See a cave by boat? This is possible for visitors to Lost River Cave. Don’t miss this unique Kentucky spelunking experience.
Lost River Cave is located in Bowling Green Kentucky and, while there are dozens of caves in Kentucky, Lost River Cave is special because it is the only cave tour conducted by boat. The cave also has a unique and interesting history spanning the Civil War, outlaws and the night club era of the 1960s.
Lost River Cave Tour: Tourist Information
Tours of Lost River Cave depart hourly and tickets cannot be reserved. The tour is not for everyone. People with lung or heart problems or anyone wearing a size 4x or larger may find themselves turned away.
The tour is adventurous without being dangerous, but anyone who has any fear of caves or enclosed spaces should seriously consider if the tour is a good choice for them. The first part of the tour involves crouching in the boat as it navigates a very low cave ceiling. Once past that, the cave opens up into a large chamber.
Bathrooms are located in the gift shop and directly outside the cave itself. On weekends a hot dog vendor offers a quick, satisfying lunch. Picnic tables are available for use, but the large fly population can be unpleasant.
History of Lost River Cave
Native Americans first used the cave as long as 11,000 years ago. In the late 1700s, a water mill was installed to make corn meal and then later flour. A restored mill still stands today making it the only cave in the world to contain a mill. In the 1800s the cave became known as Dead Man’s Cave after local physicians dissected the body of a hanged convict.
The cave also housed Civil War troops and supplies. Smudges of ‘smoke writing’ by Confederate soldiers can still be seen on the cave’s walls. In fact, Morgan’s Raiders hid in Lost River Cave between raids on the Union Army.
Infamous outlaw Jesse James and his gang took refuge in the cave after a bank robbery in the late 1800s. This is corroborated by a physician’s account of treating one of the gang members in the cave.
In more recent times, the cave served as a nightclub. Many famous dance bands such as the NBC orchestra and Dinah Shore played in the underground nightclub until modern air conditioning successfully competed with the cave’s cool air in the 1960s. Today,the dance floor is used for special events and can be rented for private parties.
Blue Hole of Lost River Cave
Aside from the cave tour by boat, the other unique thing about Lost River Cave is the phenomenon known as the Blue Hole. This body of aquamarine water is located near the cave entrance. The color is due to minerals from underlying stone leeching into the water.
During the Civil War, a supply wagon fell in and was never seen again. Later, when Civil War soldiers decided to go swimming, three went down and never came up. Rumors sprang up that the Blue Hole was bottomless.
Tales of the bottomless Blue Hole reached Ripley’s Believe It or Not who sponsored a formal effort to measure the water’s depth. The official record? Over 400 feet deep, making the river, the “shortest and deepest river in the world.”
Other Attractions at Lost River Cave
Lost River Cave offers three miles of paved trails and over 130 bird species for birdwatchers. There is also a butterfly enclosure and activities for children including geocaching and a junior mining operation.
Lost River Cave is a fun family outing that will educate, entertain and amaze. The history and natural beauty of Lost River Cave are not to be missed.