Looking for a way to stay cool while in New Mexico during the summer? One great suggestion is the Carlsbad Caverns. We did this on a road trip in October of 2002 and it was by far the best cave we have toured. The Cave is absolutely amazing, and it was only about 65 degrees. There are several tours you can take. Some are guided and some are just self-tour. We did the Natural Entrance Tour and the Big Room Tour.
The Natural Entrance tour is a self-guided route in which you descend over 750 feet on a steep and narrow switchback trail. This is a very strenuous tour and your feet feel like Jell-O when you are done, but it was really nice walking around. There is also a little snack bar if you want to stop and have lunch before you head back up. The cave is absolutely beautiful. It’s hard to believe it has been there for so long.
After we ate we walked the Big Room tour. This tour is mostly on level ground and this is the one most people take. Both tours are about 1 ½ hrs but that depends on how long you linger looking at all the sites. Some of the items you will see in both the Natural Entrance and Big Room tours are a variety of speleothems or cave decorations including helictites, draperies, columns, cave pools, and soda straws.
Everywhere you look there is something more beautiful and interesting than the site before. I am very happy that I got to see the caves and would love to go back again someday and do some of the other tours which include Hall of the White Giant, Kings Palace Guided Tour, Left Hand Tunnel, Lower Cave, Spider Cave, and Slaughter Canyon Cave. Someday! Here is a link to their website with more information and tour reservations.
More than 1,000 years ago prehistoric Native Americans ventured into Carlsbad Cavern seeking shelter. They left behind no record of what their impressions of the cave were, but they did leave some mysterious drawings on cave walls near the natural entrance. Much later, in the 1800s, settlers discovered the cavern, drawn to it by the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of bats rising up out of the natural entrance in the evening. Some stayed to mine the huge deposits of bat guano in the cave and sell it as a natural fertilizer.
One such man, a cowboy named Jim White, became fascinated by the cave and spent hour after hour exploring it. White was eager to show the many natural wonders of this extraordinary place to others, but few persons believed his improbable tales of a huge underground wilderness full of unusual cave formations. It took photographs to convince skeptics that Carlsbad Caverns was everything it was said to be and more.
Black and white pictures are taken by Ray V. Davis, who accompanied White on a cave trip, were displayed in the town of Carlsbad in 1915. They created a sensation. People suddenly clamored to see the marvelous cave for themselves. White took them on tours that began with an unceremonious 170-foot descent in a bucket once used to haul bat guano from the cave.
Word of the cave spread, finally reaching Washington, D.C. Again, there were nonbelievers, but in 1923 the U.S. Department of the Interior sent inspectors Robert Holley to investigate and see whether Carlsbad Cavern was truly an outstanding natural scenic wonder. Originally a skeptic, Holly wrote in his final report: “…I am wholly conscious of the feebleness of my efforts to convey in the deep conflicting emotions, the feeling of fear and awe, and the desire for an inspired understanding of the Devine Creator’s work which presents to the human eye such a complex aggregate of natural wonders….”
Later that year Carlsbad Cavern was proclaimed a national monument. White, who was to continue his cave explorations for most of his lifetime, became its first chief ranger. Seven years later Carlsbad Caverns National Park was created to protect the cave.
Through illustrated articles published in magazines such as National Geographic and by word of mouth, Carlsbad Cavern became one of the world’s most celebrated caves. Since its establishment, the park has been expanded and today includes 46,766 acres and more than 80 other smaller caves. And the exploration of Carlsbad Cavern continues. Experienced underground explorers or cavers and cave scientists are the Christopher Columbuses of today, journeying beyond the boundaries of what is known into the realm of the unknown.
Carlsbad Cavern attracts many men and women who are eager to shed light on some of its mysteries. Teams of cavers well versed in safe exploration techniques continue to discover new portions of the cave. Their finds in recent years include the Guadalupe Room, Carlsbad Caverns’ second largest room, in 1966; the exceptionally colorful and much-decorated Bifrost Room, in 1982; the Chocolate High, one of the most recent discoveries, in 1993.
Scientific discoveries by speleologists, or cave scientists, are expanding our knowledge of Carlsbad Cavern in other ways. Research is answering some of the questions about the complex creation of Carlsbad Cavern, about the unfamiliar world of bats, and other members of the cave community. Some of the above information is from Carlsbad Caverns literature. Hope you can make it someday to the cave, as it is extraordinary. Here is a link to their website with more information than below.
Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Information
727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway
Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220
Daily 8am – 1:30 pm
Adults (16 and older): $15 per person
Children (15 and under): Free
Pass Holders: Free
All visitors who enter Carlsbad Cavern are required to purchase an entrance ticket, which is good for three days. If you are entering with a pass, please visit the ticket counter for your free admission ticket.
Reservations are highly recommended for all ranger-guided tours, to make reservations you may call 1-877-444-6777 or go to recreation.gov.
Children under the age of 4 are not permitted on any ranger-guided tours. Other age limits apply depending on the tour.
King’s Palace: $8 for adults, $4 for children, under 4 not permitted. Must also purchase entrance ticket. $4 for Senior and Access Pass holders.
Left Hand Tunnel: $7 for adults, $3.50 for children, under 6 not permitted. Must also purchase entrance ticket. $3.50 for Senior and Access Pass holders.
Slaughter Canyon Cave: $15 for adults, $7.50 for children, under 8 not permitted. $7.50 for Senior and Access Pass holders.
Lower Cave: $20 for adults, $10 for children, under 12 not permitted. Must also purchase entrance ticket. $10 for Senior and Access Pass holders.
Hall of the White Giant: $20 for adults, $10 for children, under 12 not permitted. Must also purchase entrance ticket. $10 for Senior and Access Pass holders.
To access the park’s only entrance road, New Mexico Highway 7, turn north from US Hwy 62/180 at White’s City, NM, which is 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Carlsbad, NM and 145 miles (233 km) northeast of El Paso, TX. The entrance road stretches a scenic seven miles (11.3 km) from the park gate at White’s City to the visitor center and cavern entrance.
There are many rules related to accessibility at the Carlsbad Caverns (as well as parking). Here is a link with more information.
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