|Mammoth Cave's New Entrance Tour|
by Stormy on July 25, 2007
A short tour through the longest cave in the world can be an interesting experience. Even a marmot has to start somewhere.
In the morning I headed south for Kentucky's Mammoth Cave. I've always wanted to visit this cave and being in southern Indiana is as close as I had ever come to it. Summer is tourist season in Mammoth and reservations are highly advised, but being a little industrious can get you in on a spur of the moment.
I chose to try the New Entrance Tour for starters. This is one of the newest tours on the list and ends with some pretty formations at Frozen Niagara. The tour is lead by two rangers and includes 120 participants! We were bussed out to the New Entrance, about four miles away and entered through an "air lock" designed to maintain atmospheric stability within this section of the cave.
Before we got on the busses, Ranger London spoke to the group and warned everyone that there are 279 stairs to be navigated on the way into the cave. That there will be some tight spots and a potential for exertion. People who have circulatory conditions, can't walk or stand for a long time, have a fear of enclosed spaces or height should probably reconsider taking this tour.
And so at the entrance we entered the airlock and then followed a mind numbing number of steps down the entrance pit to the Grand Central Station, a fairly large room with a number of passages leading out of it. Here we stopped for a chat with Ranger London and Ranger John. They told us about the history of this part of the cave and we proceeded on to the next section where we again had an opportunity to relax and listen to a quick talk about the geology of the cave.
The final portion of the walk took us to the Frozen Niagara section of the cave. This is one of the few places in Mammoth Cave where there are formations. The lack of formations in most of Mammoth Cave is caused by a large sandstone cap rock that sits on top of the cave and blocks water from flowing down through the porous limestone. The few places where a gap in the sandstone exists
Frozen Niagara is a pit descended to by a series of stairs. The walls and ceiling of the pit are well decorated with formations, although these are nowhere near the quality of formations that other caves have.
At the conclusion of the tour we exited through the Frozen Niagara entrance and returned to the visitor center on busses. In retrospect, while I enjoyed the tour, I would only recommend it to those interested the history of the Kentucky Cave Wars, those who enjoy a good geology trip and those who want to check out the sides of a pit by taking the stairs. In terms of seeing "awesome cave", this tour does not fully deliver.
One interesting note to go with this tour is that we entered the cave through the New Entrance in Edmonson County and exited it about a mile away through the Frozen Niagara entrance in Barren County. That's a good through trip. Cavers get excited when they get to enter a cave in one geographic designation and exit in another.