Mammoth Cave National Park was established to preserve the cave system, including Mammoth Cave, the scenic river valleys of the Green and Nolin rivers, and a section of south central Kentucky. This is the longest recorded cave system in the world with more than 400 miles explored. Early guide Stephen Bishop called the cave a "grand, gloomy and peculiar place," but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name - Mammoth.
Mammoth Cave National Park was established in 1941 to protect the unparalleled underground labyrinth of caves, the rolling hilly country above, and the Green River valley. Since then, ongoing study and exploration have shown the park to be far more complex than ever imagined, hosting a broad diversity of species living in specialized and interconnected ecosystems. The park's challenge is to balance these remarkable and sometimes fragile living networks with the public's enjoyment of them. The key to that balance is knowledge, and the park's new environmental monitoring programs will provide that understanding.
The first human to enter Mammoth Cave passed under its imposing arch about 4,000 years ago. His reason for probing the shadows? The same as ours today. Curiosity led the way to discoveries of minerals, and primitive miners plumbed the rocky halls for nearly 2,000 years before the cave again fell quiet. It would not again echo the sound of human feet clattering the floor stones until the very end of the 18th century.
Once European settlers discovered Mammoth Cave, stories both inspiring and strange began to accumulate about their adventures underground. The cave's stories spoke of curiosity, cures, captivity and capitalism; excitement, exploration and exploitation.
And the story keeps on going. From the torch-bearing Indian to yesterday's park visitor, the fabric of the story-cloth of Mammoth Cave continues to be woven. Click the links on this page to discover the people, places, stories and objects that illuminate this special place.