237 Saltpetre Cave Road
Mt. Vernon, KY 40456
Hours for Open House (the weekend after Mother's Day in May) are 10 am to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday. Closed the rest of the year except by special arrangement for groups and for education events like school field trips.
Museum Type(s)
Neena Jud, Secretary


Great Saltpetre Cave is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role as a source of saltpetre during the War of 1812. Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve is owned by Rockcastle Karst Conservancy, Inc. (RKC) a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to preserving the unique geological, hydrological, biological, and recreational resources associated with caves and karst in the Rockcastle County, Kentucky region through education, land acquisition and resource management


The mission of the Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve Management Committee is to preserve and protect the natural resources of the Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve, maintain and restore those buildings and structures that are important or historically significant and in so doing, provide a pleasant and convenient haven for cavers while protecting a vital part of Kentucky history and landscape.


The Cave was discovered in 1798, and shortly thereafter the nitrate rich sediments began to be mined. In 1805, production was greatly increased so that 70 people were working all hours of the day and night to produce saltpetre, a primary ingredient in gunpowder. In 1815, saltpetre production ceased and the area was almost abandoned. Occasionally through the next century people would travel overland to visit the Cave. In 1938 it opened as a tourist cave, an operation that continued through the 1970's.


Great Saltpetre Cave is a natural attraction, the pathways are considered semi-strenuous, with slopes and uneven surfaces.

There are no steps from the cave entrance to Echo Auditorium and people in wheelchairs have traveled this route successfully.

The path from handicapped parking to the cave is about 110 yards and it is approximately 100 yards from the cave entrance into Echo Auditorium.