Category Archives: Caves

Road Ends in Water

Green River Ferry caution sign

A sign reading “Road Ends in Water” might alarm the unwary driver, but we drove the Green River Ferry Road for that very reason. Two rural ferries operate within Mammoth Cave National Park, and we were intrigued enough to seek out at least one of the river crossings.Ferry ride

Mammoth Cave National Park Map and Visitor Information

We drove down a hill and edged up to a stop sign to wait our turn, watching river water spray sideways as the unusual ferry boat glided nonchalantly across the few yards of river splitting the road. It appeared as a sliver of asphalt, flanked by a Porta John and an operator’s booth. As it putttered toward us, it gave physicality to the Irish Blessing: “May the road rise to meet you...”

Ferry crossingWe drove aboard with no notions of u-turns, and one additional car squeezed in behind us. There was just enough time to snap a couple of photos before the safety arm lifted, releasing us to explore the other side of the Green River. We honked a “thank you” as we drove off. The ferry captain tooted his horn in reply, loaded up with his next vehicle and began his return journey, bearing and sharing the essential missing piece of road.

Mammoth Cave National Park Map and Visitor Information

The largest cave system in the world; 367 miles so far…!

Miles of trails both above and below ground.

Hiking, biking, kayak/canoe, horseback riding, hunting/fishing, camping…

“Yes” for pets (not in Cave; kennel available within park)

 

Park Fees: None for park entry. Cave tours range from $5 – $48.00 with discounts for youth and senior citizens.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 7; Mammoth Cave, KY 42259

Phone: 270-758-2180

Directions: Travel south on I-65 from Louisville, KY. Take Mammoth Cave/Cave City exit 53 and follow the signs to Mammoth Cave NP.

Park Website

View Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky in a larger map


Updated from March 31, 2009


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Crawling through Caves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An In-Town Tourist Feature:
…because Adventure begins in the heart and Travel starts at the end of your own driveway.


Just beyond the berm of the heavily traveled Riverside Drive that crawls alongside Dublin, Ohio, and behind a thick curtain of summer greenery, lies a quieted stream. So still that it often lies dry and bare, exposing secrets only to those who care to wander its rubbled path.

While surfing down the side of a ravine on loose dirt and rocks I was more focused on avoiding poison ivy and spider webs. Not that I really had the luxury of doing much more than note their presence as I did a steady slide toward my destination. But once I’d reached the relative stability of the stream bed -and when the clattering of our own descents had faded, the stillness was startling. Cars sped by just above and beyond our vision, but the tall trees and rock face acted as natural buffers against the road sounds. It was as if we’d slipped through a protective wall into the silent interior of a bubble.

When the range of color is narrow, textures and patterns grow more obvious. The swirled holes of watery erosion, the random splatters of moisture and leaves, the moss-haired face peering from a wall of rock, the splintered, decomposing wood of a stump…

We trekked the stream bed, ostensibly looking for fossils, but I found myself equally captivated by the shale walls that formed our corridor. Just ahead was the first cave, a narrow tunnel opening into a rock-walled room with no view but its own entrance/exit.

I confess to a slightly claustrophobic tingling as I crawled beneath dangling webs and through the encroaching neck of solid rock. It reminded me of a free dive I did, years ago, through a coral tunnel in the Caribbean. No wiggle room available for the hesitant.

But the best was still ahead, up steep waterless waterfalls and across an unsteady bed of rocks that kept me alert to my wobbly (surgically enhanced) right ankle. Along the way to “The Well”, my friend pointed out an embedded snail shell fossil and found, as well, a loose snail fossil, a tooth (raccoon or groundhog), a bit of rib bone, and some coral.

“The Well” required another steep climb up to go down, down, down…

One can barely see the tree harbored cavity from the stream bed below. But along the edge of an incline the hole goes deep, dark, and damp. An emptied natural well bent by the whim of the water it once contained.

Lacking flashlights we stayed within view of our exit daylight. Better to take a chance on a lottery ticket than in an unlit cave…

 

 

Updated from August 28, 2007

 

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Rivers Above and Rivers Below

River Styx stream to Green River

April 2009: The weather forecast called for rain. Lots of it.  And we drove through five hours of a steady downpour to get to our drenched destination! Not the ideal start for a spring break get-away, maybe, but when you’re headed underground anyway, weather becomes an irrelevant and incidental detail.

Redbud

Each time we ventured underground at Mammoth Cave National Park, we knew exactly what to expect: Slightly damp and 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Above ground, we never knew. Our first afternoon we started hiking the River Bluff trail in a drizzle. By the time we gained view of the Green River though, the rain had slowed to occasional drips that added a pleasing glisten to the striking colors of the woods.

Moss and lichen

“Green” varied from almost white lichen to springy yellow-green moss to edgy shades tinged with black.

tree on rock

Stone and tree accentuated one another with contrasting grays and browns, and a spread of fall leaves framed insistent spring flowers.

View of Green River from Bluffs

We found ourselves adding one more trail, and then another, until we’d covered most of the terrain surrounding the Visitor Center area. Highlights included misted views of the meandering Green River and of a one time steamboat landing that had delivered visitors to Mammoth Cave in the early 1900’s.

River Styx cave exit

We also found hints of the grandeur below: The icy blue green waters of the subterranean River Styx that spilled free of the cave into a nestled pool before flowing on to the Green River. And the Mammoth Dome Sink, one of many unremarkable looking bowl-shaped depressions that funnel surface water into the caves below.

trail boardwalk

We wondered who might be walking far below us on a cave trail; it was a strange sensation to know a labyrinth lay just below our feet.

Updated from April 17, 2009.

More on Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky here and under National Parks in right sidebar.

Mammoth Cave National Park Things To Do

Mammoth Cave National Park Map and Visitor Information

Miles of trails both above and below ground.

Hiking, biking, kayak/canoe, horseback riding, hunting/fishing, camping…

“Yes” for pets (not in Cave; kennel available within park)

Park Fees: None for park entry. Cave tours range from $5 – $48.00 with discounts for youth and senior citizens.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 7; Mammoth Cave, KY 42259

Phone: 270-758-2180

Directions: Travel south on I-65 from Louisville, KY. Take Mammoth Cave/Cave City exit 53 and follow the signs to Mammoth Cave NP.

Park Website

View Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky in a larger map

14 Comments

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