Field Excursions

A pre-meeting field trip, hosted by the meeting organizers in conjunction with the Cave Research Foundation and the USGS Karst Interest Group, will be held May 15-17, 2020, at the CRF Hamilton Valley Field Station near Mammoth Cave National Park.  Surface tours, caving trips, and a float trip on the Green River will offer an in-depth look at Mammoth Cave and the region. Information about registration for this event can be found here.

Mid-week field excursions to Mammoth Cave National Park and the Mammoth Cave Area Biosphere Reserve will be offered Wednesday, May, 20, 2020 and are included in with registration. Trips will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Register here!

A. Karst Hydrogeology of Mammoth Cave National Park: Why is the World’s Longest Known Cave Here? Mammoth Cave National Park forms the core area of one of the world’s iconic karst landscape/aquifer systems also designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. Mammoth Cave itself has a known length of more than 660 km, with more explored and mapped continuously, and at least another 305 km of mapped passages lie nearby. This classic field excursion will explore the surface and subsurface landscapes of the Pennyroyal and Mammoth Cave Plateaus with a focus on understanding the geologic and climatic elements that have conspired to form the “perfect storm” of karst development that we see here. We will also discuss work of the pioneers of karst science who have been drawn here over the years. This trip will include visit to the Historic Section of Mammoth Cave.  Leaders: Dr. Will White, Professor Emeritus, The Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Art Palmer, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Oneonta, and Dr. Chris Groves, University Distinguished Professor of Hydrogeology, Western Kentucky University . Maximum 50 people.

B. Management and Tourism at Mammoth Cave. This trip will visit surface and cave locations in the core of the Mammoth Cave Area Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, Mammoth Cave National Park.  It will focus on tour operation and resource protection issues.  Some examples are ground water protection, cave tour trail design and construction, lighting and lamp flora issues, and White-nose Syndrome.  Stops will include the Mammoth Cave National Park Visitor’s Center and one or more tour section of the park.  The tour will be on walking trails, but will potentially cover several miles of trail. Leader: Dr. Rick Toomey, Cave Specialist, Mammoth Cave National Park. Maximum 18 people.

C. Archaeology and Cultural Resource Management at Mammoth Cave. This trip will take place in the Historic Section and Lantern Tour Route of Mammoth Cave. Highlights from the historic era include remains of the 1812 saltpeter mining industry, structural remains from the experiment to cure consumption (tuberculosis) patients in the 1840s, and Gothic Ave. signature hall dating to the early 1800s. Highlights from Native American use of the cave include evidence for the mining of gypsum and other minerals, abundant perishable remains from this activity, and petroglyphs and pictographs. All of this activity dates between 3000 and 2000 years ago. The tour will start at the Mammoth Cave National Park Visitor Center and travel on walking trails, potentially covering several miles of trail, some of it using lantern light. Leaders: Dr. George Crothers, Associate Professor and State Archaeologist, University of Kentucky, and Ed Jakaitis, Cultural Resource Manager, Mammoth Cave National Park. Maximum 18 people.

D. Urban Karst Challenges: A Remediation Success Story. This trip will focus on urban and industrial impacts to Hidden River Cave and what has been called “the greatest cave restoration success story in the United States.” Learn about how the American Cave Conservation Association played an integral role in changing a ‘domestic and industrial sewer’ back into a healthy cave ecosystem and show cave now visited by thousands of tourists and students each year. Activities include surface stops in the vicinity of the small town of Horse Cave, underground tour at Hidden River Cave, and time to explore the American Cave Museum. Leader: Dr. Pat Kambesis, Chair International Projects, Cave Research Foundation; Instructor of Geography/GIS, Western Kentucky University. Maximum 13 people.

E. Exploration of the Mammoth Cave System Under Flint Ridge.  This trip will visit formerly toured areas of cave under Flint Ridge within Mammoth Cave National Park.  Participants must be prepared to walk on steep slopes and uneven terrain of old cave trails.  This trip will focus on historic and current exploration within the Mammoth Cave area.  Topics discussed will relate to both the preservation and degradation of cave resources as a direct result of previous tourism in this area.  Recent research and exploration efforts will be discussed with regard to their importance in protection of the karst landscape. Leader: Bruce Hatcher, Cave Interpreter, Mammoth Cave National Park; Member, Cave Research Foundation. Maximum 18 people.

 F. Mammoth Cave Ecology. This trip will focus on the interconnected nature of surface and subsurface ecosystems in a karst landscape, resource protection issues, and long-term monitoring strategies being implemented at Mammoth Cave National Park.  Examples to be discussed include regional and local human influences, processes linking surface and subsurface ecosystems, known subsurface communities, and potential vital signs.  Stops will include the Mammoth Cave National Park Visitor’s Center, the Barrens, Doyel Valley Overlook, Echo River spring, and at least two toured caves in the park.  The tour will be on walking trails, but will potentially cover several miles of trail. Leaders: Rick Olson and Kurt Helf, Ecologists, Mammoth Cave National Park. Maximum 18 people.