BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Boat tours of Lost River Cave have been offered for years, but now people can explore the underground river in a different way with the new Kayaking in the Cave Tour.
"It offers such a personal eye window of the cave," said Carlet Hagan of Smiths Grove, who developed the Kayaking in the Cave Tour. "It's kind of free roam. You get to go places the boat can't go. Even if they've been in the cave before, they can see it in a total new perspective."
Lost River Cave received a grant from the General Motors Foundation to buy nine kayaks, and Hagan, an intern at the cave completing a recreation administration degree at Western Kentucky University, created the kayaking tour in just eight weeks.
"All around here, kayaking has been more popular. We just kind of went with the flow with it," she said.
The two-hour tour covers the cave's history and includes activities, such as scavenger hunts, obstacle courses, time trials and kayak basketball.
"It's built for families that need a get-together," Hagan said. "It's built for companies. They can come and have fun team-building exercises."
Several groups have already previewed the Kayaking in the Cave Tour to work out any kinks. During a recent night tour with a group of pre-teen boys, the most popular activity seemed to be kayak basketball, in which participants threw small squeeze balls into each other's kayaks to score.
"It was fun because you had to move around and paddle at the same time as you're trying to score," said Ben Carroll, 12, of Bowling Green.
Touring the cave in a kayak gave him a different experience than the regular boat tour.
"I could really just look around at anything because I had a head lamp," Ben said of the kayak tour. "Without it, you kind of have to look where they show you."
Sam Wheeler, 11, of Bowling Green, kayaked for the first time Friday night inside the cave.
"It was hard, but fun," he said. "I thought it was more fun to kayak than get on a boat because you got to do something fun."
No kayaking experience is needed to participate in the tour, because there are no rapids and the water is shallow enough to stand up in if someone tips over. All participants receive water safety and basic paddling instructions to get comfortable in the water.
"They automatically start building confidence in kayaking," said Rho Lansden, executive director of Lost River Cave.
The Kayaking in the Cave Tour is by reservation only for $25 a person. The tour can be booked by calling 270-393-0077. It can be scheduled for any evening at 6:30 p.m., with at least a week's notice recommended. The tour can accommodate groups of three to seven people ages 6 and up. It will be offered year-round.
"That's the great thing, is we're the same temperature," Hagan said. "Whether it's zero outside, it's still 40 to 50 degrees down here."