Mammoth Cave—Where Situated—Green River—Improved Navigation—Range of Highlands—Beautiful Woodlands—Hotel—Romantic Dell—Mouth of the Cave—Coldness of the Air—Lamps Lighted—Bones of a Giant—Violence of the Wind—Lamps Extinguished—Temperature of the Cave—Lamps Lighted—First Hoppers—Grand Vestibule—Glowing Description—Audubon Avenue—Little Bat Room—Pit Two-Hundred and Eighty Feet Deep—Main Cave—Kentucky Cliffs—The Church—Second Hoppers—Extent of the Saltpetre Manufacture in 1814.
The Mammoth Cave is situated in the County of Edmondson and State of Kentucky, equidistant from the cities of Louisville and Nashville, (about ninety miles from each,) and immediately upon the nearest road between those two places. Green River is within half a mile of the Cave, and since the improvements in its navigation, by the construction of locks and dams, steam-boats can, at all seasons, ascend to Bowling Green, distant but twenty-two miles, and, for the greater part of the year, to the Cave itself.
In going to the Cave from Munfordsville, you will observe a lofty range of barren highlands to the North, which approaches nearer and nearer the Cave as you advance, until it reaches to within a mile of it. This range of highlands or cliffs, composed of calcareous rock, pursuing its rectilinear course, is seen the greater part of the way as you proceed on towards Bowling Green; and, at last, looses itself in the counties below. Under this extensive range of cliffs it is conjectured that the great subterranean territory mainly extends itself.
For a distance of two miles from the Cave, as you approach it from the South-East, the country is level. It was, until recently, a prairie, on which, however, the oak, chestnut and hickory are now growing; and having no underbrush, its smooth, verdant openings present, here and there, no unapt resemblance to the parks of the English nobility.
Emerging from these beautiful woodlands, you suddenly have a view of the hotel and adjacent grounds, which is truly lovely and picturesque. The hotel is a large edifice, two hundred feet long by forty-five wide, with piazzas, sixteen feet wide, extending the whole length of the building, both above and below, well furnished, and kept in a style, by Mr. Miller, that cannot fail to please the most fastidious epicure.
The Cave is about two-hundred yards from the hotel, and you proceed to it down a lovely and romantic dell, rendered umbrageous by a forest of trees and grape vines; and passing by the ruins of saltpetre furnaces and large mounds of ashes, you turn abruptly to the right and behold the mouth of the great cavern and as suddenly feel the coldness of its air.
It is an appalling spectacle,—how dark, how dismal, how dreary. Descending some thirty feet down rather rude steps of stone, you are fairly under the arch of this “nether world”—before you, in looking outwards, is seen a small stream of water falling from the face of the crowning rock, with a wild faltering sound, upon the ruins below, and disappearing in a deep pit,—behind you, all is gloom and darkness!