Underneath the historic state of Kentucky, a hidden gem can be found.
It is the Mammoth Cave, the longest cave in the world. The name “mammoth” actually comes from the size of the cave, rather than the prehistoric elephant-like mammal.
This cave has a long history. Geologist estimate that the Mammoth Cave began forming around 10 million years ago. But, it is believed that Indigenous Americans first discovered it 4,000 years ago, they explored and mined upper three levels of it.
This idea can be proven by several sets of Native American remains that have been found in the cave. One of the discovered mummies was the Fawn Hoof Mummy. It was discovered in 1811, wrapped in deerskin. The body was placed in a sitting position and was surrounded by rocks. By the initial reports the mummy was a woman of around six feet (1.82cm) in heigh. But, the most surprising part is that the way the body was prepared and embalmed is extremely similar to the way the ancient Egyptians used to do it.
The cave was rediscovered in the late 1790s. According to a legend, a man named John Houchins was out hunting when he saw a black bear, he tried to kill him, but he failed. However, he chased the bear to the cave entrance.
The park was established in the 1941 to preserve the nature of this place.
This underground miracle was formed, and is still being formed, as calcium carbonate dissolves in water leaking through the soil. In fact, the park has one of the most famous karst topographies in the world. It is located within a limestone belt that extends from southern Indiana through Kentucky and it is dissected by the Green River, which controls the cave development. This river has helped to sculpt the limestone into the beautiful and extraordinary cave that we know today.
Deep, under the surface of Earth, while walking in the cave, visitors can see notable features of the cave like Grand Avenue, Frozen Niagara, and Fat Man’s Misery as well as the unique speleothems that were formed millions of years.
Flora & Fauna
Mammoth Cave National Park is home to over 70 endangered or threatened species of animals.
The surface contains animals typical of an hardwood forest. Such as raccoons, rabbits, opossums, woodchucks and foxes.\n Inside the cave itself, more than 130 species have been found. They are divided into three classes:
- troglobites- cave dwellers
- E.g. Kentucky cave shrimp and eyeless cave fish
- troglophiles- they can complete their life cycle in or out of caves
- E.g. salamanders and spiders
- trogloxenes- they use caves for refuge
- E.g. bats, rats and cave crickets.
This magnificent cave is surrounded by 53,000 acres of ample pristine forest. Because of its abnormal beauty and size, this national park is designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.