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Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

mammoth cave

The three hundred and fifty miles of labyrinthine passages and domed caverns of Mammoth Cave National Park lie halfway between Louisville and Bowling Green. Its amazing geological formations, carved by acidic water trickling down through limestone, include a bewildering display of stalagmites and stalactites. Other features include a huge cascade of flowstone called Frozen Niagara and Echo River, 365 ft below ground.

Mammoth Cave was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1981 and as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1990. Among traces of human occupation here are Native American artifacts, a former saltpeter mine, and the remains of an experimental tuberculosis hospital, built in 1843. Access is by guided tours; tickets are available at the visitor center. Keep in mind the temperature in the caves is a constant 54 F, so take a sweater or jacket.

All the park's attractions are not subterranean. The scenic Green River cuts through densely forested hillsides and limestone cliffs; you can follow hiking trails, rent canoes or, for a more leisurely trip, take the Miss Green River cruise boat. Camping is free in the back country; however, a permit must be picked up first at the visitor center. The privately ignored caves all around are best ignored.

If you have spare time, you might want to visit the nearby town of Bowling Green. It's a lively place and offers a treat for sports car fans. One hour tours of the General Motors Corvette Assembly Plant take a step-by-step look at the manufacture of one of the great symbols of America.

 
 
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