Friday, August 22, 2008

It's friday again...

And we're back home, so that means I'll be goin' over later to take mom to eat Chinese food. Denise has been hit with a computer glitch at work that's probably gonna force her and her coworkers to do overtime all weekend. She'll probably be able to get away tonight though and we'll take Mom out to eat, but then she'll probably have to go in Saturday morning to get everything done. It's a bummer, but what can ya do?

As far as trip pictures are concerned, the last thing we did in Bowling Green before we left Kentucky was go to check out the Lost River Cave. We'd seen the signs for the place ever since getting there, and in the end it turned out Denise's daughter Lynn had two free tickets from work. So Denise and I decided to check it out.

It turned out to be pretty cool, both literally and figuratively. It was in the 90s while we were in Kentucky, with the humidity workin' on us, so when we went down into the little gully where the river was and where the trail led to the cave, the cool breeze from the cave and the cool water was a real relief. The stream was filled with cool, clear water. I didn't see anything other than crawdads in there. No fish at all, but I'm sure they're there.

When you got down there the guide told you all sorts of stories about the "Blue Hole" (above) and the river that flows underground into the cave. Several people, including some unlucky Civil War soldiers, were sucked down into this hole by the current from the underground river. People speculated on the depth of the hole and tried to drop weighted lines into the hole to discover its depth.

Robert LeRoy Ripley himself came out one day and certified the depth of the hole at over 400 feet. It turned out though that the Blue Hole itself is only about twelve feet deep (modern cave divers found that out), and that the hole opens up to the underground river flowing beneath the ground, which was sweeping the weighted lines and everything else that fell into the hole down stream, underground, till it reached it's end.

The stories the guide told about the Civil War era fascinated me. She talked about different times when the cave and the cool little gully were occupied alternately by both Confederate and Union troops, and how the soldiers carved their names in the rock and took little stalactites home with them as souvaneers.

I keep thinkin' about those poor Civil War soldiers who went swimming that day. Having lived through those horrible battles, only to drown, sucked down into the depths of the earth after divin' nekkid into a beautiful, cold pool of water. Damn, that's not a good way to go.

They also tell you stories about Confederate raiders using the cave as a refuge. John Hunt Morgan, of "Morgan's Raiders" fame, used the cave as a refuge after a raid on the Union depot at South Union, in Logan County. A former rebel raider, Jesse James, having turned his raiding skills to profit, supposedly hid out in the cave after robbing the Southern Deposit Bank in Russellville in 1868.

James supposedly nabbed a local Bowling Green doctor and drug him into the cave to treat one of his compadres. The guide told us that everyone always got away clean, managing to also avoid getting sucked into the bowels of the earth during their stay. After layin' out many of these tales, the guide takes you on a short walk to the mouth of the cave.

Along the way you see remnants of other times in history, when the cool water from the river was pumped out and used to run a mill and a distillery. The old square pumping station above is a remnant of that mill.

Once you get to the mouth of the cave you're given a floatation pad and your group is piled into a little flat boat for the short trip into the cave. It turns out the boat tour is mostly a bust. It doesn't take you in very far or show you very much. I found a video on Youtube showing what the whole place is like. You be the judge.

The really cool thing about this cave is the history behind it and this fabulous dance hall that was built in the early 1930s and operated till the 1950s.

It turns out, of course, that in the era after the Civil War, before air conditioning, folks could come down here, walk with their dates and make out in the cool woods, and once this dance hall was built they'd come to listen to a live band, dance to swing music and drink adult beverages. The place was amazing, and I loved to look at the pictures they had on the walls from that earlier time.

You know folks were havin' a good old time down here in the dark.

I guess it's the history dude in me, or maybe the voyeur, but I'd love to have been around back then to see what went on, and maybe join in the fun.

Of course, all this fun eventually had to end, or move, and in the end the dance hall was closed. The building of I-65, rerouting traffic away from the cave, and the invention of things like air conditioning and television probably did more than anything to bring this fun to an end. After that the cave became a local dump, with people tossing their trash, old cars and refrigerators off the road into the creek below for about thirty years.

In 1990, a group of local citizens met at a dinner party and formed a volunteer group determined to clean up and restore this local treasure. The organization that still keeps the creek clean and runs the tours is the descendant of that original volunteer group. The money you pay to take the tour helps maintain the cave and river.

If you get a chance on a hot summer day, do yourself a favor and check the place out. It was a lot of fun. Cheers.


Hammer said...

fascinating! I had read about that bottomless pool but never knew what it looked like.

Mushy said...

Wonderful story and photos Jeff...I appreciate you sharing both with us.

Sarge Charlie said...

Ok, you have added another thing to my to do list, holy crap, I don't have enough time to finish the list.