Explorers Identify Eight New Miles within Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park recently announced that researchers and explorers have mapped an additional eight miles in the Mammoth Cave system, confirming over 420 miles of explored and mapped cave systems, with the possibility of an additional 600 miles of caves remaining to be discovered, according to the Department of the Interior.  Additionally, over 200 caves in the park may be disconnected fragments from the main cave system.

CRF Survey photos from Chelsea Ballard

In a news release announcing the discovery, it was noted that Mammoth Cave received its official designation as the world’s longest cave system in 1969 with 65 miles of surveyed passageways. The connection between the Mammoth Cave system and the Flint Ridge system was discovered on September 9, 1972 by Cave Research Foundation cavers who traveled underground for over fourteen hours.

CRF Survey photos from Chelsea Ballard

This connection with the Flint Ridge system brought the total mileage of the Mammoth Cave system to 144 miles. In the 49 years since this connection was made, continued assistance from the CRF has led to discovered connections between several smaller caves like Proctor Cave, Roppel Cave and Morrison Cave and the larger Mammoth Cave system, all contributing to the current total surveyed length of 420 miles.

Mammoth Cave National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as an International Biosphere Reserve located in central Kentucky.

As one of only 13 natural sites located in the United States, Mammoth Cave is recognized for its extraordinary size and scientific importance.  It is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America.

Geological formation of Mammoth Cave began millions of years ago by the natural process of limestone erosion known as karst topography, during which rains and rivers shape soft limestone, creating a vast system of caves.

Underground rivers are still carving new passages today. Beyond their scientific and recreational value, karst aquifers like Mammoth Cave provide drinking water for about 40 percent of the U.S. population.

CRF Survey photos from Chelsea Ballard

Researchers, including groups of volunteers at the Cave Research Foundation, the Central Kentucky Karst Coalition, and local volunteers, mapped a new eight-mile section of this unique underground limestone labyrinth…an undertaking of mammoth proportions to say the least.

CRF Survey photos from Chelsea Ballard

To find out more about cave formation, the nearby American Cave Museum, located in historic Horse Cave, Kentucky, is operated by the American Cave Conservation Association (ACCA), a national nonprofit organization committed to the protection of caves, karstlands and groundwater.  The nonprofit museum provides educational and informative exhibits about the history and science and conservation of America’s natural caverns through educational and informative exhibits.

Museum visitors may tour Hidden River Cave, one of Kentucky’s largest and most scenic cave entrances, where two subterranean rivers flow over one-hundred feet below ground surface.  Located within Hidden River Cave is the world’s longest underground swinging bridge and Sunset Dome, one of the largest free-standing cave domes in the United States.

What a perfect way to celebrate the 2021 and 2022 International Year of Caves and Karst!