Bulletin of the National Speleological Society - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 35 Number 4: 109-126 - October 1973

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Lee Cave, Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
John P. Freeman, Gordon L. Smith, Thomas L. Poulson, Patty Jo Watson and William B. White


Lee Cave is located beneath the northwestern edge of Joppa Ridge, in Mammoth Cave National Park. Entrance through a shaft and canyon complex leads into a large trunk passage. The trunk passge extends 7000 ft, with cross-sections up to 88 ft wide and 40 ft high, to an eastern terminal breakdown. Below the main trunk, is a complex of smaller tubes, canyons, and vertical shafts. the surveyed length, 1972 is 7.55 miles.

The trunk contains a thick clastic sediment sequence which varies in facies from cobbles in the west to fine silts and clays in the east. Breakdown activated by sulfate replacement and crystal wedging is common. Gypsum, epsomite, and hexahydrite occur as clumps of curved crystals. Blodite, a new cave mineral occurs as thick crusts of material drifted onto up-facing sediment and breakdown surfaces. Cave life is sparse. There is a small bat colony and much evidence of cave rats. Smaller animals, except for crickets, have not been observed.

Pre-Columbian Indians entered the cave, probably through an entrance now closed, near the eastern breakdown. Fragments of cane-torch material are scattereed along much of the main trunk passage. Two stone cairns of unknown purpose occur. There is, however, no evidence of the mining activity common to Mammoth and Salts Caves. Lee Cave was named for T.E. Lee, pioneering cave explorer of South Central Kentucky, who descended the entrance pit in 1876.

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