Posts Tagged ‘Outdoors’

What Are Those Buildings?


What was this?

Clinging to the edge of the limestone bluff stands a building that looks to be well over a century old. The wooden planks of its front wall stand crooked and slanted as over time they have grown tired and decided to lean on one another for a little rest. The tin roof is peeling and covered with Virginia Creeper that turns a bright red every fall season. For years, as I’ve walked past this old building I have wondered how long it has been standing there, and how many memories are contained within its three remaining walls. Beneath the floor, visible through the holes in the wood, is an aged metal water tank sitting conveniently next to a wet-weather spring. At the bottom of the cliff just above the river is an equally ancient structure not much larger than a doghouse that served as a pump house. At times of year when the spring wasn’t running, water could be pumped up to the storage tank above. Over the years working at Lost River Cave I have heard many questions about that building as well as numerous theories as to how that building may have been used.


The old water tank.

A common answer is that that building was the honeymoon suite. There was a tourist court operating at Lost River Cave during the 1930’s through the 1950’s featuring several cabins that visitors could rent and spend the night. This particular building is larger and constructed differently than the standard cabins were. It has multiple rooms, and was the only one with water. The idea of this being a “deluxe” version of the accommodations at Lost River Cave is a realistic idea, and it has been reported as such by visitors who have been here in the old days.

The second theory I have heard, and this one was speculation based on the structure of the building, is that this building might have been something along the lines of a general store for use by those staying at the tourist court. This idea was proposed by a guest on one of my tours that had a hobby involving old buildings and their uses. He said that the size and shape of the front window led him to believe that customers were once served from that window.

The story I heard thirteen years ago, is the one I personally like to rely on the most. It was the first year that we were open for the winter. That year winter was an incredibly slow season for Lost River Cave business. Over the winter, we averaged about six people over the weekends, and zero people throughout the week. I spent a lot of time trying to find ways to spend my time that season. Usually on Saturday, I would be the only person on staff. I would come in, get the cave and boats ready for any tours that might run, then head up and open the gift shop. As the Friday closer usually had plenty of free time too, the visitor center was always clean and ready to go when I showed up. I would double check that the gift shop was ready, get the cash register ready, and open up for business. Around 11:30 or 12:00 I would take a lunch break, putting a sign on the window letting people know when I would be back. Every once in a while, usually after lunch, someone would come in for a tour. This day, the people that came in were not interested in a tour of the cave, instead they were giving each other a tour of the house that had become our gift shop.

“This was Mom’s room, over there was the kitchen, my room was over here. . .”


The remaining tourist cabin.

I knew that I had a great resource on my hands, so I started asking them questions. It turned out, not only did they once live in the building, but their parents owned and operated Lost River Cave back in the old days. Among the other questions, I asked about that old run down building. She told me that when she was young, she worked at Lost River Walnut Company and that she sat in that very building husking walnuts.

Lost River Walnut Company would collect walnuts from the numerous black walnut trees that grew in the Lost River Cave Valley and would also buy walnuts brought in by locals. The walnuts had a number of uses. Not only are they a healthy nut to eat, but the husks have been used to produce dyes, inks, and stains. Iodine can be extracted from the hulls, and the shells, when pulverized, were used to stuff teddy bears and pillows.

So, with three stories, the question still remains, what exactly was that building used for. My best answer is that it could have very well been used as all of the above at different times. This would explain why visitors who had been here at different times in the past remember it for different purposes.

Only Two of These In Kentucky

Lost River Cave has one of only two Nature Explore Classrooms in the state of Kentucky. Come visit our Nature Explore Classroom and get those kids outside, off the couch, and out from in front of those screens.

Arbor Day Foundation says it better than I can, so:


Group from United Nations, China visits WKU as part of joint research project

A team representing the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Chinese government visited WKU this week for fieldwork and to discuss cooperative research under way to study atmospheric carbon dynamics.

Chris Groves explains details of groundwater monitoring equipment to Chinese scientists within WKU-owned Crumps Cave.

The group, which included scientists from UNESCO’s International Geoscience Program and the Chinese Geological Survey, visited sites at the WKU-owned Crumps Cave Educational Preserve and Lost River Cave. Research is under way there, with sister sites in China, to measure rates at which atmospheric CO2 is consumed by the dissolving of limestone in the world’s karst regions, which are areas like in south central Kentucky where caves, sinkholes and underground rivers are common. Rapidly changing atmospheric concentrations have been linked to increased rates of climate change, and so much work is underway to understand ways in which CO2 is being added to, or subtracted from, the atmosphere… Read more on the WKU News Blog!

The Tale of the Great ‘Coon Caper

ImageLost River Cave is known as a place where legends and history are born. Just last week another story will go down in our books forever.

Like many mornings at Lost River Cave the sun was shining down golden rays on our naturalist, Annie Holt, as she walked to our maintenance barn. From the corner of her eyes she spied a creature staggering out of sight. Upon further inspection she discovered a raccoon, wounded and missing his tail.

With a heart of gold, Annie did what any nature lover would do… her best to help this little guy by calling Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary to the rescue.

Like a Knight in Shining Armor, Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary sent a Rehabilitation Professional. He said unfortunately this guy was most likely a pet that had been released into the wild, probably on the park. People don’t realize when these critters are young that they are wild animals and should never be kept as pets. He said his tail was probably lost in a car accident because he didn’t understand how to survive in the wild.

Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary will reintroduce him into nature so that he can live productively.  They will place him in very large natural fenced-in area called the ‘Coon Castle (from caper to king as we like to say).  When he becomes acclimated to outdoors he will be released into nature where his real home is.

This little guy will go down in Lost River Cave history as the Great ‘Coon Caper because he stole our hearts!

Welcome new team members!

ImageThis week has been intense for our new summer tour guides and guest service employees. They are discovering the rich cultural history of the cave and valley area as well as the biology, geology and ecology that makes a visit to Lost River Cave an unique experience.

New team member Crys Smith noted, “There is so much to know about Lost River Cave… It’s not overwhelming, it is eye opening!”

New team member Sabir Khayaliyer was most excited about our vibrant ecology, but he didn’t fail to mention how good the Linzie’s sandwich was that we had for our welcome lunch.

“This is a fantastic team! We are blessed this year with confident, personable individuals who are sure to make this one of the best years Lost River Cave has ever had,” added Wildflower Gift’s Manager Sylvia Risher.

Our Executive Director Rho Lansden couldn’t have agreed more. She believes this team really has a grasp of our mission to restore, preserve and protect Lost River Cave. Lansden observed the team’s excitement about becoming part of the Lost River Cave culture.

Writings on the Wall

Men at Lost River Cave when the dam was being built.

Lost River Cave Historical Photo

With over 600 known miles of cave passages networking their way through South-Central Kentucky, many residents of these areas are well aware of our unique underground. Even with this, massive subterranean caves in the region are still being forgotten and our children continue to grow up without ever experiencing this frontier. Perhaps this can be accounted to a lack of knowledge, or maybe you’re just not quite ready to shell out $150 for a headlamp that boasts a 200 lumen light… especially when you’re not even sure what the heck a lumen is. Regardless of the reason, caves remain a valuable, entertaining, and hands-on way to educate our children on a variety of topics ranging from safety to science, to interpretive storytelling.

Every cave has a story to tell, from the writings on the wall, to the way the carbonic acid carved its way through the soluble bedrock; and nearly every caver will agree it is a major reason to venture into the dark (with at least three sources of light of course).  Did you know over a dozen names of both Confederate and Union soldiers are written on the cave walls with smoke at Lost River Cave? All of these soldiers called the Lost River Valley home during their respective encampments. Of course, this is merely a speck of Lost River Cave’s timeline that has spanned hundreds of thousands of years.

With so much raw maturity, it’s no wonder why caves remain such a beautiful and fragile environment. For many first time cavers, simply seeing this maturity from an up-close perspective is enough to instill a genuinely profound, lasting respect for the natural world which, as you can imagine, truly helps in our conservation efforts of these karst features.

Rewind to the days of oil lanterns and manila rope, when the excitement of caving lay in the thrill of discovery. When early guides like Stephen Bishop, who discovered most of what is today Mammoth Cave, would spend days at a time traversing passages, that back then, had more than likely never seen a footstep.  It’s what keeps cavers coming back; the thought that, at any point, only a handful of people have ever witnessed the same jaw-dropping formation.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way advocating throwing on an old pair of Levis, grabbing the closest BIC lighter and taking to the underground. Proper caving requires much more organization and planning. There’s equipment to gather, people to inform, batteries to check, and maps to read. All of which can result in a serious headache for the under-experienced. Then, there’s the final issue of tracking down a knowledgeable guide. This has to be someone who’s undoubtedly familiar with the cave and knows the challenges the group may face (I say ‘group’ because a general rule is to never go caving in groups of less than three

Kid's Discovery Cave Crawl

Now, beginning April 14, Lost River Cave can help your children ‘dig deeper’ into this environment by way of our new Kid’s Discovery Cave Crawl. This tour is designed for children ages 6-12. It not only gives children an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Civil War soldiers and famed speleo-explorers while learning safe caving practices, but also allows them the chance to fulfill one of their earliest fascinations… to get dirty. And by dirty, we mean REALLY DIRTY!


Guest Writer

Outdoor Adventure Journalist, Danny Dresser

Annie Holt – Nonformal EE Certification Program

Congratulations to our Park Naturalist, Annie Holt, who recently became one of the 2012 graduates of the Nonformal EE Certification program.

The Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC) is a state agency within the Education Cabinet. One opportunity it offers is an annual Nonformal EE Certification program. The course work includes debates and research papers over prominent environmental topics, in addition to tests over theory and practice of environmental education techniques.

In reflection, Holt said, “It was very challenging, stressful at times, but fun. In the end I was very proud of what I was able to bring into our programming at Lost River Cave.”

We are so proud of what Holt has accomplished to forward our mission as well as provide schools and families with fun and educational programs.


Annie Holt

2012 Graduating Class

Holiday Survival Guide

This time of year is often known as the great race to see what gives out first – your feet or your money. Bring the whole family to Lost River Cave for a well deserved and peaceful Holiday outing that won’t strain your pocketbook.

  • Take family photos on Santa’s sleigh – Free
  • Take a scenic nature walk on the bluehole or greenways trail – Free
  • Become a Junior Tour Guide – Free
  • Geo-caching – Free
  • Bird watching at the Bird Blind – Free
  • Get last minute shopping done without the holiday hassle at our gift shop Wildflower Gifts
  • Cave Boat Tour (call ahead to check water levels)

We are open seven days a week 9-6pm. Closed – December 24, 25, and January 1

Not-for-Profit 101

A Moment in History

Senior Class of Woodburn 1934

Woodburn School - 1916

After 77 years Elizabeth Law, now Elizabeth Creek, returned to Lost River Cave.

In the days before school trips, her senior class of 1934 came to Lost River. Elizabeth had attended the Woodburn school since third grade. The class of 14 students  were allowed to scramble down the bluffs for a look at the river and massive cave entrance. She recalled that there were no buildings, just the cave.

After her tour, Elizabeth remarked that she was glad to have the opportunity to come back today. She loved the cave and her tour guide Jordan. She left saying “Everything is so beautiful!”