Geography Features Mammoth Cave in Kentucky

About the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, history, description, and geography of the massive caves.

SPECIAL FEATURES

MAMMOTH CAVE

This large cave system in west central Kentucky, located about 24 mi. east of Bowling Green, was established in 1936 as a national park with over 50,000 acres of grounds.

There are 150 mi. of explored passageways on five levels. The cave's largest chamber is the Chief Temple, which is over 500 ft. long, almost 300 ft. wide, and 125 ft. high. It used to be an Indian meeting place, and many torches and other relics have been found there. The Star Chamber is so named because of its ceiling, which is formed of black oxide of manganese flecked with white gypsum crystals. The walls of Cleveland's Cabinet, Charlotte's Grotto, and some of the avenues deep in the cave are adorned with a diversity of gypsum rosettes, and the ceilings form spectacular crystal arches. Frozen Niagara is a large wall made up of cascades of onyx, gypsum, and limestone stalactites.

Modern exploration of the cave began in the early 19th century. In the War of 1812, its large deposits of saltpeter were mined for use in the manufacture of gunpowder.

During the 20th century, Mammoth Cave has been the subject of scientific interest. Studies have been made of its abnormal fauna, including the eyeless fish that swim in its underground rivers and the blind crickets, spiders, flies, and other insects that abound on its walls and floors. Scientists have examined its atmospheric conditions in order to determine the temperature of the earth's crust, and in so doing have found that the temperature in the cave remains uniform throughout the year, at about 54 deg. F.

Within the Mammoth Cave National Park grounds is another series of underground labyrinths, the Flint Ridge cave system. After years of exploring, spelunkers finally found a connection between the two caves in 1972. Together they form the longest explored cave system in the world.

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