Carlsbad Caverns: Where drops of water turn into works of art

Buried deep beneath New Mexico’s desert landscape, lies a hidden world, one that is still being explored and discovered today.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located near the TDS cable area of Carlsbad in southern New Mexico.  At Carlsbad Caverns, stalactites hang from the ceiling like shimmering icicles and the stalagmites rise from the ground resembling a forest of trees. Inside the series of caves, it’s often described as living artwork.

Carlsbad Caverns is home to the fifth largest cave chamber in North America. Called the Big Room, the natural limestone chamber is large enough to house six football fields. It includes the Giant Dome (62 feet high) and Crystal Spring Dome, one of the largest active formations visitors can see at Carlsbad. There are a total of 118 caves below the desert surface and 180 miles of known passage ways, with more discovered every decade or so.

Natural entrance to park
To enter the caverns, visitors can take an elevator down about 750 feet or there is the natural entrance to the caves, a 1.25-mile hike down a paved trail about 75 stories into the cave.  All trails in the cave are paved and well-lit. Cave temperatures are always around 56 degrees, where visitors will be comfortable wearing a sweater or jacket.

Inside the caves
After the caves were formed four to six million years ago, wetter and cooler climates prevailed. Carlsbad Caverns then slowly started decorating itself drip-by-drip with stalactites, stalagmites and other formations. These billions and billions of drops of water absorbed carbon dioxide gas from the air and soil and formed a weak acid that dissolved the limestone in the cave. The formations, which started about 500,000 years ago, are works of art. When hiking in the caverns, visitors will find beauty around every corner.

The Scenic Rooms area of the park includes the Queen’s Chamber, the King’s Palace and the Green Lake Room and is only available by a ranger-guided tour. The Queen’s Chamber is known for its spectacular “draperies” and the King’s Palace Tour will take you into the deepest portion of the cavern that is open to the public.

The park entrance is about 18 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico, located in the Guadalupe Mountains.  Actor Will Rogers described Carlsbad Caverns National Park as The Grand Canyon with a roof over it.

Things to do outside the Caverns
Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers more than 50 miles of backcountry hiking, a 9.5-mile scenic drive through the desert landscape, and a Bat Flight, where you can watch thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bat, or Mexican free-tailed bat, take a mass exodus from the cave at dusk to feast on insects. Because the bats winter in Mexico, the Bat Flight occurs from early spring through October.

Southern New Mexico is also home to Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument (Las Cruces), the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (Silver City) and White Sands National Monument (Alamogordo.)

CavernFest 2018, June 9, noon to 10:30 p.m.
CavernFest, the biggest musical festival in southeast New Mexico, is Saturday, June 9 on Main Street in Carlsbad.  Food trucks, craft vendors, bounce houses, corn-hole, volleyball and music all day on two stages. Shenandoah is on the Main Stage and follows: Adam Wakefield, Damien Maze, Holly Tucker, and Brian James Schram.  Second Stage Line-Up includes: Fresh Baked, Cody Wells, Melissa Auld, Hanna Rose and 58th & Memphis.



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