Friday, April 24, 2009

Mammoth Cave

When you get to the visitor center you are almost overwhelmed with the number of cave tours available. There's the Frozen Niagara Tour, the Historic Entrance Tour, the New Entrance Tour, just to name a few. We chose the New Entrance Tour.
The tour got its name when it was discovered in 1921 and competed for years with the people operating the Historic Entrance tour. Both were finally united when the land was bought, some by eminent domain, in the 1930-40's and are actually united underground as both meet at the area called Grand Central.
You enter the cave by walking in to a dug passageway. Cave crickets lie on the walls and some really large, but harmless, spiders greet you. From here you plunge down a series of steps, This tour is not for the agoraphobic! Water streamed down from overhead and I had to shield the camera to keep it dry.
After over two hundred and fifty steps we reached a large opening where the Ranger, Bobby explained the dynamics and history of the cave. He also demonstrated the usual total darkness routine. What was unusual is his discussion of the New Madrid Fault of 1813 and its effect on the cave. Surprisingly, saltpeter miners said that while the cave shook, the only noticeable event was a cloud of dust. He also pointed out four earthquake monitors, really large rocks that hung balanced from the cave roof.
Continuing on, the cave is actually three tours in one. The first part of the tour was entering the sink hole and was very wet. The second part was traveling under a ridge and dry, and the third was wet with numerous stalactites, columns, drapery and the usual cave formations.
The major cave formation here is the Frozen Niagara Falls. It's a wall of drapery that was named after Niagara Falls in a attempt to lure customers, just as the Grand Central grotto,(lots of caves have sections with the Grand Central name and I never realized it was a marketing ploy).
The most unusual part of the tour was when the Ranger pointed out the huge cave crickets! He shone his light and you could easily see their huge antennae waving in the cave air. Groovy,(Did I mention we had a large group of people from California?).
All in all the tour was really good and informative. Asking him several geology questions, I was impressed with Ranger Bobby's expertise! Well done! We both enjoyed the tour and would highly recommend it. Clear skies.

ps Renita and I were both sore from the 500 steps on the tour. It was an excellent workout and also not for the claustrophobic as we had to turn sideways for one passageway.

1 comment:

Art In The Sun said...

Creepy....even as a biologist, I can't get next to spiders. Yuck.