MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK
MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK
P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky 42259
Mammoth Cave National Park preserves the cave system and a part of the Green River valley and hilly country of south central Kentucky. This is the world's longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored. Early guide Stephen Bishop called the cave a grand, gloomy and peculiar place, but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name - Mammoth.
Mammoth Cave National Park was established in 1941 to protect the unparalleled underground labyrinth of caves, the rolling hilly country above, and the Green River valley. Since then, ongoing study and exploration have shown the park to be far more complex than ever imagined, hosting a broad diversity of species living in specialized and interconnected ecosystems. The park's challenge is to balance these remarkable and sometimes fragile living networks with the public's enjoyment of them. The key to that balance is knowledge, and the park's new environmental monitoring programs will provide that understanding.
Mammoth Cave National Park is home to over 70 threatened, endangered or state listed species. These species include birds, crustaceans, fish, gastropods, insects, mammals, mussels, plants and reptiles.
Dr. John Croghans original interest in Mammoth Cave began when be read, in the journals of the day, accounts of the preservative qualities of the cave how the timbers from the old nitre mine, now more than 30 years old, had not even begun to rot how the bodies of dead bats, and even the bodies of Indians which had been found in the cave, remained perfectly intact and undecayed. The agent, the doctor surmised, must be the cave air. His interest intensified after his brother Nicholas visited the cave, and in 1839 he purchased it from Franklin Gorin for $10,000, slaves and all.
Dr. Croghan specialized in pulmonary consumption known today as tuberculosis and had 16 patients in his care in the winter of 1842-1843. As no cure or effective treatment had yet been found for tuberculosis, their grave condition seemed to Croghan to call for desperate measures. He sent his slaves into the cave to construct a series of buildings, along Main Cave near the Star Chamber, two of stone and eight of wood, to function as a sanitarium where his patients could take the airs. Other huts were built at Wandering Willies Spring, Audubon Avenue, and Pensico Avenue. Croghan led his patients into the cave, to their new residence, and there they remained for some weeks.
The minimum acreage was obtained by July 1, 1941, and the lands were then declared a national park. But there was an imperfection in the plan. The Great Onyx Cave and Crystal Cave properties, situated within the minimum boundary, had been valued at a price out of reach of the National Park Service. Secretary Harold Ickes signed a December 1940 order excluding the two properties from the park so that the plan could move forward, and another 20 years would pass before the two caves would join the rest of Mammoth Cave National Park.
The Mammoth Cave Operating Committee would oversee the operation of the Old and New Entrance properties until 1941, when it would be succeeded by the newly formed and authorized National Park Concessions, Inc.
The park itself would have to wait five years, until the close of World War II, for the formal dedication establishing it as the 26th unit of the National Park Service on September 18, 1946.
There are few better ways to discover the pleasures and curiosities of the sunlit side of Mammoth Cave National Park than to camp among the trees or by the waters. The park offers camping in three developed campgrounds and in more than a dozen primitive sites in the backcountry and along the Green and Nolin Rivers. Use the links to find out about the different campgrounds. The table below will help you choose the one that's best for you.
Mammoth Cave Hotel provides comfortable year-round accommodations and convenient access to the Historic Entrance to the world-famous Mammoth Cave and the park Visitor Center. The hotel and its other facilities are operated by Forever Resorts, Inc., a licensed concessioner to the National Park Service.
For lodging reservations call 877-386-4383
Mammoth Cave Hotel - Heritage Trail Rooms - Relax in one of the Hotel's 42 Heritage Trail Rooms, where you can enjoy the scenic views of the park's Heritage Trail from your balcony window. These comfortable guest rooms are adjacent to the valley leading to the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave, across the footbridge from the Visitor Center, and in the same complex as the dining facilities and gift shops.
Sunset Terrace Rooms - The 20 Sunset Terrace Rooms are located in a picturesque setting at the forest's edge, and next to a trailhead for the Heritage Trail that leads to the Sunset Point Overlook.
Hotel Cottages - The 10 Historic Hotel Cottages are nestled near the forest, adjacent to the park's Outdoor Amphitheater and historic Engine No. 4. The Mammoth Cave Campground, Caver's Camp Store, and the Mammoth Cave Hotel are all within a short walking distance. Available seasonally.
Woodland Cottages - The 20 Woodland Cottages are situated in a grove of trees a short distance from the park Visitor Center, across the footbridge from the Mammoth Cave Hotel. Open seasonally, these rustic cottages offer basic accommodations in one to four bedrooms.
Search for a vacation rental
Swimming in park waters is not recommended. At normal stage, the Green River flows at a relatively brisk 4.3 knots, or about 5 miles per hour - too strong to swim against. The flow of the Nolin River is only slightly slower. In addition, the usually opaque water may conceal deep holes or submerged snags or other hazards. Green River can be deceptively deep in places, well in excess of 10'. There is no designated swimming area in the park, and no lifeguards are on duty.
If you do swim, observe weather conditions. Flooding is possible. In case of storms, leave the water and seek shelter.
Swimming, wading, or bathing is prohibited within 200 feet of the Green River Ferry landings and the Houchin Ferry landings. These areas are used for the operations of the ferries, as well as the launching and extracting of small watercraft. The safety of swimmers and bathers would be at risk in these areas. In addition, swimmers and bathers in these areas would interfere with efficient ferry operations.
Within the boundaries of Mammoth Cave National Park, 25 miles of the Green River and six miles of the Nolin River carry boaters past dramatic bluffs, majestic trees, and wildlife. The Green River, dotted with sandbars, islands, and subsurface springs, averages 200 feet wide and 10 feet deep, though its depth may be much greater in places. The Nolin River also averages about 10 feet deep, but its channel is narrower than the Green River.
At normal water levels, the Green River runs at about five miles per hour. The current in the Nolin is slightly slower than the current in the Green. Therefore, both rivers offer pleasant canoeing, even for novices. When the rivers flood, the current can be very swift, but no whitewater conditions exist along the Green or Nolin Rivers in the park. Regardless of water level, always be alert to hazards such as submerged trees and rocks, drifting debris, and the park's ferries.
Launching watercraft is strongly discouraged when river levels are at or exceed 10 feet on the park's water level gauges. Strong, swiftly moving currents as well as large drift flowing in the river channel pose a hazard to safety. Canoe liveries with permits to operate in the park are prohibited from renting or providing canoes during these times. To inquire on current river levels you may call 270.758.2417.
To explore the Green River, launch your craft at Dennison Ferry Day-Use Area, Green River Ferry, or Houchins Ferry. On the Nolin River, launch your boat just below Nolin River Dam at Tailwaters Recreation Area, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When you reach the Green River, paddle upstream against a gentle current and take out at Houchin Ferry. Be sure to pick up a copy of the Backcountry Map Guide at the Visitor Center before embarking on your trip.
For a longer trip, you can put in upstream outside the park at Munfordville and float 19 miles to take out at Dennison Ferry Day-Use Area. Note, however, that much of that length lies outside the park and camping may not be permitted on the private properties along the river before you reach the Park. Also, you will need a Kentucky fishing license to fish until you reach the Park boundary.
Fishing in the Green and Nolin Rivers is good throughout the year, with spring and summer being the most productvie. Bass, crappie, bluegill, muskellunge and catfish, along with almost 100 other species, frequent the river. State creel and size limits apply see below but you do not need a state fishing license as long as you fish within park boundaries.
In the park, you can fish with pole and line, rod and reel, or trot/throwlines other methods, including limb lines and jug lines, are prohibited. If you use trot lines, you must attach a tag with your name and address, place hooks 30 or more inches apart, tend your lines daily, and remove lines when you are not using them.
At Sloans Crossing Pond and First Creek Lake, using any live bait other than worms is prohibited. On the rivers, you may use minnows or worms. Using bait seines in the park is strictly regulated, so please check with rangers for specific rules and regulations. Because park wildlife is protected, collecting frogs, turtles, or other aquatic fauna, or digging for bait, is strictly prohibited.
The number and size of fish you may take while fishing in the park is restricted obtain an online copy of the Kentucky Department of Fish Wildlife Fishing and Boating Guide or request a copy from the park Visitor Center Information Desk and familiarize yourself with Kentucky creel and size limits before you fish.