KGS Logo Kentucky Geological Survey Special Publication 7
Geology of the Mammoth Cave National Park Area



Front cover. Natural entrance to Mammoth Cave. It is situated in a deep valley near the south bank of Green River. Since 1816, when the cave was first opened to the public, hundreds of thousands of people have passed through this historic entrance to view the wonders of this outstanding scenic attraction. The Echo River, Historic, and All-day trips begin here. Photo by W. Ray Scott, National Park Concessions, Inc.

Back cover. Frozen Niagara. This is one of the most spectacular natural features of Mammoth Cave, and was formed by the slow deposition of calcium carhonate from water dripping or flowing down the cave walls and over collapsed blocks of limestone. It is the largest single depositional feature in the cave, being 75 feet high and 50 feet wide, and is featured on the Frozen Niagara trip. It provides mute evidence of the power of water to dissolve limestone and redeposit the mineral material elsewhere. Photo by W. Ray Scott, National Park Concessions, Inc.

Letter of Transmittal


Regional Setting

Cave-Forming Processes

Features of the Cave Trips

Selected Technical References

Frontispiece. Outline map of Kentucky showing geologic regions


1. Geologic time chart
2. North-south cross section through Mammoth Cave area
3. Aerial view of Dripping Springs Escarpment
4. Stages in the erosion cycle of a limestone area
5. An early stage in the cutting of Green River Valley
6. A later stage in the deepening of Green River Valley
7. Formation of stalactites and stalagmites
8. Drapery Room
9. Route map of Echo River Trip
10. Route map of Frozen Niagara Trip
11. The Cat
12. Route map of Historic Trip
13. Saltpeter vats
14. Martha Washington's Statue
15. Giant's Coffin
16. Route map of All-day Trip and Scenic Trip
17. Snowball Room


1. Figure 1. Fossiliferous limestone of Mississippian age
Figure 2. Big Clifty Sandstone

2. Figure 1. Echo River outlet
Figure 2. Echo River in Mammoth Cave

3. Figure 1. Cedar Sink in Mammoth Cave National Park
Figure 2. Entrance to Hidden River Cave at Horse Cave, Kentucky

4. Figure 1. Helictites
Figure 2. Gypsum rosette

5. Figure 1. Ruins of Karnak
Figure 2. Bottomless Pit

6. Figure 1. Rimstone dams
Figure 2. Boone Avenue

7. Figure 1. Stalactites and stalagmites in Onyx Colonade
Figure 2. Crystal Lake in Mammoth Cave

8. Figure 1. The Rotunda
Figure 2. Audubon Avenue

9. Figure 1. Spongy growths of calcium carbonate in Mammoth Onyx Cave
Figure 2. Onyx Chamber in Mammoth Cave

University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Director and State Geologist
Series X
SPECIAL PUBLICATION 7 College of Arts and Sciences


Frank C. Dickey, President
Martin M. White, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences


Mart S. Bowne, Clearfield
Elmer C. Dyer, Lexington
Herman E. Knight, Madisonville
J. Edward Parker, Lexington
Ralph N. Thomas, Owensboro


Wallace W. Hagan, Director and State Geologist
Daniel J. Jones, State Geologist Emeritus
Preston McGrain, Assistant State Geologist
Edwin R. Branson, Areal Geologist
Thomas J. Crawford, Geologist
Edmund Nosow, Geologist
James H. Poteet, Geologist
William D. Rose, Geologist
Edward N. Wilson, Geologist
Walter L. Helton, Assistant Geologist
Roger B. Potts, Chief Draftsman
Elizabeth C. Alexander, Secretary
Ruth M. Earnest, Administrative Assistant
Daisy M. Crawford, Laboratory Assistant
Sandra D. Proffitt, Records Librarian
Lenora C. Stinnett, Laboratory Technician
Thelma C. Teater, Laboratory Technician

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Last Updated: 18-Jan-2007