Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Underneath New Mexico’s soil is one of the most magical locations to have been named a National Park. Carlsbad Caverns is a complex, miles-long series of underground, rooms, caves, and geological wonders, all beneath the surface of the earth. Carlsbad Caverns was first named a National Monument in 1923. In 1930, the Caverns and the surrounding desert area was elevated to a National Park, giving it more federal protection and general recognition. The area has a very long history of exploration and human habitation. There are fire rings found in the desert surrounding the cave entrances that are from prehistoric times, and from the first Spanish explorers, interest in the caves has been strong. When the first tourists arrived in the early 20th century, they were lowered to the bottom of the caverns by standing in an old guano bucket from the mining days. Things have changed in that respect. There has continued to be exploration of the wondrous cave systems into the present day, and more rooms, passage ways, and archeological finds are being discovered.
Carlsbad Caverns were not formed in the typical process. Generally, caves are formed through karst systems, which simply means that there are sinkholes, springs, caves, and little surface draining in the surrounding area that creates underground caverns. However, the geological imprints in the area around the caverns does not reflect this. Rather, the caverns are now believed to be remnants of fossilized reefs, which was laid down by an ocean around 260 millions years ago. The interior of the caverns is expansive, reaching up hundreds of feet in some areas, and going back for miles and miles. However, the park is not limited to the caves. It also encompasses a section of the Chihuahua desert
The Desert is home to many plants and animals that are especially adapted to the harsh, dry environment. There are 14 different species of bat that live in and around the caves. In the desert, there are 15 separate special of mice and vole. Tiny copepods, which are essentially sea monkeys, flutter around in cavern and desert pools. You may see some bats inside the cave if you turn out the lights!
1. What should I do while at the park?
Anyone going should wander through the Big Room of the Caverns. This can easily be done on a self-guided tour, and is a must-see at the park. It is also possible to enter through the Natural Entrance, although it is quite steep and should be regarded with caution. Another fascinating thing to watch is the bat flight. In the summer months Brazilian Free-tailed bats exit the cavern in a together in one flying mass, and is an impressive sight.
2. How much does it cost to go to enter the park?
There is a $10 fee for anyone 16 years and older to enter the park. Anyone younger than 15 has free access. There are other fees for ranger guided tours. The King’s Palace fee is $8 for adults, $4 for children, along with the entrance ticket.
The Slaughter Canyon Cave tour is $15 for adults, $7.50 for children, and those under eight years old are not permitted. Hall of the White Giant, Spider Cave, and Lower Cave tours are all $20 for adults, $10 for children, and those under 12 are not permitted. For more information about the cave tours, follow this helpful link: https://www.nps.gov/cave/planyourvisit/fees.htm
3. Where should I stay when visiting the park?
Carlsbad, New Mexico is the closest town, and as there are no lodging within the park, this is your only option for sleeping and eating. The town is only 20 miles north-east of the park entrance.
4. What should I wear?
The park is almost always sunny. In the summer, it can get very hot and dry, while in the winter months, it can snow. Come prepared with layers for the chilly caverns, and sunscreen for the desert.
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