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Carter Caves

Posted Jun 09 2010 12:00am
Mention Kentucky caves and most people will think of Mammoth Cave, the largest known network of caves on the planet. But, like its neighbors, Tennessee and Missouri, this State has a wealth of soluble bedrock (limestone, dolomite) and is rich in karst topography (including caves, springs, sinkholes and natural bridges). Carter County, covering a portion of the Appalachian Plateau in northeast Kentucky, harbors over 200 caves, twenty of which are protected within Carter Caves State Resort Park.

Located in the Tygart Creek Valley, just north of I-64 (exit 161), the Park was established in 1946 and offers three cave tours; among these is a 1.25 hour tour of Cascade Cave, the County's largest, which houses a 30 foot underground waterfall. Qualified spelunkers may register to explore some of the other caves and topside explorers can hike more than six miles of nature trails, which pass natural bridges, recessed caves and spectacular bluffs; the surface highlight is Smokey Bridge, west of the Lodge, the largest natural bridge in Kentucky.

Of course, this refuge is also home to the wide variety of flora and fauna that characterize the Appalachian Plateau; a Welcome Center, horse trails, cabins and a campground will also appeal to naturalists. Backpackers can follow the 9-mile Simon Kenton Trail, which leads northwest to intersect the Jenny Wiley Trail, a 163 mile path that begins near Prestonsburg and winds northward, through nine counties, to reach the Ohio River at South Portsmouth.
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