Louisville, and on the border of the national park is a miniature Brownsville.
The cost of the trip is $ 5, and tours of the cave - 14. However, not all underground labyrinths will be able to look for tourists. So, in order to get into the “Frozen Niagara” hall, you will have to pay 13 dollars, and you can consider the flickering crystals of the Star Grotto for 14 dollars.
Lovers of long journeys choose the "Wild Cave Tour", the cost of which ($ 55) includes visits to all labyrinths on five tiers. There are good discounts for children and senior citizens.
Mammoth Cave National Park is open from 8.00 to 18.00 in the summer, and in the winter from 8.00 to 16.00 on all days except December 25. On its territory there is a restaurant offering delicious dishes of national cuisine, and a cozy hotel is waiting for everyone who wants to stay in order to feel the unusual atmosphere.