*Post written by Jake Knecht, student assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections, and James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.
Our final entry in our “Exploring the Tri-State” blog series, we are going to explore Mammoth Cave National Park. This national park is not necessary located in the Tri-State but it is in driving distance. Mammoth Cave is home to the longest network of four hundred miles of caves in the world and is located in Edmonson County, Kentucky (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016).
It attained national park status in 1941, after a series of brutal disputes over the rights to land that the cave system was located in, in addition to underhanded tactics from competing parks for tourism that was prevalent at the time. The park has many geological features such as rivers, springs, forests (outside of the cave) and even a sinkhole. The cave system has many openings from which it visitors can enter. It is primarily a limestone cave and has had a variety of fossils excavated from its caverns; contrary to popular belief, there was never a woolly mammoth fossil found in the caves, the fossils instead imply a marine environment that would have been home to many aquatic species (Wikipedia, 2017).
The exploration of Mammoth Cave has a unique history because it is not what you think. According to the National Park Service (n.d.), “African Americans played a vital role in the development of cave tour routes and the visitor experience throughout the 19th and early 20th century. The first black guides were slaves and through their efforts opened up the golden age of cave exploration for Mammoth Cave. Their discoveries and story continues to live on within the avenues and guided tours of the cave today. While each slave guide eventually saw their freedom, their life was fraught with hardship in a time where the country was divided on their place in society. During their life they may have never realized the importance of their existence”. In honor of their discoveries, we are able to enjoy the beauty of nature.
All of the images shown below are located on the National Park Services entitled, “Black History at Mammoth Cave”. Each man has a unique history relating to Mammoth Cave and because of them, Mammoth Cave is what we know it as today.
The park is open all year and has many different things to do besides explore the caves, these things include, hiking, camping, cycling trails, and even horseback riding. More information can be found online at the website for the National Park Service.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (12 December 2016). Mammoth Cave National Park. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Mammoth-Cave-National-Park
National Park Service (n.d.). Black history at Mammoth Cave. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/historyculture/black-history.htm
Wikipedia (7 June 2017). Mammoth Cave National Park. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammoth_Cave_National_Park