Such is the vestibule of the Mammoth Cave, as described by the ingenious author of “Calavar,” “Peter Pilgrim,” &c.
From the vestibule we entered Audubon Avenue, which is more than a mile long, fifty or sixty feet wide and as many high. The roof or ceiling exhibits, as you walk along, the appearance of floating clouds—and such is observable in many other parts of the Cave. Near the termination of this avenue, a natural well, twenty-five feet deep, and containing the purest water, has been recently discovered; it is surrounded by stalagmite columns, extending from the floor to the roof, upon the incrustations of which, when lights are suspended, the reflection from the water below and the various objects above and around, gives to the whole scene an appearance equally rare and picturesque. This spot, however, being difficult of access, is but seldom visited.
The Little Bat Room Cave—a branch of Audubon Avenue,—is on the left as you advance, and not more than three-hundred yards from the great vestibule. It is but little more than a quarter of a mile in length, and is remarkable for its pit of two-hundred and eighty feet in depth; and as being the hibernal resort of bats. Tens of thousands of them are seen hanging from the walls, in apparently a torpid state, during the winter, but no sooner does the spring open, than they disappear.
Returning from the Little Bat Room and Audubon Avenue, we pass again through the vestibule, and enter the Main Cave or Grand Gallery. This is a vast tunnel extending for miles, averaging throughout, fifty feet in width by as many in height It is truly a noble subterranean avenue; the largest of which man has any knowledge, and replete with interest, from its varied characteristics and majestic grandeur.
Proceeding down the main Cave about a quarter of a mile, we came to the Kentucky Cliffs, so called from the fancied resemblance to the cliffs on the Kentucky River, and descending gradually about twenty feet entered the church, when our guide was discovered in the pulpit fifteen feet above us, having reached there by a gallery which leads from the cliffs. The ceiling here is sixty three feet high, and the church itself, including the recess, cannot be less than one hundred feet in diameter. Eight or ten feet above and immediately behind the pulpit, is the organ loft, which is sufficiently capacious for an. organ and choir of the largest size. There would appear to be something like design in all this;—here is a church large enough to accomodate thousands, a solid projection of the wall of the Cave to serve as a pulpit, and a few feet back a place for an organ and choir. In this great temple of nature, religious service has been frequently held, and it requires but a slight effort on the part of a speaker, to make himself distinctly heard by the largest congregation.
Sometimes the guides climb up the high and ragged sides, and suspend lamps in the crevices and on the projections of the rock, thus lighting up a scene of wild grandeur and sublimity.