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Kentucky South is a landscape of contrasts, varying west to east from fertile plain where soybean and tobacco reign supreme to the beauty of Kentucky Knob country and the verdant mountains of the Cumberland region.
Assuming you are traveling from west to east, highway #80/68 leads you to Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area. At one time the river flats were part of the great plains. Only pockets of native prairie survive now, one of them in Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area. Be sure to schedule enough time for a drive-through of The Trace, replete with indigenous flora and fauna including elk and bison herds. They roam free. You stay in your vehicle.
A great place to spend a night is at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, approximately 45 miles from Hopkinsville. Pennyrile is a corruption of the name Pennyroyal, a plant that used to grow profusely throughout the area.
Hopkinsville is surrounded by gently rolling fields of tobacco and soybean. The city is one of the more visible points on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The infamous trek is commemorated in a park, located on the grounds of one of the camps used during the infamous walk. The graves of Chiefs White Path and Fly Smith are beautifully marked with statuary. Each year, Hopkinsville hosts a First Nations Pow Wow to commemorate the Trail and its tragic circumstances.
Close by another memorial salutes the 248 soldiers from Ft. Campbell which is located near Hopkinsville, who died in December 1985 in an air accident at Gander, Newfoundland.
Clairvoyant, Edgar Cayce, was born near Beverly just south of Hopkinsville. You can tour the school house Cayce attended as a child and can also visit his grave in Hopkinsville. The grave is always sought out and little tokens are left on it by the curious and those who still believe in his powers.
One of Hopkinsville's unique and most delightful surprises is the Round Table Literary Park. Used as an outdoor class room, the park is also open to the general public. Some of its built charms include replicas and scaled-down versions of King Arthur's sword in the stone, the Round Table, a Greco-Roman amphitheatre, the Delphian Tholos, a Medieval Wall and a statues of Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy. Can you imagine the inspiration students get by sitting at King Arthur's Round Table while discussing period classics?
Pennyrile Area Museum features great displays, including one pertaining to Edgar Cayce. Each year, at the end of September, the museum sponsors the Night Rider Tobacco Raid Re-enactment. This event is an historically informative hay-ride throughout the heritage area, that retraces the original 1907 Hopkinsville raid. Costumed and mounted re-enactors make for an interesting and noisy night!
Bowling Green, a small sophisticated city, is the perfect place to serve as home base while exploring the surrounding area. The city has a most pleasing setting for Western Kentucky University, situated as it in on the highest knob in the city. All roads lead to its manicured grounds. 15,000 students attend WKU. Perhaps this is the reason that although 75% of Kentucky is dry, Bowling Green is wet and 75% of all alcohol is sold in the area.
Kentucky Museum is located on the campus of the university. Award winning exhibits are a pleasure to tour. People come from across North America to use their excellent research facility and genealogical library.
While in an historical frame of mind, a visit to Riverview at Hobson Groves is worthwhile. The c1872 Italianate structure was the home of Atwood and Julia Van Meter Hobson. It presents an exquisite example of Victorian furnishings and decorative touches. Interior colours are vibrant. Staff is knowledgeable.
One of Bowling Green's most unusual attractions is Lost River Cave & Valley. The cave itself runs for five miles under the city, although only 700 feet is open to the general public via a boat tour. Getting to the cave's entrance is an adventure in itself. The valley was formed by the collapse of a large cave system. Access is gained by descending a steep stairway. In the pretty valley it is easy to believe that you have stepped back into the time of Jesse James who hid in the cave, as did both Confederate and Union soldiers. Unusual blue water holes feed the river that flows through the system. Dense foliage masks outside noise. The bandstand, dance floor of a 1930's night club and remains of a stone grist mill are still visible at the entrance to the cave.
A day of "things historical" is well balanced by one of mechanical diversions. Favourite attractions in Bowling Green include the G.M. Corvette Assembly Plant, National Corvette Museum and Holly Performance Products plant. Assembly plant tours are interesting for car buffs as is the Museum which tells the story of the Corvette through imaginative exhibits.
End the day with a good game of Disk Golf. Played with small frisbee-like disks and metal basket for holes, the game is a favourite in Bowling Green. Wait until this one catches on across North America! Make a reservation to play Disk Golf at Hobson Grove.
Mammoth Cave National Park lies a half-hour north of Bowling Green. This World Heritage Park comprises more than 52,000 acres of forest, hill and bluff. The area is crisscrossed with 70 miles of hiking trail and more than 30 miles of river to explore. Now part of an International Biosphere Reserve the park's main attraction is Mammoth cave which has more than 300 known miles of passageways. This is without a doubt, the world's longest cave system.
A wide range of activities are offered daily, all led by knowledgeable park rangers. Programs range from 1-½ hours to 6-½ hours long and include cave trips, nature hikes, camp fire programs and slide presentations. There are cave tours to suit all levels of fitness ability Ask questions before you purchase tickets. Some cave tours are strenuous and require a lot of physical stamina. If you have a fear of heights, close places, depths or cannot climb steps, perhaps you should stay above ground. There are 61 steps into, and exiting from, tours that begin at the historic cave entrance, not to mention more than 130 steps if your tour includes the "fire tower" inside the cave. Caves are cold so wear appropriate clothing and sturdy walking shoes.
Every cave is unique. They are home to rare aquatic species and bat populations. Their environment protects fossils and prehistoric artifacts. The remains of forty-three aboriginal and pre-historic individuals are in Mammoth Cave system, several mummified. They are not on display and are never disturbed, being off-limits to visitors and spelunkers.
We stayed back with an elderly individual who experienced health problems, while the Ranger went for assistance and had the pleasure of spending an extra half-hour in the quiet of the cave. There were just three of us in the magnificence and silence of an adequately lit, massive, domed chamber. What a wonderful experience!
Mammoth Cave National Park offers accommodation and camping. Because of the number of visitors during the peak seasons of summer and autumn, plan a visit to Mammoth Cave in the spring, early autumn or winter. Be sure to make reservations well in advance of any visit.
Other area caves worth exploring are Crystal Onyx, Onyx, Kentucky Caverns, Diamond Caverns and Hidden River Cave.
IF YOU GO:
Hopkinsville, KY, 42240
P.O. Box 643
Hopkinsville, KY, 42241-0643
Bowling Green, KY, 42104
1100 West Main Avenue
Bowling Green, KY, 42102
Bowling Green, KY, 42101
Bowling Green, KY 42101
Bowling Green, KY 42102-9006
Mammoth Cave, KY
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