Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park is located in the state of Kentucky in the United States. The park holds 52,830 acres of land that was once inhabited by Native Americans. Many mummies and artifacts have been found in Mammoth Cave and surrounding caves to support this. It is thought that first man of European descent to visit the area was John Houchin or Francis Houchin. The legend says that one of the brothers was hunting a wounded bear that entered the cave to hide. The first documented discovery of the area occurred in 1798, when Valentine Simons surveyed Mammoth Cave and its surrounding area, who later mined the cave for its abundant saltpeter. The cave and the land surrounding it feel under ownership of many people throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The establishment of Mammoth cave National Park began in 1926, after the last of the Croghan line family passed away. The cave fell under John Croghan’s ownership in 1839, who purchased the estate that include the slaves from its previous owner. One of these slaves, named Stephen Bishop, helped to create many of the maps of the cave and named many of its features. Many citizens, particularly those with wealth, pushed for the establishment of a national park protecting the estate and Mammoth Cave, many of whom formed the Mammoth Cave National Park Association. The efforts of this group helped create the park, which was officially established in 1926, after which time more land was acquired for the park. It was not until 1941 that the park was dedicated, and in 1951, the park was opened to the public.
Mammoth Cave National Parks holds a portion of the world’s largest cave system, known as Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System. Floyd Collins discovered that the two systems were located near each other, resulting in the discoveries of Salts Cave, Crystal Cave, and Sand Cave, where Collins passed away. The two cave systems were linked when the CRF team, including Gary Eller, Stephen Wells, and Cleveland Pinnix followed Hanson’s Lost River to a joining in Echo River, located in Mammoth Cave. At this time, the total explored areas of the park totaled 144.4, but more recent surveys and explorations have produced nearly 300 miles of explored areas.
The caves in Mammoth Cave National Park support a variety of wildlife including bat species like the little brown bat, the Indiana bat, the gray bat, and the big brown bat, and other species like cave fish and cave salamanders. Although animals that live above the caves may sometimes enter them, they do not move far into the caves or remain there for long periods. Visitors can tour these caves along more developed and wild areas. Visitors can enjoy informational lectures, delivered by tour guides that vary depending upon the area of the tour.
Image Caption: A national park ranger guiding tourists through Mammoth Cave. Credit: Daniel Schwen/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)