View from the Hill
A Brief History of Western Kentucky and Lost River Cave
In 1986 the cave entrance and the 25-acre valley was donated to Western Kentucky University by WKU professor Dr. Raymond Cravens and WKU Physical Plant Administrator Owen Lawson. The donation served as the springboard for the restoration and preservation of Lost River Cave and the surrounding natural environment.
Starting in the mid-1980’s, Western Kentucky University faculty and students contributed significantly in terms of hydro-geologic enhancement (clean up and restoration, purchase of monitoring equipment, research, environmental instruction and natural resource preservation) to begin restoring the important historical site to a usable condition to utilize this site for storm water treatment, groundwater protection, wetlands preservation and to create an educational program to address geological and water problems associated with karst topography.
The Friends of the Lost River was created in 1990 for the purpose of providing funding and stability for the restoration work accomplished by WKU. The Friends organization facilitates the use of Lost River Cave as an educational laboratory for faculty and students; and prioritizes the hiring of WKU graduates, interns and student workers to fill its full-time and seasonal staff positions.
Western Kentucky University Affiliated Projects at Lost River Cave
October 25th, 2012 a team of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Organization (UNESCO) and the Chinese Government visited WKU along with Crumps Cave Educational Preserve and Lost River Cave to begin discussing research material on the pilot project, “Cooperative International Research in Measurement of the Global Atmospheric CO2 Sink from Carbonate Mineral Weathering.” The project is being funded jointly by WKU’s Research & Creative Activities Program (RCAP) and China’s Institute of Karst Geology.
Synopsis: The project involves developing a standard operating procedure for measuring this consumption of atmospheric CO2, and the Lost River Cave site, along with a similar station near Guilin, China, will serve as the reference sites for an eventual global network of such stations.
Western Kentucky University Thesis Projects at Lost River Cave
Lost River Cave provides a unique natural resource for the Bowling Green and WKU communities, perfect for in-depth research papers for students. The following thesis papers have been written by WKU students regarding Lost River Cave.
Synopsis: To investigate the characteristics of telogenetic karst aquifer processes throughout Southern Central Kentucky. The main site for all this research was at Lost River Cave in which data was collected by data-loggers installed at Blue Hole Four. The information collected was spring discharge, water temperature, specific conductance (SpC), and pH at ten-minute intervals from January to November, 2013. The results indicated that any contaminants stored in the aquifer will be flushed out first with storage water as discharge peaks, followed by a period in the falling limb of the discharge hydrograph.
Synopsis: A water quality study conducted at Lost River Cave was to emphasize the influence of storm events on water quality and E. coli. (cfu/100ml). A water quality assessment of multiple parameters was conducted to determine the impact of storm events for public health protection. During the study 82.6% of geometric mean E. coli (cfu/100ml) values were found to be in non-compliance of the 1,000 cfu/100ml geometric mean Kentucky Division of Water surface water regulation.
Western Kentucky University Professors at Lost River Cave
Western Kentucky professors are using Lost River Cave for their projects and thesis papers. There are several professors who are members and even board members of Friend of Lost River.
Dr. Nicholas Crawford, a professor of Hydrology at WKU, is interested in teaching students the importance of karst hydrology. He wanted his students to have hands-on experiences dealing with karst; so in 1979 he developed a program that eventually evolved into WKU's Center for Cave & Karst Studies, of which he is now the director. Crawford was a Board Member of the Friends of the Lost River who had a vision of building a dam, one further back in the cave than tourists had ever been in the past. His vision for the Cave and Valley helped guide the Friends of the Lost River from 1990 to 2000.
Charlotte Elder is a Communications professor at WKU and has been a Board Member of the Friends of the Lost River since March of 2014. She plays a pivotal role in advising Lost River Cave with marketing, fundraising and public relations decisions. Her passion for reconnecting children with nature is evident through her daughters' participation in Lost River Cave's nature programming.
Dr. Chris Groves, who is a professor in the Department of Geography and Geology at WKU, has done a lot of projects with Lost River Cave such as “Cooperative International Research in Measurement of the Global Atmospheric C02 sink from Carbonate Mineral Weathering.”
Dr. Raymond Poff is a professor of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport at WKU who is also involved in bringing students to Lost River Cave to have hands on experiences. Projects include classes for Rec 220: Intro to Nonprofit Human Service Organizations. Poff’s class has done a service project for fall 2007, 2010, and 2011. Rec 302: Recreation Leadership did a project called Lost River Cave “Butterfly Garden Area Clean-Up” in the spring of 2004.
Dr. Ron Ramsing, a professor of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport at WKU, consistently works with Lost River Cave to recommend high-quality WKU student volunteers, interns and employees. He not only brings his classes to Lost River Cave for hands-on learning experiences but also invites Lost River Cave employees to present to his classes on the importance of nature and how volunteers can help.
Dr. Jack Schock is a retired anthropology professor of WKU. He led several excavations at Lost River Cave. He and his team unearthed Dalton Projectile Points in the Valley as they examined the role of Prehistoric Paleo Indians in this area during 12,000 B.C. to 7500 B.C. It is because of Dr. Schock's nomination that Lost River Cave is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. Some of his publications include: “Ten Carbon-14 Dates From Prehistoric Indian Sites In Southern Kentucky,” and “Some Projectile Point Types from Barren River Lake, Kentucky.”
WKU Volunteers at Lost River Cave
Q: What is Big Red Blitz?
A: Big Red Blitz is held once a year during August for first-year, WKU students who are attending M.A.S.T.E.R Plan to provide 4 hours of community service to local nonprofit agencies.
Q: What has Big Red Blitz and Lost River Cave done together?
A: Big Red Blitz usually has up to 25 WKU students pulling invasive plants at Lost River Cave. There is also a discussion with the participants on the importance of nature and about how to keep it intact.
Q: How long has Big Red Blitz and Lost River Cave been partners?
A: Lost River Cave is one of the oldest partners of Big Red Blitz, having been a partner since 2008.
Q: What is the WKU ALIVE Center for Community Partnership?
A: The WKU ALIVE CCP is committed to bringing the campus and community together for the enrichment of both higher education and public life.
Q: What projects have been completed between Lost River Cave and the WKU ALIVE Center?
A 1: In 2010, the WKU ALIVE center funded a project with WKU’s Department of Geology and Geography along with partners of Mammoth Cave National Park, Friends of Lost River Cave, Citizens for the Karst, Karst Conservancy, Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, and Cave Research Foundation to present; “Developing an International Community-Based Online Assessment Tool for Anthropogenic Impacts on Karts Environments.”
Synopsis: The project’s aim was to create an online instructional and resource tool database to measure the amount of impact on karst (caves, springs, sinkholes) landscapes for the use of the community. This online tool engages the community by providing both a forum for sharing of knowledge, data, and resources, as well as a user-guide and method by which local communities can assess anthropogenic impacts and important karst-related issues.
A 2: In 2011, the WKU ALIVE Center partnered for another project with Hoffman Environmental Research Institute and Mammoth Cave National Park, Hoffstra University, Lost River Cave to present; “An Online Geotour-based Forum for promoting Communication, Sustainability, and Outreach in Iconic Karst Landscapes”.
Synopsis: This pilot project will develop a cooperative platform for federal, state, and local land management agencies, tourist sites, researchers, and educators to develop an educational “geotour” that provides users with both physical and virtual learning experiences regarding significant karst sites in south-central Kentucky in a trail-type format (The Great Karst Trail).