Mammoth Cave is Immense, Even if Restrictive!
I have always had a fascination with caves. I have remarkable memories of the beautiful Cathedral Caverns within a few miles of my boyhood home, halfway between Huntsville and Scottsboro Alabama. I spent the night in this cave as a Boy Scout and have brought my own family to this cave many times.
I recently had an opportunity to fulfill a lifetime dream and visit Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. This was a tremendous experience as Mammoth Cave is by far the largest Cave I have ever visited. With Covid restrictions in place we could only visit a few miles of the cave. However, it was easy to see why this cavern was one of the largest In the world.
After climbing down 80 stairs, we entered through a relatively small opening where we were
instantly met by a significant cold wind. I say cold, because the outside temperature had been almost 82° but the cave temperature could have been no more than 54° degrees.
The cavern quickly opened into several adjacent large rooms with domes. As we continued down the easily walkable tunnel of massive height and width, the cavern split both left and right. Interestingly these path never narrowed in the hundreds of feet that we passed through.
A particular interest was the tremendous amount of industry occurring within the cave that has occurred within the caverns throughout the last couple of centuries. Everything from mushroom growing, gunpowder production and even a former hospital for patients with tuberculosis could be found 300 feet below the surface.
The one conspicuously absent feature that I desired to see was that of the Speleothems. I was told that within the cave there were stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone. With Covid, the only public tour currently available is the historical tour, with virtually no formations.
Having grown up near Cathedral Caverns, and hearing and knowing about Mammoth Cave Kentucky my whole life, I must confess I was disappointed. Even though the cave is enormous, the my previous experiences with awe-inspiring beauty of Cathedral Caverns left me somewhat disappointed with Mammoth Cave. I am sure if we had been able to go deeper, we would have found beautiful formations.
So, if traveling in the heartland of Kentucky and you can negotiate the 160 steps, I highly recommend seeing this enormous cave. If you find yourself in northern Alabama, do not miss Cathedral Caverns. Both are inspiring and easy to negotiate with commercialized trails and lighting, and both require jackets on a hot summer day.