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Exploration of Mammoth Cave

Unless otherwise noted, all courses are based out of Hamilton Valley Field Station, located on the border of Mammoth Cave National Park near Bowling Green, Kentucky. See Logistics page for more information.

June 11-16, 2023

This course 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. 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). 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. 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.

Instructors: Bruce hatcher

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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 Commonwealth 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.


Instructors: David Kem

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David Kem is a former cave guide and environmental educator at Mammoth Cave National Park, a former guide and property manager at Lost River Cave and Valley, a current member of the Cave Research Foundation, and the author of “The Kentucky Cave Wars: the Century that Shaped Mammoth Cave National Park.” David holds a B.S. and an M.S. in Biology from Western Kentucky University and was the recipient of the 2013 Ed Bishop Award for research and the 2014 Guide of the Year Award at Mammoth Cave National Park. Currently, David is the business manager at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park and a volunteer with program services at Mammoth Cave National Park.

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