Bowling Green, KY Shamrock Tour®: Caves, Corvettes, and Cool Roads

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: James T. Parks, Karen Parks

Millions of years ago, a shallow sea covered south central Kentucky. Deposits of tiny marine animals and plants formed layers of limestone. Over many millennia the sea receded, leaving thick layers of limestone. Rainwater mixed with carbon dioxide in the air and soil to form a mild acid, which dissolved underground passages in the limestone. We’ve come to Bowling Green, KY, to explore this region both above and below ground.

Limestone Labyrinth

It’s a cool, late September morning when my wife, Karen, and I set out on the first day of our Kentucky adventure. The KTM Adventure’s big twin motor is barely warmed up, though, before we pull into the parking lot at the National Corvette Museum. This automotive shrine documents the rich history of America’s most iconic sports car. During our self-guided tour, I spot my long-time personal favorite: a red 1963 coupe with a split rear window. Later, on our way out through the gift shop, Karen buys me a replica of the ’63 fastback of my dreams. Nice, but not exactly what I was hoping for!

Heading west out of town, we get our first taste of the local terrain. Narrow country lanes hug the contours of an agricultural landscape, taking us over hill and dale. The lightly traveled roads meander, almost aimlessly, like a slow-flowing stream that’s in no hurry to arrive at its destination. Once inside Mammoth Cave National Park, the route leads through a beautifully maintained second-growth forest. We spot wild turkeys near the roadways, just one of the many species of fauna that call the park home.

The extensive menu of guided tours available at Mammoth Cave should be sufficient to please any aspiring spelunker. Owing to time constraints, however, we select the one-hour Frozen Niagara tour. The guide leads our group through narrow, dimly lit passages in an underground netherworld. Finally, a series of wooden steps leads down into a kind of well—where we look up at a formation that is reminiscent of a wall of cascading water. Back above ground, we learn from our guide that there are more than 200 additional caves in the park that have become disconnected from the main system.

On our way out of the park we locate the Green River Ferry. Although the diminutive, toll-free vessel travels only a short distance, I can’t resist a voyage over and back, while Karen snaps a few photos of my less than epic crossings. Motoring back to Bowling Green, I conclude that the relatively short riding distance today was a good fit with all of the interesting stops along the way.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2012 back issue.