Mammoth Cave is home to the most extensive known cave system in the world. So far, there are approximately four hundred miles of surveyed passageways, with countless additional labyrinthine byways yet to be explored. It is one of the most popular national parks in the Eastern United States. Mammoth Cave National Park is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.
The area around Mammoth Cave was inhabited by Native America tribes as early as the 4th millennium BC. Investigation of the cave system indicates periods of pre-Columbian habitation. It is believed that the first westerner to discover and enter the cave was John Houchin in 1797. In the early 19th century the caves were mined for guano, at which time they became widely known. In the second half of the 19th century Mammoth Cave became a popular tourist destination, and in 1941 it was designated a national park.
Mammoth Cave is a huge, seemingly endless labyrinth of limestone passageways. Although lacking in truly gigantic chambers (at least in the public areas), the twists and turns of the caves hold many wondrous sites in store, including underground rivers and seemingly bottomless pits. The largest cave in the public areas is the amazingly circular Rotunda Room.
Mammoth Cave National Park is located in a seemingly remote area of Western Kentucky. However, it is within a few hours drive of several major cities, and is one of America’s busiest national parks. In addition to the numerous caves and cave tours, the park encompasses a very large area of forests and wilderness home to a diverse array of wildlife (including herds of fearless and curious deer). Web: www.nps.gov/maca (official website).
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