Mammoth Cave National Park is a U.S. National Park in central Kentucky, encompassing portions of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known in the world. The official name of the system is the Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System for the ridge under which the cave has formed. The park was established as a national park on July 1, 1941. It became a World Heritage Site on October 27, 1981, and an international Biosphere Reserve on September 26, 1990.
The park's 52,830 acres (21,380 ha) are located primarily in Edmonson County, Kentucky, with small areas extending eastward into Hart County and Barren County. It is centered around the Green River, with a tributary, the Nolin River, feeding into the Green just inside the park. With over 390 miles (630 km) of passageways it is by far the world's longest known cave system, being well over twice as long as the second-longest cave system, South Dakota's Jewel Cave, which has just over 157 miles (253 km) of known passageways.
Mammoth Cave developed in thick Mississippian-aged limestone strata capped by a layer of sandstone, making the system remarkably stable. It is known to include more than 390 miles (630 km) of passageway; new discoveries and connections add several miles to this figure each year. Mammoth Cave National Park was established to preserve the cave system.
The National Park Service offers several cave tours to visitors. Some notable features of the cave, such as Grand Avenue, Frozen Niagara, and Fat Man's Misery, can be seen on lighted tours ranging from one to six hours in length. Two tours, lit only by visitor-carried paraffin lamps, are popular alternatives to the electric-lit routes.
The National Park Movement
As the last of the Croghan heirs died, advocacy momentum grew among wealthy citizens of Kentucky for the establishment of Mammoth Cave National Park. Private citizens formed the Mammoth Cave National Park Association in 1926. The Park was authorized May 25, 1926.
Donated funds were used to purchase some farmsteads in the region, while other tracts within the proposed National Park boundary were acquired by right of eminent domain. In contrast to the formation of other National Parks in the sparsely populated American West, thousands of people would be forcibly relocated in the process of forming Mammoth Cave National Park.
Birth Of The National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park was officially dedicated on July 1, 1941. By coincidence, the same year saw the incorporation of the National Speleological Society. R. Taylor Hoskins, the second Acting Superintendent under the old Association, became the first official Superintendent, a position he held until 1951.
The Longest Cave
By 1954, Mammoth Cave National Park's land holdings encompassed all lands within its outer boundary with the exception of two privately held tracts. One of these, the old Lee Collins farm, had been sold to Harry Thomas of Horse Cave, Kentucky, whose grandson, William "Bill" Austin, operated Collins Crystal Cave as a show cave in direct competition with the National Park, which was forced to maintain roads leading to the property. Condemnation and purchase of the Crystal Cave property seemed only a matter of time.
Further connections between Mammoth Cave and smaller caves or cave systems have followed, notably to Proctor/Morrison Cave beneath nearby Joppa Ridge in 1979. Proctor cave was discovered by Jonathan Doyle, a Union army deserter during the Civil war, and was later owned by the Mammoth cave railroad, before being explored by the CRF. Morrison cave was discovered by George Morrison in the 1920s. This connection pushed the frontier of Mammoth exploration southeastward.