Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mammoth Cave National Park: Cave City, Kentucky

I mentioned in a previous post that we took a long road trip to visit family in Alabama.  It was over New Years week so we started the trip at the end of December and returned home during the first few days of January.  This is all a very cold snowy time in Michigan so we were excited to get to a warmer part of the country.  To make the drive more enjoyable, I looked for opportunities to see some sites along the way.  I was really excited to find out that we would be passing right by the Mammoth Cave National Park!!!  Not only that but Cave City, Kentucky (the main city near the park) was right in the middle of our trip (a great place to stay the night).  Here's our experience:

Due to the time of the year, the cave tour that we selected (on the easy scale since we had the kiddos with us and didn't have a full day to spend in the cave) was only offered once a day at 8:30 am.  The visitors center didn't open until 8:00 am and there was no pre-purchase of the tickets.  Since the number of people allowed on the tour was limited, we made sure we were there early.  There were some tours that they did take reservations for but those were usually special events where permits were needed.

There was a lot to see on the way to the parks visitors center:

Deer roaming as if they knew they couldn't be harmed in the park.

A "must stop" photo opportunity.

This was near the park entrance sign.  I found out later that it's actually a nice hike to take.  
Maybe we can check it out another time.

For the tour we took (the Mammoth Passage Tour):
At age 5 - my son was free.  Kids were only $3.50 and adults were $5.

Entry to the cave (guided by a park ranger).  For the most part, these were the only stairs on the tour we took.

Look at the entry from inside.
This area was extremely cold due to the cave pulling in air from outside!!!
I have been told that this section is cold at all times of the year.  

Once we got deeper into the cave the air wasn't as cold.

A sample of some of the area left from the mining days.

I laughed when after the tour my husband mentioned that at one point his allergies started bothering him.
I knew exactly when because of this picture.
In the "Chapel" section of the cave it was very dusty!
Normally you couldn't see it but my flash was bouncing off the dust so I knew.

After we came out of the cave we had to walk through these "bio-security mats".
Apparently there is a bat disease/syndrome that is killing off bats.
These mats help clean your shoes so you don't spread the disease when you visit other caves.

My dad worked for the national parks when I was growing up.
He is not alive t day to share park adventures with his grandchildren
but I always take the time to talk about him when we are at national parks.
Hence - the picture with our ranger guide.
The visitors center itself is pretty cool.  They have nice restrooms, a great area to get tips from rangers & purchase tickets, a gift shop (you can get your national park passport stamped there too), and a very interesting museum about the caves (free).  There's also a campground and hotel next to the the visitors center.

The sign at the visitors center.
We did see one bat in hibernation in the cave.  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of it.  You are not allowed to take a picture of the bat with a flash.  By the time I figured out how to turn my flash off it was too late.  But, my kiddos  adopted some toy bats at the gift shop ;-)

We were told that a special event takes place a couple of weekends before Christmas where the cave is lit only by candle and there is a choir in the chapel section.  The singing carries through the cave  (which would sound really awesome) and then they walk out by only candle light (like they would have back in the mining days).

There are many tours in the national park and the surrounding areas.  You can check out the level of intensity on the park website.  My mom visited once and they went further into the cave (lots of stairs and tight spots to squeeze through).  Our tour was perfect for the kiddos we had with us.  We heard many stories from another family on the tour with us.  They were spending the week going on many tours and had some seen really interesting things.  

The Diamond Caverns is one that looks interesting but we didn't have time for.  We did pass it on our way from the national park to Park City (the city off the highway more South of Cave City).

If you have been there - I would love to hear what tours you went on and your experiences!

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