Mammoth Cave Comprehension

The world's longest cave is over 365 miles long and can be found in Kentucky. It has many levels, one on top of the other, which have been forming very slowly over the past 350 million years.

Some parts of Mammoth Cave have tight passages and tiny spaces. Other parts of the cave are huge, empty rooms. People visit the cave and take a tour of the vast underground spaces. Visitors sit in a room and listen as guides tell about how the caves were formed.

The caves were formed by underground water that drained deeper and deeper into the earth. It slowly dripped through holes and cracks in the ground, carving out caves and passages. The upper levels of the cave are dry because the water drained out many years ago. But the lower levels are still wet.

As the water flowed, it carried tiny pieces of rocks which formed shapes: stalactites (spikes that grow downwards), stalagmites (spikes that grow upwards), drip curtains, and small, sharp needles. One drip curtain in the cave even looks like a waterfall. It is 75 feet high and 50 feet wide. It is called Frozen Niagara because people thought it looked like Niagara Falls.

About 200 different kinds of animals have also been discovered in Mammoth Cave. The animals can be put in 3 groups. Animals like raccoons, bats, and cave crickets, use the cave just for shelter. They get their food outside and return to the cave to sleep or rest.

Other animals, like spiders, crayfish, and salamanders, can find food inside the cave. They could spend their life in the cave, or live outside of it.

The other animals are the eyeless fish and eyeless shrimp that live in the underground rivers. They can only live in the cave and are very pale because the cave is always dark.

The water in Mammoth Cave is still flowing, so the caves are still forming. Scientist also believe there could be hundreds of miles of cave that have not been discovered yet. So the next time you are in Kentucky, visit Mammoth Cave and discover something new!

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ABE Instructor
College of Lake County
Grayslake, IL

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