Safety

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If you have an emergency, dial 911 or notify any park ranger.

 

Protect Your Park, Protect Yourself

Mammoth Cave National Park is a special place that is open for everyone. For over two centuries people from around the world have been visiting this place to reconnect with the natural world and the history of the area. Protect yourself and the sights you plan to enjoy by following a few simple rules:

  • Follow the Leave No Trace Seven Principals. By following the Leave No Trace Seven Principals, you will help protect yourself and the park for years to come.
  • Never approach animals. The animals in the park are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be.
  • Never feed wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. Keep all food, garbage, or other smelly items packed away when not in use.
  • Stay on boardwalks and trails. Poison ivy, ticks, and venomous snakes are present in the park. Keep your children close and don’t let them run.
  • Never park in the road or block traffic. Use pullouts to watch wildlife and let other cars pass.

We can’t guarantee your safety in the park, but these concepts will help you avoid the most common accidents. See below for more great advice, and be sure to review our Laws & Policies.

 

Trail Safety

Your safety depends on your own good judgement, adequate preparation, and knowing what to do in an emergency. Backcountry hikers, bikers, and horseback riders should be in good physical condition and be prepared with proper equipment and the knowledge of how to use it for a safe trip. Your safety is your responsibility. Learn more about how to hike smart when using the trails in the park.

 

River Safety

Spending time on the Green and Nolan Rivers inside the park has become a popular activity. These dynamic river systems have many hazards and have the potential to cause serious injury or even death. When recreating in the park remember, your safety, is your responsibility. Learn more about safety and regulations on the rivers.

 

Heat Related Illness

High temperatures and the risk of heat illness can happen rapidly during the summer months when temperatures can exceed 90ºF (32ºC). Be prepared for heat and humidity while recreating in the park. Always carry and drink plenty of water, as well as eat salty snacks, as excessive sweating can diminish the body’s sodium levels.

 

Bats and People

Less than 1% of bats in nature have rabies, but bats that act strangely or contact humans are up to 10 times more likely to have rabies. Humans can get rabies by exposure to bat saliva through a bite or scratch. Rabies is 100% preventable in humans with proper medical care, but it's almost always fatal if untreated. Rabies is fatal to bats, too.

If you see a dead bat or a bat that is behaving strangely, such as being aggressive, lying on the ground, flying near, or making contact with people, tell a park ranger right away, and do not touch it.

More information about rabies is available from the NPS Biological Resource Division.

 

Ticks, Snakes, and Poison Ivy

Ticks

Ticks can be prevalent throughout the park and there is a risk of tick-borne illness if one bites you. It is important to take precautions and to be aware of the risks. When in tick habitat:

  • Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, and long pants, with pant legs tucked into socks and shirts tucked into pants. Consider wearing gaiters as well.
  • Do frequent tick checks of yourself and any children or pets with you.
  • Always check for ticks after any outdoor activity, both at the end of the day and the next morning.
  • Consider using chemical applications. 0.5% Permetherin insecticide applied to clothing is effective in reducing tick bites; however, when used improperly it can create negative health effects. DEET repellent has only limited effectiveness against ticks (less than a couple of hours). Picaridin is another repellent option that will not ruin synthetic fabrics or their water-repellent finishes. Always use and store chemicals according to the manufacturers' instructions.

Snakes

Be alert for venomous snakes. Copperheads and rattlesnakes are generally found on land but may sometimes be seen in the water. Use ordinary precautions: wear shoes and always carry a flashlight after dusk. If you see a snake, leave it alone! All animals in the park are protected by law.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy can be found throughout the park and can grow as a shrub or vine. The leaves are red in early spring, shiny green in summer, and an attractive red or orange in the fall. Each leaf consists of three leaflets.

  • Most people are sensitive in varying degrees to the oils of this plant, which makes skin itch, blister, and swell.
  • Avoid contact with all parts of the plant. If exposed, wash the affected skin with soap and water as soon as possible. It takes several minutes for the oils to penetrate the skin.
  • Do not burn campfire deadwood that is entangled with poison ivy leaves or vines. Soot from the fire can carry the sap through the air, and cause serious distress in the eyes, nose, and throat.
 

Your Safety in the Cave

When on a tour in the cave there are several considerations to keep in mind help protect yourself and the cave resources:

  • Watch your step while touring the cave. The trails can be uneven and in some places are wet.
  • Use the handrails.
  • Watch your head in areas with low ceilings.
  • Stay on the trail at all times. The trails are clearly marked.
  • Do not sit, step, or climb on rocks in the cave.
  • The cave is dimly lit. Lighting of the trail will vary, so be careful when walking in areas with low light.
  • Always stay with the tour group.
  • All children under 16 must be within arm's reach of a parent or adult chaperone throughout the tour.
  • Stop walking when taking pictures or using video cameras. Using cameras while walking is hazardous and can lead to serious personal injury, injury to others, or damage to the cave.
  • Flash photography is not allowed in the cave. Flashes from cameras can temporarily blind and disorient people.
  • Do not remove anything from the cave.
  • Do not leave trash or anything else behind.
  • Do not write or mark on the cave walls.
  • Avoid touching the cave or leaning against the walls. The oil in your skin can permanently stain and discolor the rocks and formations.
  • No tobacco can be used in the cave, including vape pens and e-cigarettes
  • No gum, food, or drink is allowed in the cave, except for clear bottled water.

Last updated: July 4, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

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

Phone:

(270) 758-2180

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