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The National Parks 100th Birthday!



In 2016 the National Park Service turns 100 and we are helping celebrate this milestone centennial birthday by featuring all the history, recreational and fun things to do at the National Park sites in Kentucky. The Park Service is inviting everyone to discover the national parks nearest you and Kentucky boasts a broad menu of park experiences, adventures and group projects to suit nature enthusiasts, recreation lovers and historic site fans.   

For more information and inspiration about the National Park Service Centennial and a full calendar of events, visit and check out these must see events from the National Park Service Foundation site:

Mammoth Cave National Park – Cave tour 200th anniversary, Park 75th Birthday

Take a ranger-led tour through part of the longest cave system in the world at Mammoth Cave National Park. You can book a 45 minute introductory tour right on up to the most extreme multi-hour spelunking expedition. With over 390 miles of passageways explored and mapped, this vast underground world has fascinated visitors and drawn tourists from far and wide since 1816. Due to the constant comfortable climate inside, Mammoth Cave is open year round and offers more than a dozen different tours at various times of the year. Easy to rugged hiking and cycling trails provide hours of fun.

  • March 20, television premiere of WKU-PBS documentary Mammoth Cave:  A Place Called Home, telling the personal stories of families who lived on the land that is now a national park.

  • May 30, is Obscura Day at Mammoth Cave, an Atlas Obscura event that brings weird geology and visitor together.  Fact: A dye trace of the waterfall at the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave will run green in the name of science.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park – Park 100th Anniversary

Built as a memorial to the birthplace of our nation’s 16th President, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace was designated one of our National Parks in 1916.  The park features a cabin similar to the one Lincoln was born in on Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville enshrined in a marble memorial, paid for by pennies saved by schoolchildren across the nation.  Here you can learn about the early years of Lincoln including a view of Sinking Spring where he drew water and a visit to the nearby Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, the farm where his family resided from 1811 to 1816 and young Lincoln formed his earliest memories. 

  • During 2016, kids who become Junior Rangers will receive a special metal, Centennial badge, featuring the symbolic Birth Cabin, available only in 2016 and only while they last

  • February 12, President Lincoln’s birthday, a new exhibit will open; featuring a bust of Theodore Roosevelt and the ceremonial trowel used to lay the cornerstone of the Park’s Memorial Building in 1909.  It will be on display in the visitor center lobby through the end of the year. 

  • July 16-17 is the 100th anniversary of the Park, when President Woodrow Wilson signed its enabling legislation, just before he signed the National Park Service into existence.   Re-enactors of every President who visited the site will be on hand to give lively presentations, including Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Abraham Lincoln.  

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area – Park 25th Birthday

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and boasts miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs.  Rich with natural and historic features it is the perfect spot for a wide variety of recreational activities including camping, climbing, horseback riding, mountain bike trails, paddling and fishing – to name just a few.  Travel by railway on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway from the Stearns depot to the historic mining community of Blue Heron to hear the stories of a coal mining community from the early 20th century. 

  • August 2016, Big South Fork Park will premiere its first visitor orientation movie, showcasing the wide range of recreation opportunities available and its historic mining heritage.

  • September 10-17 marks the Park’s week-long storytelling celebration, starting with a Saturday evening Ghost Train at the Blue Heron.  On September 17th, the 24th Storytelling Festival will host bluegrass music and nationally-known storytellers. 
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park 

Cumberland Gap is known as the great gateway to the west, where the Native American, pioneer and long hunter all traveled into the wilderness of Kentucky.  The park features many miles of trails and scenic features including cascading waterfalls and caves.  You can also see what life was like as a pioneer by touring the historic Hensley Settlement complete with cabins and a schoolhouse.   

  • January 1, 2016 – Find Your Adventure; the 127th Rose Parade will stream inside the visitor center to celebrate the 100th anniversary of America’s national parks.

  • April 9-10, An American Memoir: From the Hearts of Our Ancestors…Into the Hands of Our Children.  Native American and pioneer living-historians will share stories of their travels on the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap.

  • April 11th, the Kentucky’s quarter featuring Cumberland Gap, is unveiled in the Park, a part of the United States Mint America the Beautiful Quarters Program.  All young adults under the age of 18 will receive a Cumberland Gap quarter. 

Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Fort Donelson Civil War National Battlefield tells the story of a Union victory that stunned the South.  Within days of the Confederate surrender, Clarksville and Nashville would fall into Union hands creating an important pathway of victory for the Union forces.  The National Battlefield not only interprets this battle but also provides a stunning view of the Cumberland River and honors the final resting places of thousands of Civil War soldiers.  February 6, 2016 marks the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Henry commemorated by Park staff leading a caravan tour from Fort Donelson to Fort Heiman. 

  • February 14-15, the Park will commemorate the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Donelson, with special lectures and the premier of new Fort Donelson Dover Hotel movie.

  • May 30 – Memorial Day services at Fort Donelson National Cemetery.

  • Spring-Summer, Park staff will lead caravan tours to Fort Heiman, to discuss the battle.