Exploration of

Mammoth Cave


Unless otherwise noted or titled, all courses are based out of Hamilton Valley Field Station, located on the border of Mammoth Cave National Park near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Please see the logistics tab for more information about preparing for your course and stay at Hamilton Valley Field Station.

We apologize for any inconvenience, but due to COVID-19 pandemic orders issued by Western Kentucky University and Governor Beshear of Kentucky, we are unable to offer any courses in June 2020. The safety of our instructors and course participants is of utmost importance to us. We hope we can soon return to a world free of COVID-19 concerns, but until then, we feel this is the best decision in the interest of everyone.

June 7-12, 2020

Exploration of Mammoth Cave is an intensive study of the exploration of Mammoth Cave, with a special emphasis given to the explorers, their discoveries, their motivations, and the incorporation of caves and karst features into the world’s longest cave system. Illustrated lectures, maps, photographs, and first-hand accounts of discovery will be used to promote understanding of the caves prior to daily field trips. Many underground trips will follow tourist trails closed long ago to the public, while other trips will require more strenuous walking and crawling in undeveloped passages on trips lasting 6-8 hours. Participants must be in good physical condition. The objective of this course is to introduce students to the history of cave exploration at Mammoth Cave. The course topics will focus on the exploration of the world’s longest cave during different time periods and will be covered in chronological order (for the most part). Content will be covered in both a classroom setting and in the field. Classes will begin and conclude daily at the Cave Research Foundation’s Hamilton Valley Research Station.

Instructor: Mr. David Kem

David Photo.jpg

David Kem is the assistant park manager at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Corbin, Kentucky. He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a B.S. and an M.S. in biology. David is a former park guide and environmental educator at Mammoth Cave National Park, where he earned the 2013 Ed Bishop Award for Research and the 2014 Guide of the Year award. He is the author of "The Kentucky Cave Wars: the Century that Shaped Mammoth Cave National Park," a member of the Cave Research Foundation, and a volunteer with Program Services at Mammoth Cave National Park. 

Instructor: Mr. Bruce Hatcher

Bruce Hatcher’s interest in caves began at an early age while attending an elementary school program sponsored by Western Kentucky University (WKU).   He grew up only a few miles outside of Mammoth Cave National Park and began caving regularly at the age of 12.   He began guiding tours in Mammoth Onyx Cave at Kentucky Down Under when he was 14 years old. His guiding legacy has continued to this day and also includes former work at Hidden River Cave and continued part time duty at Mammoth Cave National Park. Bruce graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in Geology and received his M.S. in Geosciences from WKU. He is a full time employee of the State of Kentucky where he currently works as an Environmental Scientist for the Division of Water’s Bowling Green Regional Office. He is also a current member of the Cave Research Foundation.