Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

January 21, 2010, 6:54 am

I can hear the wailing guitar riffs as we drift lazily on the water:

  • "Well, take me back down where cool water flows, yeah,
  • Let me remember the things I love,
  • Stopping at the log where catfish bite,
  • Walking along the river road at night,
  • Barefoot girls dancing in the moonlight . . ."

It's like the Green River itself is channeling CCR, singing as we paddle the muddy waters. Even in the chill of mid-November, the dogs are eager to leap from the canoe into the murk in pursuit of scores of wild turkey roaming the sticky brown banks. Here on the eastern edge of the central time zone, night comes early, and we paddle hard to make the takeout in the fading light.

The Green runs through Mammoth Cave National Park, an area as peppered with barbecue shacks as it is riddled with caves. That night at the Evergreen, we dine on pulled pork and succulent chicken as a local regales us with tales of "The Monster," a catfish he once almost caught in the river.

The next night we patronize the Porky Pig Diner (in Pig, KY), another finger-licking delight, and add fried frog's legs to our dining experience. Each BBQ shack we visit, there's as much flavor in the ambiance as the food.

In between meals, we find time to explore a fraction of the 350 known miles of Mammoth Cave, scrambling and crawling through the subterranean world on a three-hour tour. Above ground, the pristine hills hide historical sites such as where famed spelunker Floyd Collins perished. Placards describe the antics of cave owners during the tourism wars of the early 1900s.

Having been afloat and underground, we spend the next afternoon on horseback, trotting over the rocky hillsides – yet another way to experience this fantastically beautiful area. Still my mind goes back to the peacefulness of the river: "You're gonna find the world is smould'ring, come on home to Green River . . . "