THE CARTER COUNTY CAVES We left Portsmouth on the steamer Scioto, Monday morning July 31 and arrived at Grayson, Ky at noon.[Tuesday] Here we saw our friend Hon. R.H. Davis, ex-Representative to the Kentucky Legislature from the Carter County district. Mr. Davis procured us a horse. In the afternoon we started for Charlotte Furnace nine miles from Grayson. After a few hours ride through a mountainous country we arrived at the furnace. As the party that started overland from Portsmouth was not to arrive until Wednesday, we spent Tuesday at the furnace. Wednesday morning we started for the caves which are six miles from the furnace arriving there at ten o'clock. A party of three from Ashland was exploring the caves when we reached there. The Portsmouth boys arrived in the evening. We pitched our tent in a beautiful grove near Laurel cave, a good spring being near the camp. We spent the evening playing checkers and listening to the screams of a wildcat. Thursday morning, in company with Mose Ratliff, the champion guide of the caves, our party started to explore the great curiosities. First was the natural bridge about three hundred yards above the hotel. The bridge is a hundred feet wide and about seventy five feet high with a beautiful limestone arch; the country road passes over it and cave creek under it. Fifty yards further we entered bat cave. A sudden change of the atmosphere on entering these caves makes the visitor don his heavy clothing. About sixty yards from the entrance there is a natural bath room. It is off of the main cave and has a floor of smooth stone. Farther on is the largest room in the cave being 150 feet long and one hundred feet wide. Here we crossed the creek and entered what Ratliff called the menagerie room. In this room there are formations which the guides have named, such as the elephant. Taking a side glance at the formation it bares close resemblance to a small elephant, the stalagmites in the shape of people, also the distillery and jugs with handles are great curiosities. We traveled almost a half mile through the main passage and entered Simms pass or what the guide calls "fat mans misery." It is a small pass through the solid rock. There are pools of water in different parts of this cave. In one of these, where the water is cold as ice, two of our party took a bath. We then entered the hall room which is very large with a smooth floor of damp sand and a small elevated stand as if built for musicians. Out of this room we passed up a small natural stone stairway into the secret chamber then into the saw mill room. Here there is a formation of limestone which looks like a saw dust pile. Next to this apartment is the haunted chamber which got its name from the fact that the first man that ventured in to it thought he heard a strange noise and was frightened out. We next returned by way of the secret passage into the hall room and some distance through a rough passage brought us out into the open air. The cave is exceedingly long, two and a quarter miles. The same afternoon with our veteran guide, we visited Tygerts creek cliffs, one mile from the hotel. They are what are known geologically as carboniferous limestone formation as are also the caves, and are two hundred and twenty five feet high. Friday morning with William Frailey as guide, we entered Swingle cave better known as the saltpeter cave, its entrance faces the hotel. A man named Swingle made saltpeter here during the war of 1812 which was carried to Vanceburg, Ky. in sacks. Our entrance was down a stairway which leads into a room the hotel folks use as a cellar. Fresh meat will keep in here for months. Passages in this cave are very dusty and unattractive. The names of many Portsmouth people are herein written on the wall, those of Thomas Dugan and Wm, Waller being very prominent. In company with a party of thirty from Charlotte Furnace we made an exploration into Laurel Cave, named so from being covered with laurel. A short distance from the entrance we passed up a ladder into the main passage. This cave is very clean and with thirty lamps lighting up the mammoth hall it is very beautiful. Our party then visited X cave which is in the shape of the letter X. A man named Underwood first discovered and explored it. The entrance is directly in the rear of the hotel and opposite the Swingle cave. We ascended a ladder thirty feet high to the entrance, the cave is very low and narrow for some distance then it opens out about thirty feet high. It is narrow all through with a solid limestone floor. In one of its passages there is a formation resembling a large bird with a long neck. At the end of the cavern there is a room in the shape of a dome extending fifty feet high. In this, as is Bat cave, the stalactites hang in many different forms. In one place they are shaped like the pipes of an organ. No two could be found that sounded the same. X cave comes next to Bat cave, the former being the smallest and the latter being the largest. The natural bridge, one and half miles away from the hotel, is a great curiosity. It is one hundred feet high and between two hundred and three hundred feet wide, longer in fact than the noted bridge in Virginia but not as high. There are two caves at Rev. Wm Kibby's three miles from the Carter Caves which he kindly showed us through. They are about four hundred yards long. A small creek runs through them. We would recommend a trip to Carter Caves to any person seeking health and pleasure. The best way of getting there is by Grayson, Ky. Distance from there to the caves is about twelve miles. Wm. H. Warnock, proprietor of the Cave Hotel spares no pains to make his guests comfortable. One dollar per day for board with guide included.
Submitted by: Glen Haney