Special Use Activities Permits


Mammoth Cave National Park (the Park) was set aside in 1941 to protect and preserve the caves, karst landforms, and scenic river valleys that lie within its boundary. The National Park Service (NPS) is mandated by Congress to:

“…promote and regulate the use of…national parks…conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” (16 U.S.C. 1)

For this purpose the Department of Interior developed RM-53, to govern special use permitting in national parks. The following is a compilation of activities for which a permit from the Superintendent is required: filming, photography, operating a public address system; conducting sporting events, pageants, public spectator attraction, entertainment ceremonies, and similar events; public assemblies, and memorialization. Administrative, monitoring, and other fees may apply.

It is the policy of the NPS to allow special use activities when and where possible, while adhering to this mandate. Therefore, when reviewing permit applications, the primary concerns of the NPS are potential impacts to park resources and disruption of visitor use.

The Park is recognized worldwide as an area set aside and administered with preservation at the core. In order to preserve and protect resources and to assure the enjoyment of those resources by the public, the following guidelines are established by the Superintendent of the Park as they relate to special uses.

Permits are required for special use activities:

  • to ensure protection of resources, to prevent significant disruption of normal visitor uses;
  • for access to areas normally closed to the visiting public.

A request for a special use activity permit may be denied if:

  • the activity requested represents a potential for harm or impact on the park’s natural, cultural, or recreational resources, may create health or safety risks, or disrupt visitor use and enjoyment;

  • it is determined that monitoring requirements for the proposed project will place unreasonable burdens on park staff, regardless of the applicant’s willingness to pay monitoring costs;

  • the permittee fails to obtain insurance/bonding, or does not agree to pay assessed cost recovery;

  • the proposed activity would conflict with the visitor’s normal use of the park;

  • the request includes entry into areas closed to the general visiting public, or which would allow activities not permitted to the general public.


How to apply for a permit


Learn and Explore

To apply for a permit, complete the Park special use permit application form and submit it to the special use permit coordinator postmarked 45 days or greater prior to the start date of the proposed activity to be conducted in the park. The $180.00 non-refundable application fee may be paid by check or money order payable to "National Park Service." Completed applications and payment may be mailed to:

Special Use Permit Coordinator
Mammoth Cave National Park
P.O. Box 7
61 Maintenance Road
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259

Requests will be evaluated on the basis of the information in the application. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to attach maps, description of activity, check in points, what support will be provided, etc. to assist the park staff in evaluating your request. If there is no contact from an applicant for 30 days, the file will be closed. Any future contact with that applicant will require reinitiating the permitting process.

Applications are handled in the order they are received. Priority will not be given to urgent requests nor will the park reply by express mail. Requests which involve multiple locations, complex logistics, environmental compliance, or coordination with multiple NPS divisions or visitor activities will require a minimum of 45 days to process.

Application Forms


Costs and Fees

All costs of evaluating the request will be billed to the applicant, whether a permit is issued or not. Applications will not be processed if they are submitted incompletely or are received without payment.

All costs incurred by the NPS in conjunction with the permitted activity will be reimbursed by the permittee. A cost estimate will be calculated and provided once the Park coordinator has received all applicable information.

Fee Schedule
  • $180 non-refundable application/administrative fee is charged for every application and reimburses the park for staff time use to initiate and manage a permit application. This fee is based on an average of 4.5 hours staff time to provide initial review of an application. Since some projects require more than two hours to consider and process, and others take less, this application fee is an average cost for the initial time involved in reviewing a project. The fee includes time spent answering initial inquiries, initial review of an application, and basic technical consultation. This fee also includes, but is not limited to, processing fees, permit development, compliance, consultations with the permittee, managerial and/or technical consultations and billing.
  • Hourly management fee ($40 per hour rate) applies under the following conditions:
  1. Monitoring – activities authorized by permit may require continuous, on-site supervision by the NPS to assure full compliance with all conditions of the permit. Monitoring will be charged at the rate of $40 per hour per staff member with a minimum of two hours per staff member, per day. For smaller projects with little possibility of resource/visitor impacts, spot-checks may be used instead of continuous monitoring. The permittee will be charged at the rate of $40 per spot-check. The level and type of supervision will be determined by the scope and complexity of the filming activity.
  2. Scouting – a scouting trip to park to determine locations with the Park coordinator will be charged at the hourly rate of $40 per hour.
  3. Extended administrative time – this fee reimburses additional administrative staff time needed beyond the maximum four hours covered by the $180 application/administrative fee. This rate does not preclude any of the other fees and is applied per hour, per staff member.
Location Fees
Motion Pictures/Videos Commercial Still Photography
1 - 2 people, camera/tripod $0
3 - 10 people $150/day 1 - 10 people $50/day
11 - 30 people $250/day 11 - 30 people $150/day
31 - 49 people $500/day Over 30 people $250/day
50 or more people $750/day

Notifications and Cancellation Fees
The applicant/permittee is required to notify the NPS of any delays or schedule changes at least 36 hours in advance, or as agreed to by the Superintendent or his/her representative. Should the applicant/permittee fail to provide such advance notification, the applicant/ permittee is responsible for paying all costs incurred by the NPS any time during the application, permitting, or operational process, including those due to cancellation, moving, or rescheduling of the project. Such payment will include but is not limited to a non-refundable charge for each staff person scheduled for the affected activity.

Such charge will, at a minimum, be the equivalent of two hours overtime for each employee assigned. These costs may be recovered through the posting of a bond at the time of application, or through a bill of collection present at any point after initial contact. Note that the approval such schedule changes are dependent upon staff availability. There is no guarantee that any schedule changes will be approved, and there will be no refunds in such situations.


General liability insurance must be carried by the permittee naming the United States of America, National Park Service, Mammoth Cave National Park as an additional insured. Short-term policies must show coverage on an “occurrence” basis. Required commercial liability is generally one million dollars ($1,000,000), but will vary according to project scope, risk to park resources, and other relevant circumstances. Additional amounts may be required for high-risk activities. All insurance certificates must be issued by an insurance company operating in the United States. The Park coordinator must receive the original insurance certificate no later than one week before the scheduled activity.

Performance Bonds

Bonds will be required when a project has the potential to cause damage to a renewable resource in the park.The purpose of the bond is to insure that the resource is left in as good condition as it was prior to the special use activity and to cover restoration costs (in needed). The amount of the bond will be determined according to the scope and potential for damage by the activity. At the conclusion of the permit, the bond will be returned to the permittee after final billing costs and costs of necessary clean up, repair, or rehabilitation are deducted. The performance bond can be in the form of a money order or cashier’s check.

Sharing the Park

A special use activity permit does not give exclusive rights to the permittee or allow the permittee to restrict visitors from any location. Locations that attract a large number of visitors will be avoided. Normal visitor use patterns will not be interrupted for longer than five minutes, and only as specified in the approved permit. Permitted activities may not occur simultaneously with other permitted activities unless authorized by the NPS, or unduly conflict with scheduled park activities such as interpretive presentations, ongoing research or maintenance projects. Visitors will be allowed to observe activities.

Restrictions and Conditions

Specific restrictions and conditions will be enumerated in the permit based on the type of activity and the location.

White-Nose Syndrome

White-Nose Syndrome is a disease that has killed millions of bats in the United States since 2006. It was first discovered within Mammoth Cave National Park in January 2013.

We are managing cave access to try to minimize the spread of the disease. As outlined in the Park’s White-Nose Syndrome Response Plan, special use activities are allowed only within passageways that contain developed tour trail.

All permittees within a Park cave will abide by and certify their compliance with the established decontamination protocols found at http://whitenosesyndrome.org/topics/decontamination.


Permit activities may be restricted based on weather or seasonal conditions (fire danger, river levels, wildlife nesting season, hazardous weather, etc.) Additional closures, use limits and/or restricted activities are listed in the Superintendent’s Compendium, which is available upon request.

Prohibited Activities

Activities having the potential to damage or significantly impact or alter park resources are prohibited. The following is a partial list of prohibited activities: (1) altering, damaging, or removing vegetation, (2) vehicle use off established roads and parking areas, (3) use of insecticides, herbicides, and pesticides, (4) loud noises that exceed 60 decibels or have the potential to negatively impact park resources or visitors experience, (5) smoking in buildings or in vegetated areas, (6) use of fragile vegetation areas, except on trails or previously disturbed areas (as determined by the NPS), (7) writing on or discoloring any natural feature or structure.

Termination of Permit

All special use activity permits issued by the NPS are “revocable” on 24 hours’ notice, or WITHOUT NOTICE if the terms of the permit are violated. Deliberate infractions of the terms of the permit or the deliberate making of false or misleading statements concerning intended actions in order to obtain a permit are cause for immediate termination of the permit and cause for possible prosecution. Permits will be revoked if damage to resources or facilities is threatened, or if there is a clear danger to public health or safety.

Contact Information

The Park coordinator is available via email at: e-mail us

Last updated: March 7, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007


(270) 758-2180

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