Did you know that June is National Great Outdoors Month? Did you also know that both B.J. and Mabel Palmer had caveologist and volcanologist degrees?

From the cover of a Mammoth Cave Brochure

Mammoth Cave celebrated 200 years of tours last year!

B.J. and Mabel visited the best and biggest caves in the world on their travels including Mammoth, Luray, Carlsbad, and Jenolan. People used to say that they could “smell a hole in the ground like a tombstone man smells a newly-made grave”. B.J. sometimes even gave lectures on caves that so many people attended, there wasn’t a room on the Palmer campus large enough to accommodate them, and he presented at Duncan’s Business College in Davenport. One of these lectures was written about in the May 1908 edition of The Chiropractor as seen to the right. They were also advertised in a couple of local Davenport publications as well. The Davenport Democrat said:

“The lecture promises to be worthy of the good attendance which will be accorded to it and will be illustrated with 121 views of the wonderful place. chiropractor3 copy1You will travel on the famous Echo River; see underground waterfalls greater than Niagara Falls, etc. chiropractor3 copy2We predict a a very interesting and instructive time, one not easily forgotten. Dr. Palmer is a man of character, strong personality and sterling worth.”

B.J. has written about caves in several of his books including Conflicts Clarify, and The Bigness of the Fellow Within. Being that this year is the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks, I wanted to focus on Cave City, Kentucky where Mammoth Cave National Park is located, which boasts the World’s longest cave! It includes over 400 miles of intersecting caves, and they estimate around 600 miles of caves and trails they haven’t discovered yet. B.J. said that they “traveled more than 120 miles through it’s channels”.

mammothcave015 copyB.J. and Mabel visited these caves at least 3 times during their life, including their honeymoon in 1904! In the photo below, was their second trip to Mammoth Cave in 1910.

The photo was taken with the resident cave donkey, who most tourists took a photo with, and the cave photographer at that time was Henry Pinson. B.J. and Mabel went to the cave twice before it was deemed a National Park, which happened in 1923. Before that, it was privately owned.

On one of their trips, B.J. brought along one of their writings about the cave, and that won them an exclusive tour of a “new discovery” in the caves that wasn’t open to the public at that time. B.J. wrote that it was one of the most beautiful parts of the caves. They even suggested a name for it: Gypsum Grandaflora, because of the gypsum formations that were the most beautiful they had seen.


You can read the chapters B.J. wrote about caves including those in Kentucky in his books, Conflicts Clarifyand The Bigness of the Fellow WithinYou could also take a trip down there yourself and support our national parks! (It’s only about 7.5 hours drive from Davenport!)

If that’s a little too far but you still want to explore some caves, you can visit our very own Maquoketa Caves State Park in Maquoketa, Iowa. It’s only about 35-40 minutes north of Davenport and well worth a visit! Excellent for camping, hiking, and exploring wide open caves as well as some smaller caves if you’re into getting a little muddy!




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