Mammoth Cave National Park is celebrating its 80th birthday as a national park

MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky. – Thursday was Mammoth Cave National Park’s 80th birthday as a national park, entering in as the 26th national park in America.

July 1, 1941 was the official day that Mammoth Cave was dubbed a part of the National Parks system.

Mammoth Cave is the worlds longest known cave system and is one of the first places in the United States to offer tours.

First explored by prehistoric Native Americans over 5,000 years ago, the cave was rediscovered in 1790’s as a business measure to produce saltpeter for gun powder, according to Johnny Meredith, a park ranger for the cave.

“In 1838, there was a kind of what opened up what some see as the golden era of cave exploration. There was an enslaved teenager named Steven Bishop who was brought here to Mammoth Cave. There were a couple of other enslaved individuals, Matt Bransford and Nick Bransford, who were leased to Mammoth Cave, actually from over in Glasgow. They explored many miles and discovered a lot of Mammoth Cave,” said Meredith.

Meredith says working for the park has been a dream come true and is ecstatic to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the cave becoming a national park.

“I remember as a child, seeing the rotunda for the first time. It’s nearly an acre in size. And to know that there were these huge, hollow rooms right beneath of me and not knowing where they go and how long the cave is. It was just amazing,” said Meredith.

Because the summer is the busy season for the park, the workers can’t do a lot to celebrate the big day.

But, David Wyrick, the chief of interpretation and visitor services, says the guests exploring and enjoying the park is a form of celebration.

“That’s what the park is all about. It’s about the people that put it here and that they can come to see it so we are really getting to celebrate with them,” said Wyrick.

Mammoth Cave is now one of the more popular national parks in the country out of over 400 and is visited by people from all over the world every year.