Friends Blog
Look what we accomplished in 2017!
Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Friends continue to protect special places, connect people to the Park, and inspire a new generation of Mammoth Cave stewards. Thank you for your devotion
to Mammoth Cave, and for your
support of the Friends of Mammoth Cave.

Friends looked Behind the Scenes at the New Discovery Cave, the Green River ecosystem, and the Park's curatorial facility.
At the Mammoth Green River Clean-up, 35 volunteers helped out.
We provided lunches for the Hart County work crew, who contributed over 10,000 hours of volunteer labor to Park maintenance projects.

On behalf of the WKU Society for Lifelong Learning, we organized four outings for “Exploring Mammoth Cave with the Experts.”
Our annual Mammoth-on attracted 50 friends and family for a cave tour, bike riding and trail running, including Superintendent Barclay Trimble.
The Friends assisted with the nomination as an International Dark-Sky Park.
We installed an interactive video kiosk in the Visitor Center, featuring Park research and history, cave tour information and links to area attractions and lodging.

Through the Cheryl Messenger Memorial Fund, we awarded more than $35,000 over two years for Ticket to Ride grants to 73 schools, bringing more than 4,000 students to the Park for Environmental Education and cave tours.
A grant to the Friends from the National Park Foundation helped launch Mammoth Cave After Dark, to develop a Night Sky evening program and host 140 students and parents for evening outings at the Park. Look for the video on our Facebook page!

Join us!
Look for our year-end campaign on Facebook … over 90 new and renewing contributors in the last year! When you help us with funding, your gift makes a difference.

Thank you for your support!

National Park Service announces leadership changes
National Park Service announces leadership changes
Thursday, July 06, 2017
Saudia Muwwakkil, NPS Southeast Region, 404-507-5615
Vickie Carson, Mammoth Cave National Park, 270-758-2192

ATLANTA — Today, National Park Service (NPS) Southeast Regional Director Stan Austin announced the selection of Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead as deputy regional director, based in Atlanta. With this selection, Austin has also tapped Southeast Regional Chief of Staff Barclay Trimble as Mammoth Cave’s next superintendent. Both appointments are effective July 23.

“Sarah and Barclay have distinguished themselves as exceptional leaders within the National Park Service,” Austin said. “Sarah has a remarkable ability to tackle tough issues with clear vision, while fostering a strong sense of connection and purpose. I have relied on Barclay extensively for his business acumen and invaluable contributions to regional strategy and operations. I am confident both will continue serving the National Park Service and the American people well in their new roles.”

Sarah Craighead, Deputy Regional Director, Southeast Region

Sarah Craighead, who began her NPS career as a cave guide and campground ranger at Mammoth Cave in 1978, has led the central-Kentucky park as superintendent since 2012. Park visitation increased by 10 percent during her 5-year tenure. She fortified partnerships with tourism constituents, volunteers, user groups, and the Friends of Mammoth Cave. Craighead opened the park’s renovated visitor center and Big Hollow mountain-bike trail, and supported the removal of 100-year-old Lock & Dam 6 from Green River, returning many miles of surface and cave rivers to natural flow. As the Kentucky NPS coordinator, Craighead led her fellow superintendents to bring widespread recognition to the state’s five NPS sites during the agency’s Centennial year. Craighead also initiated night-sky programming and the park will complete its International Dark Sky nomination this year.

Prior to joining Mammoth Cave, Craighead spent three years as superintendent of California’s Death Valley National Park, the largest national park in the continental U.S. and the lowest place in North America at 282 feet below sea level. She also served as superintendent of Saguaro National Park in Arizona and Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Oklahoma. In her 38-year career, Craighead has also worked at Acadia National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Independence National Historical Park, and Mesa Verde National Park. While at Mammoth Cave, Craighead completed temporary assignments to the NPS Southeast Regional Office as acting deputy regional director and also as a special assistant to the regional director.

“Whatever I have been able to accomplish at Mammoth Cave was possible because of the park staff’s dedication to excellence in all they do,” said Craighead. “I am particularly pleased with the progress we made in providing concessions services for visitors and that several strategic plans are underway, which will guide Mammoth Cave for years to come. I am honored to begin my new assignment with the Southeast Regional Office, bringing the same enthusiasm and commitment to bear for the region’s 70 national park units.”

Craighead is a native of Cave City, Ky. She is married to Rick Shireman, a National Park Service retiree.

Barclay Trimble, Superintendent, Mammoth Cave National Park

Barclay Trimble has served as the NPS deputy regional director in Atlanta since 2014, assuming the added duties of regional chief of staff last year. He manages 30 superintendents at national parks in Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also oversees regional planning and compliance, land resources, ranger activities, and commercial services.

Prior to joining the NPS Southeast Regional Office, Trimble served as cluster superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in North Carolina; deputy superintendent and acting superintendent at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona; recreation fee manager for the NPS Intermountain Region in Colorado; acting chief for the Business Management Office at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah/Arizona and chief of finance for the NPS Concessions Program Center in Colorado. In addition to these tenured assignments, Trimble has also provided administrative and management support during temporary assignments at, both, Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska and the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, DC.

“Mammoth Cave National Park boasts amazing resources with equally impressive employees, volunteers and community partners,” Trimble said. “I look forward to joining the park this summer and immersing myself in the majesty of Mammoth Cave.”

A Texas native, Trimble graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a degree in Business Administration. In his spare time, Trimble takes every opportunity to enjoy the parks and outdoors with his two children and wife, Lana.

# # #
Mammoth Cave National Park is two parks in one. Below the surface, it preserves the extensive Mammoth Cave system and above ground, scenic river valleys and the extreme hills and hollows typical of a karst landscape. Mammoth Cave is the longest cave in the world, with more than 405 miles explored and mapped.

New rules for river users in Mammoth Cave National Park
Monday, May 15, 2017
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., May 15, 2017 – Superintendent Sarah Craighead announced the park will require river users to wear personal floatation devises (PFDs) at all times when on Green River or Nolin River within Mammoth Cave National Park. Floodplain camping will be restricted to the upper stretches of Green River in the park.

“The rivers are changing following the breach and removal of Lock and Dam 6,” said Craighead. “River banks are slumping, causing trees to fall into the river. In some places the current is more swift than in the past. It will take time for the rivers to find their new normal. For the safety of our visitors we will require life vests to be worn at all times while on the rivers in the park.”

The changing river conditions have caused park staff to initiate new river use guidance:
· River access is available at Dennison Ferry and Green River Ferry.
· No river floodplain or island camping is permitted on Nolin River, nor on Green River below Turnhole Bend.
· Be alert for fallen trees, submerged trees and rocks, and drifting debris.
· Alert the Green River Ferry operator as you approach by water, or before you launch from land.
· River use is discouraged when the river level measures over 10’ at Green River Ferry. At that level, canoe liveries are not permitted to launch canoes and kayaks.
· Plan ahead and prepare for your trip:
· Tell a friend your trip plans, including your expected return time.
· Use dry bags to protect personal items.
· Practice Leave No Trace principles – pack out your trash.
· Do not rely on your cell phone – service in the park is unreliable.

Elizabeth Maclang, superintendent of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in the Philippines, is visiting Mammoth Cave National Park as a World Heritage Fellow.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., October 5, 2016 – 
Puerto Princesa, like Mammoth Cave, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies within an International Biosphere Reserve. The month-long Fellowship Program is sponsored by the National Park Service Office of International Affairs in partnership with the George Wright Society.

"It has been a great honor and pleasure to host Ms. Maclang during her Fellowship here at Mammoth Cave,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead. “Our focus has been to get Ms. Maclang into the cave and forest, allowing her to experience United States park management first hand. Though there are some similarities between Puerto Princesa and Mammoth Cave, there are many differences, too. Conversations with Ms. Maclang have been eye-opening for me and my staff.”

Maclang has been superintendent of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park for the last three years. Prior to that time, she served in a network of environmental non-governmental organizations in the Palawan province for 16 years.

While at Mammoth Cave, Ms. Maclang participated in bat surveys, caving expeditions, and law enforcement briefings. She toured the archival collection, visited privately-owned caves, assisted in environmental education lessons, and observed how cave tours are managed at Mammoth Cave.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. The cave opens on the ocean and the only way to tour the cave is by small 10-person boats. Guides paddle while visitors listen to multi-lingual headsets; most visitors come via organized tours from the United States, Taiwan, Korea, China and Europe. There is a carrying capacity of 1,200 people per day. Three indigenous people-groups live within the park.
“My visit to Mammoth Cave and central Kentucky has been very helpful,” said Maclang. “It is very important that everything I have learned here at Mammoth Cave will be adapted to our operations at Puerto Princesa.”

Learn more about Puerto Princesa at

TALK OF THE TOWN: Q&A with Helen Tyson Siewers
Monday, October 03, 2016
Helen Tyson Siewers grew up in Nashville. She and her family have lived in Bowling Green since 1998. Siewers is a landscape architect and a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-accredited professional. She enjoys reading, walking, travel and food.

Click on title for full article.

Mammoth Cave Accessible Tour opens October 1
Mammoth Cave Accessible Tour opens October 1
Friday, September 09, 2016
MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., September 9, 2016 – Superintendent Sarah Craighead announced today that October 1, 2016, marks the opening on the Mammoth Cave Accessible Tour. The tour is now available for purchase/reservation on
“We are very pleased to be able to offer an accessible cave tour again,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead. “We suspended use of the elevator in 2002 when a cable broke, which led to a full renovation. Now, after 14 years and a $2.2 million repair project, the cave elevator is back in safe operation allowing us to resume accessible cave tours.”
The Mammoth Cave Accessible Tour will be offered daily at 12:30 p.m. during the fall and winter seasons, limited to 14 people. The cost is $20 for adults, $14 for youth (6-12), and $10 for those with an Access Pass/Senior Pass. The interagency, life-time Access Pass and Senior Pass are available at the ticket office. The Access Pass is free with proof of disability; the Senior Pass costs $10 for those who are 62 years or older.
Reservations are recommended for all cave tours;, or 1-877-444-6777.
Below is the tour description:
Mammoth Cave Accessible Tour
See unique gypsum formations, historic cave writing and more on accessible cave trails. Using the elevator entrance, this ½-mile round trip provides visitors with special needs an opportunity to visit the Snowball Room and includes portions of the Cleaveland Avenue Tour and Grand Avenue Tour.
· 2 hours, ½ mile. Tour limit: 14. Total stairs: 0. Elevation change: 267'.
· Please note that transportation or mobility assistive devices such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers or canes are permitted on this tour, but are not available. NPS employees will not transport or aid visitors in using assistive equipment. If visitors need assistance with the Park’s accessible features, they must bring a companion with them for aid. Assistive devices will need to be decontaminated upon exiting the cave to limit the spread of White-Nose Syndrome.
· Accessible restrooms are available.
· Meets at the Visitor Center; participants and their companions will caravan by private vehicle to the elevator entrance. Difficulty: Easy.

New Concession Operator Selected
Monday, August 01, 2016

MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., August 1, 2016 – Mammoth Cave National Park officials announced that MCNP ONP, LLC, has been selected to provide commercial services at Mammoth Cave under the terms of a new 15-year concessions contract, effective January 1, 2017.  MCNP ONP is owned by Ortega National Parks, LLC, a family-run company with nearly 20 years of operating experience as a park concessioner.

“I am very pleased to announce Ortega National Parks as the new concessioner at Mammoth Cave,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead.  “The concessions operation is central to a visitor’s experience at the park.  Ortega’s business plan outlines a straight-forward commitment to exceptional guest services, a strong environmental ethic, and a focus on resource preservation that aligns with the mission of Mammoth Cave National Park.  We look forward to working together over the next 15 years.”

The services under the new concessions contract include lodging, food/ beverage, and retail services at Mammoth Cave Hotel, along with tour bus transportation and equipment rental.  The new contract will require some enhancements to the services and facilities, including modification to the food service and retail areas.

"We're excited to get to Mammoth Cave and begin managing concession operations," said Emily Ortega, Senior Vice President. "We aim for a seamless transition, for both current employees and park visitors.  We'll do our best to offer jobs to as many current employees as possible.  We recognize that so many of them have been dedicated to this park for a long time already.  We're also eager to see some of our ideas for the park come to life as we begin to offer more local and sustainable merchandise in the gift shops, bring more local and sustainable ingredients into the food service, and increase environmental measures throughout concession operations."

Ortega National Parks, LLC is primarily owned by Armand Ortega, who founded his first operations over forty years ago.  The family business began as National Park Concessioners at Bandelier and White Sands National Monuments and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  In the last ten years they have expanded to have contracts with 12 national parks or monuments from Maine to Hawaii, as well as Colossal Cave County Park in Tucson, Arizona.  At each operation, they take pride in learning about the park at which they serve and incorporating the park themes into as much of their business operations as possible.  They recognize that each park has different needs from its concessioners and work hard to enter each operation as an entirely new business.

The selection of the new park concessioner is the result of a competitive process that is required by the National Park Service Concessions Management Improvement Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-391).  An interdisciplinary team of NPS professionals from across the nation reviewed, analyzed and rated the proposals to ensure that the selected concessioner was capable of providing the best experience for visitors and protection of park resources.

The award of this new concessions contract concludes 16 years of visitor services by Forever Resorts, LLC, the current operator of Mammoth Cave Hotel.

“We thank Forever Resorts for its dedicated service, particularly during the recent hotel renovations,” said Craighead.  “The staff have gone above and beyond to ensure the traveling public received true Kentucky hospitality.”

The new contract will provide long-term stability for the Mammoth Cave National Park concession operation, which employs more than 100 area residents.

For more information about concession operations in the park, please visit the park’s website at  For more information on Ortega National Parks, visit

Tourism to Mammoth Cave NP creates $48 million in Economic Benefits
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Report shows visitor spending supports 749 jobs in local economy

MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., April 21, 2016 – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 566,895 visitors to Mammoth Cave National Park in 2015 supported 749 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $48 million.
“We join with our Caveland tourism partners in welcoming and serving visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead.  “National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service.  We see the impact locally, as well.”
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.  The report shows $16.9 billion of direct spending by 307.2 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 295,000 jobs nationally; 252,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $32 billion.
According to the 2015 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.1 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.2 percent), gas and oil (11.8 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.8 percent).
To download the report visit
The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

Click here for Mail-in Form

The Goals of the Friends of Mammoth Cave National

Park are:

1. to support memorable multi-cultural, multi-generational visitor experiences to
Mammoth Cave National Park in partnership with surrounding communities;

2. to serve as an ambassador for Mammoth Cave National Park and the
caveland region, promoting and enhancing understanding and appreciation of
all facets of Mammoth Cave National Park and the surrounding International
Biosphere Reserve;

3. to support and foster educational programs and research projects, including
those that will improve students' competence in science and technology or
encourage international cooperation; and

4. to support, create, and encourage healthy lifestyles through the fitness
opportunities and recreational choices available at Mammoth Cave National
Park and the surrounding region.
Current  Executive Director
Helen Siewers
email Helen

Current Board of Directors
Larry Cox - Chairman
Tom Carney- Vice-Chairman
Jeanine Huss - Secretary
Amanda Brown-Wyatt - Treasurer
James Borden
Brian Dale
Rick DuBose
Kay Gandy
Jenna Lamblin
Nick Noble
David Peterson
Gary A. Ransdell
LaJuana Wilcher

More Ways You Can Help

Click here for Online Form

Centennial Challenge

The Friends are made up of folks who love
Mammoth Cave.
Our work helps protect it, and draw more
visitors and young people to the park so they
might fall in love with it, too.

Membership levels that match our
$  25   Biosphere Reserve
$  35   World Heritage
$  75   Our National Park
$ 100  Park Service Centennial
$ 200  Cave Tour Bicentennial
$1000 Mammoth Friends
Ensure the Wonder of Mammoth Cave Endures
Become a Member, Donor, or Volunteer
(FRIENDS) is a non-profit public benefit corporation organized under the Kentucky Non-profit Corporation Act.

You can help
See our list of donners