One little known fact about me is that when I was in kindergarten, my best friend and I said we were going to be archaeologists when we grew up. I had changed my mind by the time I started first grade, but that didn’t change my fascination with history, landmarks, antiques/artifacts, and travel. I found out not too long ago that a place with historical and geological significance wasn’t too far from our home. The Great Saltpetre Cave in Livingston, Kentucky is owned by the Rockcastle Karst Conservancy, and operated by several other organizations. The cave is only open to the public one weekend a year, when they invite visitors to visit free of charge for guided tours of the cave. They also offer free soup beans and cornbread, as an added bonus. Jeremy loves caves, so he had planned for months to attend this year’s open house.
When you hear the words cave and Kentucky, most people think about Mammoth Cave in the western part of the state. Our neighboring state, Tennessee has the most recorded caves, while Kentucky is known to have the longest cave system, Mammoth Cave.
The Great Saltpetre Cave is a limestone cave that was a large supplier of saltpeter (used to make gun powder) during the War of 1812. The cave has had many uses over the last century, and operated a commercial cave until sometime during the 1970’s. One strange fact about the Great Saltpetre Cave is that the movie, Fire Down Below was partially filmed on the property; they even have a fake rock left in the cave from movie filming.
Here’s an interesting shot from in the cave. Does this rock formation look like any former President?
If you have visited Mammoth Cave you probably won’t be impressed with the size of the Great Saltpetre Cave, but you shouldn’t discount the tour. The Great Saltpetre Cave tour is guided and lasts about 45 minutes. This tour is great for children. My six-year-old asked lots of questions and was generally interested in the entire tour. It’s a good length, and doesn’t require much climbing if you don’t include all the stairs getting to the entrance of the cave.
If you love caves or enjoy Kentucky history, you’ll definitely want to try to visit the Great Saltpetre Cave on the one weekend a year that it’s open.
Here are a few things you should know before you should visit the Great Saltpetre Cave:
- The cave is only open to the public one weekend a year.
- There are restrooms near the entrance to the cave.
- Senior/disabled parking is located near the entrance of the cave. Regular parking is down near the shelter.
- They normally offer free soup beans and cornbread, but the local volunteer fire department also sells concessions.
- Check their website and Facebook page for updates on when the cave will be open.
- The Great Saltpetre Preserve is a beautiful property, plan a few extra minutes to take a walk or explore. You could even pack a picnic.
- They currently allow photography in the cave, so pack your camera or phone. If you don’t want your phone to go dead searching for a signal, turn it on airplane mode when you enter the cave.
- Wear comfortable shoes with good traction, and take a light jacket.
Here are a few photos from our visit to the Great Saltpetre Preserve:
I shot a short video while in the cave. The cave was once used to host concerts, weddings, and other events in this large area.
What are some of your favorite local spots to visit?