The Hidden River Cave is wonderful and unique due to the huge amount of history associated with it. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, stopped for a visit in 1867 and detailed his experience in his 1916 book One thousand mile walk from the gulf. The cave was once a source of drinking water and hydroelectricity for the town of Horse Cave and remnants of the equipment can still be seen when visiting the cave.
Electricity generated by the cave stream powered the house above the cave, which included a dentist’s office and two other town buildings. Horse Cave was actually the first town in Kentucky have glowing lights. The cave operated for commercial visits from 1916 to 1943, until household waste from businesses and the community above polluted the streams in the cave.
The cave remained closed until 1992, when the combined efforts of local leaders and the nonprofit American Cave Conservation Association (ACCA) joined forces to clean up and restore the underground site. A regional sewage treatment system was brought online in 1989, which prevented pollution from entering the cave. This allowed nature to take its course and Hidden River Cave is now considered an environmental success story. The ACCA also opened the American Cave Museum at the entrance to the cave in 1992.
Today, tour guides explain the history of Hidden River Cave and general information about the caves, the animals that inhabit them, and some of the uses of the caves. This tour is not only entertaining, it is educational.