In the late 1790s, a hunter was tracking a bear through Kentucky woods when the bear suddenly disappeared on a hill slope. The hunter plunged into the brush, and discovered a draft of cool air. That’s how Mammoth Cave National Park was discovered, according to legend.

Mammoth Cave wouldn’t officially be designated as a national park until July 1, 1941 – when much was still unknown about the cave.

To celebrate this 78th anniversary, the park will host special “birthday party” activities Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“You have to give your kids a birthday party, so this year we wanted to give the park a birthday party,” park spokesperson Molly Schroer said.

Unique to this year, park visitors can contribute written words to a time capsule that will be opened in 22 years during the park’s 100th birthday celebration.

“It’s going to be a one-time event on this one birthday,” Schroer said.

The capsule might be kept inside the cave, pending approval.

Other birthday activities include “Pin the Bat on the Cave” and 1941-era trivia that is pertinent to Mammoth Cave – for example, did you know that explorers only discovered 44 miles of Mammoth Cave when the park was first designated?

“It was not the longest cave in the world at the time,” Schroer said. “Over the 78 years, we became the longest known cave.”

Today, the park welcomes about 550,000 annual visitors into its 53,000 acres for cave tours, educational programs, hiking, biking, horseback riding and paddling.

Birthday events – which don’t necessarily happen every year – are free and open to the public. On Monday, each activity will take place within close vicinity of the Visitor Center.

But tickets are still required for all cave tours. The park recommends registering in advance on recreation.gov.

For more information, visit w.

– Follow reporter Caroline Eggers on Twitter @eggersdailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.

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