If you are looking to enjoy the springtime weather this weekend, look no further than exploring Gap Cave in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
Rangers at the park and community volunteers have been researching and studying the cave as a separate ecosystem involving the habitat of cave animals, weather activity inside the cave and changing chemical composition of the park’s limestone rock.
“We’re learning that caves are not just geological features, but they’re ecosystems. This is every bit as important and diverse as the stretch of woods outside,” said Scott Teodorski with the National Park Service.
Bats, salamanders and cave crickets are some of the many animals that live within or near the mouth of the Gap Cave. Their unique ecosystem is being carefully monitored for a deadly disease that affects bats called White Nose Syndrome which leaves a powdery fungus on the bats wings and nose.
Soldiers from the Civil War explored the cave leaving their names behind with soot from burning candles. Researchers were later able to track their names down to critical points in history from both a Union and Confederate perspective.
Along with historical and scientific facts you will learn while inside the cave, there are natural sights to see including miles of limestone formations. On the moderately strenuous cave hike, visitors can also expect to see magnificent geologic features that are not visible from above ground.
Ranger led tours will meet at the Daniel Boone Parking Area located near Cumberland Gap, Tenn. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 5 through 12. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling the park at 606-248-2817. Tours are on weekends at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Rangers will also be leading a free hike on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. at the Chadwell Gap trailhead. Hikers should expect a 7-mile strenuous hike and an elevation gain of nearly 2000 feet in the first 2 miles on the way to Hensley Settlement.
For more information about cave tours or hiking trails in Cumberland Gap National Park visit www.nps.gov/cuga.
Kelsey Gerhardt may be reached at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.