Mammoth Cave is not only Kentucky's only national park, but it's also the longest cave system in the world! Unfortunately, like many other natural attractions, Mammoth Cave saw a drastic drop in foot traffic throughout the last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
To explain how much of a change this was for the historic landmark, let's take a look back in time. National Geographic reported that in 2019, more than half a million tourists had left their footprints on the cave's floor. But throughout 2020, that number drastically dropped to only about 290,000.
Group tours turned into self-guided exploration and timed tours continued under CDC regulations in masked groups throughout the pandemic. But, while society was ushered inside by the masses, the urge to emerge oneself in nature, such as Mammoth Cave's 400+ miles of underground limestone labyrinths, grew to new heights.
Not only has the 53,000-acre park been an attraction due to its stunning caves, but its surroundings too! A spokesperson for Mammoth Cave, Molly Schrorer, reported on the cave's 100 miles of aboveground riverways and trails destined for hiking, horseback riding, biking, and more that have attracted visitors throughout time.
As travelers enter the caves, they are met with a history that was first discovered over 4,000 years ago by the Cherokee Nation and Shawnee Tribe. Once used to mine minerals, the caves have since become full of pictographs and mummified remains. Settlers first found these discoveries in the late 18th century.
The years between discoveries were what became known as The Cave Wars. The Kentucky region was overcome with reconstruction and Jim Crow laws, leading to much competition and ferocious court battles. The Cave Wars ended abruptly in 1925 when an explorer named Floyd Collins lost his life when he became trapped underground.
This luckily led to the park becoming part of federally protected land. With restrictions now lessening in 2021, more people are heading toward nature-filled landmarks. In fact, the Mammoth Cave expects to see many footsteps walk alongside the ancestral history of the grounds.