Mammoth Caves, KY
Dancing Queen
Illustrated with postcard images

Mammoth Caves are a large system of caves (over 300 miles of rooms and passages -- so far ...) in south central Kentucky. They are formed in a layer of limestone that was formed in a shallow sea 350 million years ago. When the sea dried up, the caves began to form when rain and carbon dioxide mixed to form an acid that ate away at the limestone and made all kinds of formations and rooms and passages in the limestone. It took millions of years for the limestone to be deposited and more millions of years for the caves to be formed and it is still going on in the deepest part of the caves.

The caves are in Mammoth Caves National Park and they are open all year long, but there arenít as many different tours in the winter time. Depending on what you are interested in, there are short easy tours that just tell you a little about its history, or longer tours that take you to see the different kinds of formations, rooms, and passages. And if you are *really* into crawling on your stomach and getting muddy, you can go on longer trips that are off the main tour paths, but those have to be arranged ahead of time.

We went on a two hour tour called the Frozen Niagara Tour because that was the name of one of the formations we saw, and it did really look like a rock waterfall. We had to climb down nearly 300 steps to get to the level where the tour started. We saw pits and domes and it was pretty scary looking over the edge of the steel staircase. At the bottom of the stairs, we were 250 feet underground in a room called Grand Central Station. We sat for a few minutes while the guide told us about the tour we were on. When he turned off the lights to show us what it was like, it was blacker than night and pretty scary. He also explained about how the different formations were made and about the different animals living in the caves. Some live their whole lives in the caves and some leave the caves to find food, but still live in the caves.

If you are ever near Mammoth Caves, you should really go and see them. They are really worth it, but wear jeans, sneakers, and a jacket. Even though the caves are 54 degrees all year long (even in winter), it isnít that warm.

Other photographs:
Saltpetre mining operations from the 1800s
Graffiti and monument left by early tourists, left when the caves were privately owned

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