Mammoth Cave National Park reopened portions of the cave system last week to visitors.
Since becoming a national park in September 1946, Mammoth Cave has offered tours of its underground attraction, with two surface entrances to the cave system. As the park reopens parts of the cave system to visitors, Public Information Officer Molly Schroer said that only a self-guided tour in the cave’s historic section is currently accessible because of social distancing guidelines.
“We are only doing this one self-guided tour because it’s bigger passageways” Schroer said. “As conditions change, if (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance and public health guidance opens up and we can provide more tours like we traditionally do, we will look to do that, but at this point this is the way we can get access to the cave adhering to those guidelines.”
Schroer said this self-guided tour will take visitors through what the park calls an “extended historic tour” over a mile and a half of cave passages that weave through the cave’s larger chambers. Unlike the traditional historic tour, Schroer said this tour does not go beyond what’s known as Giant’s Coffin – a giant slab of stone that mimics the shape of a sarcophagus. This end point limits the self-guided tour to the upper sections of the historical tour.
“Traditionally, we had one guy that would take a group of people through the cave on a tour and now what we have are rangers that are stationed down in the cave at different locations, and they are there to answer questions for visitors,” Schroer said.
Precautions that Mammoth Cave is taking to ensure visitor safety include the wearing of masks by all park employees, reduced capacity in the Visitor’s Center and the closure of the museum within the center, according to Schroer.
Schroer said the system of surface trails at the park remained open during the coronavirus pandemic.
Other operations that are now open to the public are the park gift shops, campgrounds, cabins and Spelunkers Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor.
Schroer said the cave’s reopening June 1 was a quiet start, but the park expects increased visitation on the weekends.