Sunday, April 25, 2021

Mammoth Cave Forest in late Spring

A view of the River Styx Spring

Most people are unaware that Mammoth Cave Park has some of
the best hiking trails in the region (see the map below), filled with
an incredible number of wildflowers and ferns.

I began my walk in the parking lot of the Hotel, walking toward
the amphitheater.  The trailhead is just left of the amphitheater.
I walked on 3 trails:  the Echo River Spring Trail, the Green River Bluffs Trail, and 
the Dixon Cave Trail, leading back to the hotel. 

Trailhead leading to the Echo River Spring.  
This is just to the left of the amphitheater.

Wild Comfrey

You can see the campground in the background.  
Turn right just after the bridges.

(See map) This trail leads to the Echo River Spring.

These look alot like flowers, but they aren't;  they are the tops 
of the male Moss plants. The female plants do not have 
this florette structure.

Eventually, you will run across this sign.  Turn right here and
venture into the Red Cedar forest.

A Red Cedar forest like this indicates that the soil is not as rich as it
will be.  With time the cedars' roots will break-up the rock beneath the
thin layer of soil, creating more soil.  The deciduous trees will be able to
grow in the richer soil, eventually shading out all the cedars. 

You can see the red cedars are slowly being shaded out.
With enough time this area will be nothing but deciduous trees.

The white flowers growing in the crevices of the boulders
are Sandworts.

Hoary Puccoon

When you get to this point turn left to head toward the
Echo River Spring. If you turn right you will head toward
the Mammoth Dome Sink (sinkhole). See the map.

Notice that the closer you get to the river the more deciduous 
trees you see, indicating the richness of the soil. 

The mosses and lichens are breaking-up the upper rock layer,
creating soil, allowing larger plants to grow.

False Garlic

White Swamp Milkweed?

The leaves of Crossvine
A fallen flower (Crossvine)

Lyreleaf Sage

A spider seeking shelter in the flower of a Lyreleaf Sage.

Now the deciduous trees dominate.  Most of the Red Cedars 
have been shaded out and have died. 


Moss and Ebony Spleenworts

A species of Moss with sporophytes.

Rue Anemone

Wood Violets with their distinctive palmate leaves.

Star Chickweed

Ahead is the Echo River Spring Trail.  Turn left at the sign 
to see the Echo River Spring.

This is the Echo River Spring
where an underground river exits
the cave system and heads toward the Green River.  
You can see the water bubbling out of the caves
in the video, below.

This spring is on the bottom left of the map, below.

The Echo River Spring is on the bottom left of this
map.  Water comes out of the cave system, flows 
along the Echo River and then flows into 
the Green River.  

After you've seen enough of the spring area just turn around 
and head back toward the sign you just passed.  In this photo 
the Echo River is to the left of the trail, and you're walking 
toward the Green River (see map).
This is a handicap-accessible trail,
just constructed this year (2019).

There are some gigantic trees here, like this
tulip poplar.

The Green River (hidden) is straight ahead.

Now you're walking parallel to the Green River,
which is on your left (out of the photo).
I like to sit here and meditate, listening to the many different kinds of birds singing and calling.
Click here to listen to these birds! 

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard  flower.

A Shelf Fungus at the base of a snag.  This is the reproductive
structure;  the main part of the fungus lies within the wood,
decomposing it.

Anyone know the name of this one?  
It was about 18 inches tall;  each flower was about 
1 inch across.

The flower of a Mayapple, which has large 
umbrella-like leaves.  Flowers will grow at the base of
the leaf stems with 2 leaves;  the plants with one leaf are
generally sterile and do not produce flowers.  

Continue straight toward the River Styx.
The trail to the right will wind back up to the Visitors' Center.

Continue walking on the Echo River Spring Trail and you
will eventually reach this walkway that overlooks the other
spring, the River Styx Spring.

When you look to your left from the boardwalk you'll see the
River Styx, below.  The spring is directly below you.  You
can see the observation deck on the right.

A beautiful succulent called Stonecrop.

Close-up of a Stonecrop flower.  

The red flowers on the top right are called Fire Pink.

Close-up of Fire Pink.  Nice color!

Purple Phacelia
Purple Phacelia flower with pollinator.

Fleabane  plants were everywhere, today.

A very large species of sorrel:  Price's Wood Sorrel?
Flower of Price's Wood Sorrel

Guyandotte Beauty, aka Synandra

You can walk down this boardwalk to see 
the River Styx Spring.

Spotted this caterpillar on the boardwalk rails.

From the observation deck you will get a good view of the
River Styx Spring.  The rivers running through the cave system
come out here and flow into the Green River.

Walk toward the river and you will see this trail, 
which leads to a pretty high bluff with a great view 
of the river valley.

This is in the flood plain and has some very rich soil, 
which supports some gigantic trees, 
such as these sycamores.

A spider waiting for prey.

One of the many Jacks-in-the-Pulpit seen on the trails.

The Green River is on the left. 

A giant Beech tree!  

This is the land of the giant trees! 
After you cross this bridge you begin a 
steady ascent to the top of the bluff.

I saw 4 different kinds of ferns around this bridge!
You can tell they're ferns, because of their fiddleheads,
which other plants do not have. 

Narrow-leaved Spleenwort

A Dryopteris species

Walking Fern

Northern Maidenhair Ferns

The walk to the top of the hill is long and
take your time and look for plants, animals, and fungi.
This is a close-up of Foam Flower.

Dwarf Crested Iris, with its blade-like leaves.

At the top of the hill you can turn right and walk
the Dixon Cave Trailwhich eventually takes you
to the Historic  (Cave) Entrance.

The Historic Entrance
 To gain entrance into the cave you must make reservations...
the gate is locked and you cannot enter, but you can go down
the steps and feel the cool 50 degree air coming out of the cave
and explore the entrance way.

Northern Maidenhair Ferns

Notice the tendril of a plant species wrapped
around this Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

Continue up the hill; either turn right to go to the hotel parking lot
or go straight to go to the Visitors' Center.

This is a fantastic park to take a walk through
the woods.  Next time go across the river by ferry
and explore the "wild trails."

Get out and explore your surroundings!

To the ancient people and some people today (including
myself), Summer begins on May 1st, May Day.  
To go to my Summer Posts click here.