Please obey all warning signs in the park. They are there for your safety and to protect the park's resources. Do not touch any of the formations in the cave and especially do not do like this lady did.
The first thing we saw (after a school group which the ranger said was 'little kids' in 4th or 5th grade, but looked to Bob and me like the 7th graders that we used to teach) was a sign saying that you could take no packages of any sort into the cave.
* No camera bags,
* No fanny packs,
* No diaper bags,
* No purses,
* No backpacks.
When I asked they said it was because of homeland security, which is absolutely ridiculous. I mean if I wanted to I could strap stuff to my body - I wouldn't have to carry a knapsack. (Although the sign also said
* no firearms,
* no knives,
* no pepper spray,
* no mace,
* no stun guns or other weapons.
I guess a bomb would count as a weapon. I see no reason to carry weapons into the cave but I can see plenty of reasons to carry a camera bag or water container.
So Bob was already POed at the idea of going back to the car with his little tiny fanny pack that he carries his camera in. And I thought that the idea that some homeland security could be impacted by carrying a diaper bag into the cave was pretty silly. I'm sure that's not the reason, but I couldn't get the ranger to tell me what the real reason was.
According to the website: Interested members of the public can join an Earthwatch.org sponsored field survey of the history of Mammoth Cave http://www.earthwatch.org/expeditions/crothers.html. However, due to Mammoth Cave park regulations, participation on this project is restricted to US citizens only.
The following items are not allowed to be taken along with you on the cave tours:
1. Bags of any kind - camera bags, purses, diaper bags, luggage, backpacks or fanny packs, or child carriers.
*Bags that contain special medicinal supplies are permitted (e.i. insultin), but must be approved at visitor center first.
3. Walking canes or sticks are allowed only when sufficient need is demonstrated.
4. No Weapons
*If you do happen to bring any of these above items, just leave them in your car or use a locker that they have at the visitor center.
You can take a camera with you, but it must fit in a pocket. And even though they say no flash photography, they will allow you. Just don't use flash photography on any animal cave life.
Photography in the caves, or good pictures in the caves are almost impossible! It is so dark that it is hard to get a good photo. Plus most of the time the pictures become blurred because of the lack of light since you can't bring a tripod, but that would be such a bother anyway. I just try to hold my camera as still as I possibly could, which was very hard.
And the info says that you can't use a flash, that isn't true.
While canoeing in the green river be careful not to take any mussel shells, whether they are empty or not! If the rangers catch you, they'll fine you $5,000 each shell that you have! I don't know the reason why they are so strict about this. Just don't do it!
So you may notice they have a huge deer population! As dusk begins they come out of the forest by herds. At night be very careful when you are driving through the park because they are literally moving around everywhere! I can't describe exactly what a strange feeling it is to see about 100 while driving 1/2 mile down the road. They are not scared of humans at all, so they won't move when you are driving and they'll let you get very close to them. During the day you will see some napping on the sides of the roads or trying to find food around the camp grounds!
Damage and History:
Back in the 1900's Mr. Morrison whom owned the land where the frozen Niagara tour is located, began giving tours once he found the cave and blasted an openning in the side of the hill. On this side of the cave system it is the most wet, and in the wet conditions stalactites and stalagmites can be formed. With Mr. Morrison's concern with money and without knowledge of these amazing formations, he would let people break off the ends of the stalactites/stalagmites as suveniors and charge them for it. What Mr. Morrison didn't realize is that it takes 800 yrs to build 1 inch of the formations! As you walk through the cave today you will see broken ends on many formations, but lucky for us they didn't break all of them!
If you look closely at the formation next to my friend in the picture you can see several broken stalactites!
This tip is a little history and conservation in one. In the Historic Tour, you will see many names written onto the walls and ceilings, for 2 reasons. The first being that when people use to work in there, the salt mines, they would write their names to show who had been there. Then the second was people that would later take tours, the families that ran the caves would let people write their names and charge a fee to make extra money. For obvious reasons they don't allow that today, but you maybe quite surprised with all of the graffiti through out the cave. It was interesting to see the dates that the people wrote with their names, dating back to the early 1800's .
This is heavily wooded, hilly, limestone country. Cellphone coverage is really bad. Some areas of the Park are remote and not easy to get to or out of in an emergency. Be very aware of snakes in the summer. Have gas in the car and food/snacks and water for yourself. There are a lot of established trails / bike paths. Use them.
You are not Ol' Daniel Boone. Do not carve on the trees.
In response to a question about the names found on the walls of the Cave, our tour guide said " We regard graffiti made before Mammoth Cave became a National Park as historic graffiti, anything made after that date is referred to as a FEDERAL OFFENSE!"
And they mean it! The Park Rangers are very serious about protecting the Park and the Cave.
No matter what time of year you visit, the cave will always be 54 degrees F. If you take the strenuous walking tours, it's not so bad (I sweated even at 54 degrees with the River Styx tour), but if it's a slower paced tour with frequent stopping, I definitely suggest a sweatshirt or a jacket.
We were there this past weekend (9/24-25, 2005) and it was hot and muggy outside, but we had our jackets for the cave. If you bring your children, make sure they have something warm to put on in case they get a chill inside the cave.
Getting lost in a cave can be any tourist's worst nightmare. Guided tours have 2 rangers, one at the front of the line, and one at the back. This way, they are there to ensure everyone in the group remains together at all times. Do NOT stray from the group. If you do, you risk getting lost & it can take a day if not more to find you. And when they do find you, you will be fined for trespassing on federal property.
The park service has a new rule (as of 2005) that no backpacks, purses or even fanny packs are allowed in the tours. You are allowed to bring anything that you can fit in your pants or jacket pockets, but the guides recommend that you travel light, especially if you're doing the Intro to Caving Tour and will advise you not to bring water bottles or cameras as its difficult to get a good shot while in the cave. The Wild Cave Tour allows small backpacks for lunch and water, but everyone else is restricted.
The hard packed dirt trails in the cave are somewhat rough and uneven and can be slippery when wet. There are numerous stairs and some steep inclines on many cave tours so, make sure your shoes are flat soled, treaded, and comfortable! Be advised that some longer, more strenuous tours require certain footwear - ie: NO ATHLETIC SHOES!!
Not really a danger, but taking pictures inside the cave is very tricky...even with the best equipment! In the larger caverns, light dissipates so even with high speed film, your pictures will be dark. Don't even try to take a photo of something more than 10 feet away. Tripods and monopods are NOT permitted inside the cave! Flash photography is discouraged on lantern tours as the flash will blind everyone on that tour!! Video cameras with lights are permitted, but it is at the discretion of the guide whether or not it is being invasive. The trails are lit, so it's best to take pictures where there are lights!
Be aware when canoeing the Green River, the banks are mostly steep! If you should happen to tip, it could be a while before you can find an area to turn your canoe and get back in. While there are some obstacles, the river is wide enough that you should be able to navigate around in plenty of time! When canoeing with children, make sure they understand the importance of sitting in the middle and not making any sudden moves!! We had no problems and completed our 7.5 mile journey in 2 hours!!