Kentucky’s Hidden River Cave Is a Not So ‘Hidden’ Gem
Bourbon. Check. Bluegrass. Check. Horses. Check. Basketball. Check. All of the aforementioned are all intrinsically "Kentucky." But you know, when I see lists of "Kentucky" stuff, I don't usually see "caves."
Oh sure, Mammoth Cave always makes the cut, but that's just one cave...albeit a pretty big one. There are enough caves in the Commonwealth, in my opinion, that I think we've earned the right be dubbed "Cave Country" as well. We have the Mammoth one. We have the Lost River Cave in Bowling Green. And there' no TELLING how many caves lie beneath the Appalachian Mountains. And yes, why not classify coal mines as a type of cave? (No, I've never heard anyone make that distinction, but why not?)
And then we have Hidden River Cave. I'd call it a sibling of Lost River Cave (very similarly named), but this one is in Horse Cave. See? Caves are even city names.
By the way, earlier, when I singled out Mammoth Cave as "one" cave, you understand that I know that it is a VAST cave system and Hidden River Cave is very likely a part of it. I mean, it's in the same neck of the woods. In fact, it's one of my favorite "necks of the woods" in Kentucky. I love the Horse Cave/Cave City/Bowling Green area. Those cities capitalize on cave geography and geology and I am here for it.
But what's the story behind Hidden River Cave? Well, tours of the cave began way back in 1912, and for thirty years, the cave was a vitally important source of drinking water and hydroelectricity for Horse Cave. But then 1943 rolled around and this:
Groundwater pollution from domestic and industrial sewage, combined with the impact of low visitation during World War II and a lawsuit by the L&N Railroad led to the cave’s closing in 1943. For 50 years Hidden River Cave had been all but forgotten except during hot summer months when noxious fumes spewed from its enormous entrance.
But once the American Cave Conservation Association (ACCA) relocated its headquarters from Richmond VA to Horse Cave in 1987, the ball began rolling toward brighter days for the now popular attraction. Thanks, in part, to a planning grant from the Economic Development Administration and a new regional sewage treatment system, the cave system reopened in 1992.
If Mammoth Cave was a part of your plans for summer 2023, maybe you make a little detour to Horse Cave and investigate a fascinating museum and the accompanying cave that spent far too much time out of commission and is now a top destination in a major tourism corridor.