Mammoth Cave National Park Saw Double-Digit Boost In Visitation in 2009

Cave tours were a popular sell at Mammoth Cave National Park last year. NPS photo of the "Subway."

If you thought Mammoth Cave National Park seemed a bit crowded during your trip there last year, that's likely because visitation was up. For the year, more than 500,000 folks visited Mammoth Cave, an increase of nearly 14 percent from 2008 levels.

That's quite an increase when you consider that, overall, the entire National Park System saw just a 3.9 percent rise in visitation for 2009.

Mammoth Cave Deputy Superintendent Bruce Powell credits the “value for the money” of cave tours for boosting visitation rates.

“Cave tours are a bargain for family recreation,” said Mr. Powell. “Shorter trips such as the Mammoth Passage tour cost only $5 for adults, while the popular two-hour long Historic and New Entrance trips cost only $12 for adults and $8 for youth. National park visitors who have a Golden Age or Golden Access pass receive a 50 percent discount on cave tour tickets.”

In 2009, 80 percent of visitors to Mammoth Cave went on a cave tour –- a total of 403,095 people, the park reported. Another 100,000 visitors used the park for other recreational activities.

Mammoth Cave does not charge an entrance fee; people can hike, bike, horseback ride, canoe, kayak, fish, picnic, and take a scenic drive for free. Mammoth Cave has 23 miles of front country trails, more than 60 miles of interconnected backcountry trails, and 31 miles of the scenic Green and Nolin River for visitors to enjoy.

Mammoth Cave Superintendent Patrick Reed credits local tourism marketing agencies for the increase in visitation to Mammoth Cave. “Our partners such as the Caveland Marketing Association, the Kentucky Department of Tourism, local chambers, and tourism commissions do an excellent job of advertising the region and promoting travel to Mammoth Cave," said the superintendent. "Increased visitation to parks across the United States is a positive sign because it means we are exposing our national treasures to a whole new generation of visitors.”