17. Americans enjoyed exploring caves during the 1920s
Luray Caverns in Virginia, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Ohio Caverns in Ohio, and numerous others, particularly in Appalachia, became popular tourist destinations in 1921. Once again, the automobile played a role in their increased allure, making them more easily accessible. Most operated privately, with guides provided by the owners. In Kentucky, beginning in 1921, competition between owners for tourist’s money led to a period known as the Kentucky Cave Wars. Unscrupulous owners hired men and boys called Cappers. The Cappers encountered tourists and misled them into believing their destination cave was closed, offering directions to the caves owned by their employer. Mammoth Cave, at one time, participated in the cave wars.
Visiting caves became popular for several reasons, one of which being they offered a naturally cooled diversion on hot and humid summer days. Being in rural areas, they afforded the opportunity for their owners to construct campgrounds for both tents and auto camps. Many caves across the country remain in private hands. Mammoth Cave became a National Park in 1941, after several improvements in the area were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Touring caves and other natural wonders, such as the Shenandoah’s Natural Bridge, were popular among travelers a century ago, and have remained so ever since.