Tag Archives: Mammoth Cave NP

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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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

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Mammoth Adventures

Mammoth Cave National Park is a less crowded, quick and easy get-away for USA readers in the Midwest.  How many vacations can guarantee no rain and a constant temperature (54 degrees Fahrenheit)We did this adventure during a long and rainy spring weekend, immune from the weather!  And I’d love to return… to hike the caves and trails, kayak the river and cycle along the bike ways!

Originally posted: April 3, 2009

Spring break usually sends us scrambling for some sunshine. This year we headed for the extreme opposite, a cave.

Not your usual cavern in a cliff, however, Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest cave system in the world. Measured at 367 miles so far, its boundaries extend a little further with each year’s explorations.

Labyrinth

While entrance to the park is free, admittance into the cave requires a purchased tour with a park ranger guide. In a labyrinth of Mammoth Cave’s magnitude, no one wanders alone. Every twisting turn reveals new geology with passages and crevices opening in multiple directions. Standing in one place and doing a slow spin around can reveal just as many surprises.Looking up

On our Grand Avenue tour, we hiked for four and a half hours climbing up and down to an eventual depth of 267 feet. It’s rated a “difficult” route with 670 stairs and hills that climb (and fall) more than 60 feet in places. The surface can be slick and the light is kept as dim as possible in an effort to maintain the cave’s natural conditions. Algae doesn’t require much light to grow and compromise the natural rock surfaces in these moist conditions.

Mammoth Cave National Park Map and Visitor Information

Passages varied from cavernous rooms and climbs that reminded me of the “National Treasure” and “Indiana Jones” movies to narrowed trails that felt similar to Utah’s slot canyons -but with eventual ceilings this time. My mind was in a constant state of “wow”.Snowball

Midway through our adventure, the group stopped for an optional lunch in the Snowball Room named for the globular knobs on its ceiling.

Once snow white, the orbs were discolored long ago by the oil lamps of early visitors. Side passages still contain unspoiled formations. It was slightly surreal, sipping hot soup at a picnic table far beneath the rolling Kentucky woods we’d hiked the previous day.

Our guide on the Grand Avenue tour, Jerry Bransford, is the great-great grandson of one of the Nickoriginal slave guides, Mat. Cave history includes tales from the previous four generations of Jerry’s own family. Riveting. He shined a flashlight on a tribute to Mat’s brother Nick, written with candle smoke more than 150 years ago.The spectacular geology of Mammoth Cave was no real surprise; the stories of slaves and kings and Archaic Indians were unexpected, fascinating and will be shared in a future posting.

*Ultra low lighting and a “no tripod/monopod rule made photography a challenge! My human “duopod” Matt lent his head and shoulder when necessary to steady my camera.

Mammoth Cave National Park Things To Do

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

6 Comments

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