Local caves experience uptick in activity during closure of Mammoth Cave National Park

Published: Jan. 9, 2019 at 6:02 PM CST
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19 days into the government shutdown, cave tours at Mammoth Cave National Park continue to stay closed.

But that isn't the case for other local caves in the area, with some saying they've noticed an unusual uptick in tourism.

Caves and our karst system, an essential part of South Central Kentucky, especially shown through the likes of Mammoth Cave National Park.

"To close down a national, world-renowned landmark like that, is pretty extreme," Scott Sendtko commented, the owner of Crystal Onyx Cave in Cave City.

With the current suspension of underground tours at the park because of the lack of manpower, some of the other local caves in the area said they've had extra activity than what's usual for the season.

Crystal Onyx Cave, for example, first closed but then reopened during the shutdown, accepting appointments to give tours. It came after receiving calls from tourists whose plans were thrown off track.

"They had these trips planned for months in advance; reservations made with the hotels and all the places; and they just couldn't cancel them. So we just started getting those calls and felt for them," said Sendtko. "We decided to open up."

He receives visitors from out of state, many out of the country.

"The foreigners -- they come in the wintertime, they don't have the big groups and tour routes, so we do get a lot of foreigners here. Australia, Japan, China, Russia -- we had some Russians, you know. It's always interesting talking with them. And I guess they're affected by the shutdown too," he said.

Over at Mammoth Cave, the Lodge remains open, the park being noticeably quiet.

"It's slow this time of year anyway, but it's just -- now it's almost nonexistent," said Mike Davis, general manager of the Lodge at Mammoth Cave.

He said they've been referring tourists who come by to other local caves.

"We want them to have a good stay while they're in the area," said Davis.

"The shutdown is definitely helping the locals," said Sendtko. "But ultimately...I don't think there's a single one out there that would wish for this the way that it happened."