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Within three miles of Bowling Green is a mill situated in what the people term a Sink Hole. This is a remarkably large and deep cavity, into which a considerable stream precipitates itself, and disappears under ground. The road leading to Nashville passes close to it; and while proceeding on what you imagine to be nearly a level surface, you find yourself suddenly upon the brink of a frightful precipice, from which you might jump down upon the roof of the mill below.
The whole country, for a very great distance round, is limestone, in which there are numerous and curious caves, of which the Mammoth Cave is the most famous. One day's journey brought me to this great cavern, which is situated close to Green River, and is the greatest natural curiosity in the Western States. For several miles before arriving, the road passes through a chain of low hills covered with short stunted timber, and from that circumstance called by the people " the Kentucky Barrens."
I was received by Mr. Miller, the owner of the house near the cavern, with his usual politeness and affability, and was invited to take up my abode with him as long as I chose to stay. The cave belongs to two gentlemen of Lexington, and proved very valuable during the last war, as 5 cwt. of saltpetre were manufactured in it daily. It is very remarkable, that scarcely any persons, except those engaged in the manufacture of saltpetre, have had the curiosity to visit the place.
Mr. Miller, one of his friends, and myself, proceeded, the day after my arrival, to explore this subterranean wonder. We were well provided with candles, and carried with us a small lamp, and a pot full of oil to replenish it.
The entrance to the cave is situated at about a quarter of a mile from the bank of Green River, which was at one time supposed to flow over a branch of it. But I myself think that this is not the case, as very soon after entering the cave, the passage turns off in a direction leading from the river. The road from the house is very precipitous, and at the bottom of a narrow ravine, the cliffs on each side of which are about fifty feet high. Within 200 yards of the house, and in the righthand cliff, is the mouth of the cavern.
The day was extremely cold; the ground was . covered with a deep snow; and a small stream that seemed to fall from the rock close to the entrance of the cave was converted into one enormous pillar of ice. Immediately upon entering the cavern the passage is very narrow, and so low, that I was obliged to stoop to avoid knocking my head against the roof. This part is called the Narrows, and the air rushed into it with the greatest violence. As soon as we had passed the Narrows, which extend only about twenty yards, I found myself in a fine large, and lofty chamber, which is the beginning of the main passage. We here lighted our candles, and proceeded on our subterraneous excursion.
The main passage or branch of the cave is upon an average fifty feet wide and forty high, though in many places it far exceeds these dimensions. Unlike most caverns in which I have been, it is perfectly dry; and for a considerable distance, the limestone bottom is smooth and pleasant to walk upon.
At about 200 yards from the entrance we came to "the first Hoppers," where the saltpetre was once made. Since the peace the cave has not been worked; for, owing to the very high price of labour in this part of the United States, the importers of foreign saltpetre could undersell the proprietors. At this spot there is a large branch that turns off, called "the Right-hand Chamber." It is about thirty feet wide, from twenty to thirty high, and half a mile long. Several small passages branch off from it. I went about a quarter of a mile in this chamber, and then returned, as I did not wish to delay visiting the other more remarkable parts of the cavern.
There were myriads of bats hanging by their hind-feet to the walls and roof of this chamber, and forming clusters very similar to the bunches of muscles, that I have seen attached to the chalk rocks near Brighton. They all appeared to be nearly torpid, and with the exception of two or three that I took from the walls, gave us no annoyance; though while the light of our candles shone upon them, some made a noise, not unlike the faint chirping of a cricket. The smell caused by such a multitude of these animals was very unpleasant. It would be a curious speculation to calculate how many bushels there were of them; for I imagine that, like Ali Baba's money, they could not be counted in a less compendious manner. Returning to " the first Hoppers," we proceeded along the main passage to "the second Hoppers," which are very little more than a third of a mile from the mouth of the Cavern. Here we turned off into what is called "the Haunted Chamber." After walking a considerable distance in this chamber (which is two miles in length, and is, in many parts, of nearly equal dimensions with the main passage), we came to a part where there are a great many large pillars of Stalactite. One of them, which does not quite touch the ground, is called "the great Bell;" for when struck with a large stone it gives a hollow reverberating sound, just like the tolling of the large bell of a church. The sound echoing along these large vaults, causes a peculiarly melancholy feeling, aided not a little by the knowledge that one is so far under ground,
with several hundred feet of solid rock over one's head.
A little further on is a curious mass of stalactite much resembling an old fashioned high-backed chair. In honour of one of the proprietors of the cavern, this has been called "Mr. Wilkins's armchair." Close to it is a very pretty little stream which drops into a natural basin of stalactite. I found a draught of this beautifully clear water very refreshing, as the Cave was remarkably warm, and my walk had made me thirsty.
Leaving "the Arm Chair," we proceeded to the termination of the upper branch of " the Haunted Chamber." This is about one mile from "the Second Hoppers." Here the rock is cleft by a very narrow, but exceedingly lofty fissure, into which only one person can enter at a time. The path, winding through this, descended rapidly for some distance, and brought us to the entrance of the second or lower branch of " the Haunted Chamber," which runs back nearly below the floor of the Upper Branch. The effect produced by the light on the lofty roof of this narrow passage, while I felt myself as it were pushing my way into the bowels of the earth, was very extraordinary. At one place the passage suddenly expands, and the roof rises in the form of a dome to the height of sixty or seventy feet. Below this dome is an immense rock which occupies a great part of the open space, and appears at one time to have nearly