Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Wikis

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

The forces of water decorated the cave in an almost endless array of spectacular limestone formations like this column and array of stalactites.
Type Natural
Criteria vii, viii
Reference 721
Region** North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1995  (19th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
IUCN Category II (National Park)
Location Eddy County, New Mexico, U.S.
Nearest city Carlsbad
Coordinates 32°10′31″N 104°26′38″W / 32.17528°N 104.44389°W / 32.17528; -104.44389Coordinates: 32°10′31″N 104°26′38″W / 32.17528°N 104.44389°W / 32.17528; -104.44389
Area 46,766.45 acres (189.26 km2)
46,427.26 acres (187.88 km2) federal
Established May 14, 1930
Visitors 407,367 (in 2006)
Governing body National Park Service

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a United States National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico. The primary attraction of the park for most visitors is the show cave, Carlsbad Caverns. Visitors to the cave can hike in on their own via the natural entrance, or take the elevator (the exit for everyone) directly to the Underground Lunchroom some 750 feet (230 m) below.

The park has two entries on the National Register of Historic Places: The Caverns Historic District and the Rattlesnake Springs Historic District[1]. Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.

Peak visitation typically occurs on the weekends following Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The park entrance is located on US Highway 62/180 approximately 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The park participates in the Junior Ranger Program.[2]

Carlsbad Caverns includes a large cave chamber 3rd largest in the Americas and 7th largest in the world, the Big Room, a natural limestone chamber which is almost 4,000 feet (about 1,219 m) long, 625 feet (190.5 m) wide, and 350 feet (about 107 m) high at the highest point. The largest in the world is the Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia.[3]

Contents

Geology

For detail on the area's geology, see Delaware Basin.

History

From a young age, Jim White explored the caverns with his homemade wire ladder. When he grew older, most people did not even believe such caves existed. He gave many of the rooms their names, including the Big Room, New Mexico Room, King's Palace, Queen's Chamber, Papoose Room, and Green Lake Room. He also named many of the cave's more prominent formations, such as the Totem Pole, Witch's Finger, Giant Dome, Bottomless Pit, Fairyland, Iceberg Rock, Temple of the Sun, and Rock of Ages.

Carlsbad, the town, and thus Carlsbad Caverns National Park, take their name from Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Czech Republic, meaning literally, Charles' Baths, in Czech.

Legislative history

  • October 25, 1923 – President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation (1679-Oct. 25, 1923-43 Stat. 1929) establishing Carlsbad Cave National Monument.[4]
  • April 2, 1924 – President Calvin Coolidge issued an executive order (3984) for a possible national park or monument at the site.[5]
  • May 3, 1928 – a supplemental executive order (4870) was issued reserving additional land for the possible monument or park.[6]
  • May 14, 1930 – an act of the United States Congress (46 Stat. 279) established Carlsbad Caverns National Park to be directed by the Secretary of the Interior and administered by the National Park Service.[7]
  • June 17, 1930 – President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5370 reserving additional land for classification.[8]
  • 1978 – Carlsbad Caverns Wilderness was established with the National Parks and Recreation Act (95-625) signed by President Jimmy Carter.[9]
... a limestone cavern known as the Carlsbad Cave, of extraordinary proportions and of unusual beauty and variety of natural decoration; ... beyond the spacious chambers that have been explored, other vast chambers of unknown character and dimensions exist; ... the several chambers contain stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations in such unusual number, size, beauty of form, and variety of figure as to make this a cavern equal, if not superior, in both scientific and popular interest to the better known caves ...

—Proclamation 1679-Oct. 25, 1923-43 Stat. 1929[4]

Named rooms

Balloon Ballroom

Located in the ceiling above the main entrance hall, this small room was first accessed by tying a rope to a bunch of balloons and floating them up into the passage.

Bat Cave

A large, unadorned rocky passage connected to the main entrance corridor. The majority of the cave's bat population lives in this portion of the cave, which was mined for bat guano in the early 20th century.

Bell Cord Room

Named for a long, narrow stalactite coming through a hole in the ceiling, resembling the rope coming through a church steeple to ring the bell. This room is located at the end of the Left Hand Tunnel.

Rock of Ages in the Big Room, photo by Ansel Adams, c. 1941
On the tour route
Outside the entrance to the caverns.
Bifrost Room

Discovered in 1982, it is located in the ceiling above Lake of the Clouds. Its name refers to a Norse myth about a world in the sky that was accessed from Earth by a rainbow. The room was given this name because of its location above the Lake of the Clouds and its colorful oxide-stained formations.

Big Room or The Hall of the Giants

The largest chamber in Carlsbad Caverns, with a floor space of 33,210 m2 (357,469 sq ft).[10]

Chocolate High

A maze of small passages totalling nearly a mile in combined length, discovered in 1993 above a mud-filled pit in the New Mexico Room known as Chocolate Drop.

Green Lake Room

The uppermost of the "Scenic Rooms", it is named for a deep, malachite-colored pool in the corner of the room. In the 1940s, when the military was testing the feasibility of Carlsbad Cavern as an emergency fallout shelter, the Green Lake was used to look for ripples caused by a nuclear bomb test many miles away. None appeared.

Guadalupe Room

Discovered by a park ranger in 1966, this is the second largest room in Carlsbad Caverns. It is known for its dense collection of "soda straw" stalactites.

Hall of the White Giant

A large chamber containing a large, white stalagmite. Rangers regularly lead special wild-cave tours to this room.

King's Palace

The first of four chambers in a wing known as the "scenic rooms", it is named for a large castle-like formation in the center of the room.

Lake of the Clouds

The lowest known point in the cave. It is located in a side passage off the Left Hand Tunnel. It is named for its large lake containing globular, cloud-like rock formations that formed under water when the lake level was much higher.

Left Hand Tunnel

A long, straight passage marked by deep fissures in the floor. These fissures are not known to lead anywhere. The Left Hand Tunnel leads to the Lake of the Clouds and the Bell Cord Room.

Mystery Room

A small room located in the lower part of the cave, named for an unexplained noise heard only here.

New Mexico Room

Located adjacent to the Queen's Chamber and accessed by means of a short slope.

New Section

A section of fissures east of the White Giant formation and paralleling the Bat Cave. New discoveries are still being made in this section.

Papoose Room

Located between the King's Palace and Queen's Chamber.

Queen's Chamber

Widely regarded as the most beautiful and scenic area of the cave. Jim White's lantern went out in this chamber while he was exploring, and he was in the dark for over half an hour.

Spirit World

Located in the ceiling of the Big Room, this area is filled with white stalagmites that resembled angels to the room's discoverers.

Talcum Passage

A room located in Lower Cave where the floor is coated with gypsum dust.

The Rookery

One of the larger rooms in Lower Cave. A large number of cave pearls are found in this area.

Underground Lunchroom

Located in the Big Room at the head of the Left Hand Tunnel. It contains a cafeteria that was built in the 1950s, and is where the elevators from the visitor center exit into the cave.

Recent exploration

In 1985 a very distinctive method of exploration was invented. In a dome area 255 ft (77.7 m) above the Big Room floor not far from the Bottomless Pit, a stalagmite leaned out. Using a balsa wood loop with helium-filled balloons attached, the explorers—after several tries over several years—floated a lightweight cord that snagged the target stalagmite. Once the cord was in position up, over, and back to the ground, a climbing rope was pulled into position, and the explorers ascended into what they named The Spirit World.[11] A similar, smaller room was found in the main entrance corridor, and was named Balloon Ballroom in honor of this technique.

In 1993, a series of small passages totaling nearly a mile in combined length was found in the ceiling of the New Mexico Room. Named "Chocolate High", it was the largest discovery in the cave since the Guadalupe Room was found in 1966.

The Bottomless Pit was originally said to have no bottom. Stones were tossed into it, but no sound of the stones striking the bottom was heard. Later exploration revealed that the bottom was about 140 feet (40m) deep and covered with soft dirt. The stones made no sound when they struck the bottom because they were lodged in the soft soil.

Other caves

The park contains 116 caves.[12] The only other one open to the public is Slaughter Canyon Cave, which also has striking rock formations. No paving or lighting has been installed, and visitors may enter only on guided tours with a ranger.[13]

Lechuguilla Cave, discovered in 1986, is the focus of much current cave exploration at the park. It has been mapped to a depth of 489 m, making it the deepest limestone cave in the U.S. The entrance is in an old mining pit called Misery Hole in an obscure corner of the park. It is not accessible to the general public, and the exact location of Misery Hole is kept relatively hidden in an attempt to preserve the cave undisturbed.

Bats

Mexican Free-Tailed Bats emerging from the natural entrance and flying to the nearest water
Carlsbad Cavern amphitheater

Seventeen species of bats live in the park, including a large number of Mexican Free-tailed Bats.[14] It has been estimated that the population of Mexican Free-tailed Bats once numbered in the millions but has declined drastically in modern times. The cause of this decline is unknown but the pesticide DDT is often listed as a primary cause. Populations appear to be on the increase in recent years but are nowhere near the levels that may have been historically present. A study published in 2009 by a team from Boston University questions whether large numbers of bats were ever present at the caverns.[15]

Many techniques have been used to estimate the bat population in the cave. The most recent and most successful of these attempts involved the use of thermal imaging camera to track and count the bats.[16] A count from 2005 estimated a peak of 793,000.[14]

The Mexican Free-tailed Bats are present from April or May to late October or early November.[17] They emerge in a dense group, corkscrewing upwards and counterclockwise, usually starting around sunset and lasting perhaps three hours.[18] (Jim White decided to investigate the caverns when he saw the bats from a distance and at first thought they were a volcano or a whirlwind.)[19] Every early evening from Memorial Day weekend to mid October (with possible exceptions for bad weather), a ranger gives a talk on the bats while visitors sitting in the amphitheater wait to watch the bats come out.[17]

Other attractions

Three hiking trails and an unpaved drive provide access to the desert scenery and ecosystem.

A detached part of the park, Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area, is a natural oasis with landscaping, picnic tables, and wildlife habitats. As a wooded riparian area in the desert, it has a remarkable variety of birds—over 300 species have been recorded[20]—which makes it "the unofficial Mecca of New Mexico birders". (About 500 species have been recorded in the whole state of New Mexico.)[21] The National Audubon Society has designated Rattlesnake Springs an Important Bird Area (IBA). The natural entrance to the caverns is also an IBA because of its colony of Cave Swallows, possibly the world's biggest.[20]

Gallery

For more images on Wikipedia, see Commons:Category:Carlsbad Caverns National Park

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "History & Culture". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/historyculture/index.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-31.  
  2. ^ "Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Park Fun". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/forkids/parkfun.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-31.  
  3. ^ http://www.jaunted.com/story/2007/8/9/175043/9605/travel/World%27s+Best+Caves:+Sarawak+Chamber
  4. ^ a b "Creation of Carlsbad Cave National Monument". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/historyculture/leg_carlsbad_cave_nm.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-18.  
  5. ^ "Carlsbad Cave National Monument -- Executive Order". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/historyculture/leg_carlsbad_cave_nm_eo.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-18.  
  6. ^ "Carlsbad Cave National Monument -- Supplemental Executive Order". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/historyculture/leg_carlsbad_cave_nm_seo.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-18.  
  7. ^ "Creation of Carlsbad Cavern National Park". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/historyculture/leg_carlsbad_cavern_np.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-18.  
  8. ^ "Carlsbad Caverns National Park -- Executive Order". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/historyculture/leg_carlsbad_caverns_np_eo.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-18.  
  9. ^ "Jimmy Carter – National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 Statement on Signing S. 791 Into Law.". University of California, Santa Barbara. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=30143. Retrieved 2008-07-19.  
  10. ^ "Big Room Self-Guided Route". National Park Service. 2005-08-15. http://www.nps.gov/archive/cave/tour-br.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-29.  
  11. ^ "Cave History Update #8, December 15, 2003: 18th Anniversary of Spirit World Exploration at Caverns". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/planyourvisit/upload/CHU_20031215.pdf. Retrieved 2007-05-31.  
  12. ^ "Carlsbad Caverns National Park". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-03.  
  13. ^ "Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Slaughter Canyon Cave Tour". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/planyourvisit/slaughter_canyon_cave_tour.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-03.  
  14. ^ a b "Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Bats". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/naturescience/bats.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-26.  
  15. ^ Susan Millius. "Carlsbad's 8 million 'lost' bats likely never existed". Science News. http://www.nps.gov/cave/planyourvisit/upload/bat_research.pdf. Retrieved 2009-01-26.  
  16. ^ "Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Bat Research: How many bats and other common questions". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/planyourvisit/upload/bat_research.pdf. Retrieved 2009-01-26.  
  17. ^ a b "Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Bat Flight Program". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/planyourvisit/bat_flight_program.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-03.  
  18. ^ "Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Brazilian Free-Tail Bat Outflight". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/planyourvisit/bat_flight_program.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-03.  
  19. ^ "PBS - Weekend Explorer - Carlsbad, New Mexico - Jim White". http://www.pbs.org/weekendexplorer/newmexico/carlsbad/carlsbad_white.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-03.  
  20. ^ a b "Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Animals". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/naturescience/animals.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-03.  
  21. ^ Parmeter, John; Neville, Bruce; Emkalns, Doug (2002). New Mexico Bird Finding Guide (Third ed.). New Mexico Ornithological Society. pp. 2, 251.  

References

External links

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

A formation of stalactites found at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
A formation of stalactites found at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park [1] is a unit of the United States National Park Service and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located near Carlsbad, New Mexico. It is most famous for the "Big Cave" and its Big Room, at one time considered the largest natural underground chamber in the world. Although no longer occupying that niche, it is still one of the world's largest cave rooms, and its unusually extensive and diverse decorations make it a prime destination for the tourist looking to venture underground.

Understand

Geology

The Big Room is often described as the world's largest cave chamber, but it no longer holds that title; the record-holding Sarawak Chamber in Lubang Nasib Bagus ("Good Luck Cave") in Malaysia is far larger, and as many as 10 other chambers are now known that are larger than the Big Room. However, Carlsbad Caverns still offers world-class cave experiences by any reasonable definition. The "Big Cave" (Carlsbad Cavern itself) is one of over 80 caves within the park, but it is neither the longest nor the deepest of the park's caves. Both of these honors fall to Lechuguilla Cave, a "wild" cave not normally open to tourists.

The caves lie primarily within a Permian limestone reef, but one unusual feature of Carlsbad Caverns is that it is located atop a field of natural gas and oil. As a result, the usual calcium-carbonate cave formations are supplemented in some areas by formations based on calcium sulfate (gypsum) created by the migration of sulfur-bearing water up from the gas field. This, combined with a tendency for the limestone containing the bulk of the caves to fracture along massive joints, results in the unusual combination of very large cave passages and extremely ornate (although, in many cases, famously massive) decorations. The calcium-sulfate formations tend to be delicate and are not usually visible to the casual visitor, but some of the backcountry caves (see under "Do") have astonishing calcium-sulfate formations.

History

The existence of caves in the limestone around Carlsbad has been known for a long time, but Carlsbad Caverns was added to the national park system as a National Monument in 1923, largely (and famously) through the advocacy and actions of Carlsbad-area cowboy Jim White. It gained full-fledged National Park status in 1930. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1995.

Landscape

The park is located where the plains of the Chihuahuan Desert meet the Guadalupe Mountains and ranges in elevation from about 3,200 feet (1,000 m) to 5,500 feet (1,600 m). The primary natural entrance to the Big Cave is in a depression in a mesa on the side of Walnut Canyon, which contains the main entrance road to the park. Several of the accessible "wild caves" are in a detached region of the park containing Slaughter Canyon, one of the typical -- and typically rugged -- canyons descending from the Guadalupes onto the plain.

Flora and fauna

Flora and fauna of Carlsbad are typical of the Chihuahuan Desert, with relatively few large animals and plant life that is adapted to the dry environment. Practically every plant species in the park has spines or thorns on it, and the prickly-pear cactus, ocotillo and lechuguilla are widespread and difficult to hike through.

The caves themselves are the home of a distinctive fauna including cave crickets that have adapted to conditions of total darkness. Raccoons, ring-tail cats, and skunks are often found around the cave entrances. By far the best known park denizens, however, are the enormous colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats that live in the Big Cave and other caves (see below under "See"). Less benignly, rattlesnakes are common in the area, particularly around the entrances to backcountry caves.

Climate

The town of Carlsbad is scorching hot during the summer, with temperatures above 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) common, but conditions at the park itself are slightly more moderate, although still hot. The fact that the visitor center, at the entrance to the Big Cave, is at somewhat elevated altitude offers some relief from the heat. Winters in the park are usually quite pleasant, with daytime highs around 60 to 65 degrees F (15 to 18 degrees C). Precipitation is sparse, but often comes in the form of brief but incredibly intense summer thunderstorms that may drop up to 4 inches (10 cm) of rain in a few hours. There is occasional, non-persistent snow during the winters. Spring and fall tend to have agreeable temperatures and little precipitation, although springtime winds can be unpleasant.

Get in

The park is about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the town of Carlsbad, via US Highways 62 and 180 (one road, two designations). This is a good road that is passable year-round except during rare, brief blizzards. Carlsbad itself has commuter air service (via Mesa Airlines connecting to Albuquerque) and a bus terminal. The closest major airport, with service by nearly all large airlines, is in El Paso, Texas, from which the park is also reached via US 62 and 180, with Guadalupe Mountains National Park en route.

Fees/Permits

The basic fee for the main cave is $6, children under 16 $3 (children under 3 free), good for three days. Headset rentals are an extra $3 per person. A Park Pass ($50 annually) provides continuing access for the holder and immediate family to this park and other units of the National Park Service.

Several of the ranger-led activities (see under "Do") require additional fees. Consult the NPS web site below for more information. Backcountry activities (other than surface day hikes) extending beyond the ranger-led tours require permits.

Get around

The elevator to the Big Room leaves from within the visitor center, and the walk from the visitor center to the natural entrance of the Big Cave is very short. Most of the trail in the Big Room is wheelchair-accessible. Flat-soled shoes are strongly recommended for the hike into the cave from the natural entrance, and a good idea if entering the cave via the elevator. Running shoes (particularly cross-trainers) or light hiking boots work well.

Many publications assert that the temperature in the Big Cave is "a constant 56 degrees F," but the truth is a little more complicated. The temperature varies from place to place within the cave, and atmospheric conditions can create small temperature variations in some locations as well. However, 56 degrees F (13 degrees C) is a good number for planning purposes. Take a light jacket or wrap into the cave, even if it's beastly hot outdoors.

If planning to do any backcountry hiking, make sure to take plenty of water and sunscreen; there is precious little shade, and no reliable water sources. Serious hiking boots are a very good idea, as the terrain is rough, plants are thorny, and rattlesnakes (though rarely encountered) typically strike at the ankle level. In the backcountry, long pants are a better idea than shorts, if you can stand the heat; a little protection from spines and thorns goes a long way.

See

The main attraction, of course, is the Big Cave, accessible either by an elevator from within the visitor center, or via a short trail leading from the visitor center to the natural entrance. The elevator descends (quickly!) over 600 feet (183 m) and deposits the visitor at the main level of the cave, from which a short walk leads to the Big Room, with remarkable decorations on all sides. The route through the Big Room is paved (visitors are forbidden to leave the trail unless guided) and generally accessible to wheelchairs, although one section is problematic for the wheelchair and can and should be bypassed. The route from the natural entrance is longer and rougher, although still on good trail, and stresses the natural history of the cave as well as the scenery, eventually linking up with the Big Room trail. Visitors return to the surface via the elevator. Hours vary seasonally but generally conform to regular business hours; the cutoff on starting a tour is somewhat earlier, so as to ensure that all visitors are out of the cave before closing. Admission to the cave via the natural entrance usually closes 4 hours or so before the cave closes entirely, while the last elevator down leaves about 2 hours before closing. The NPS site gives current information on hours.

The first-time visitor may wish to rent an audio headset at the visitor center before heading into the cave. This provides information on cave geology, history, formations, etc., at a number of locations along the trail. Headsets in several languages other than English are available.

Bat flights occur in the evening during much of the year, and visitors can watch for the swarms of bats from a small seating area/outdoor theater near the natural entrance. There is usually a brief ranger talk before the flight. The bats do not emerge from the cave in a single massive swarm, but there is usually a relatively well-defined peak period some tens of minutes after sundown; inquire at the visitor center to learn when to show up at the seating area.

Do

Ranger-led tours

The park offers scheduled tours of "wild caves" that give the visitor a taste of what visiting an undeveloped cave is like. All require reservations and have fees; see the link below for details. Visitors should be in good health and be prepared for some hard work, possibly including crawling in tight spaces depending on the tour; wear clothes that can get dirty -- seriously dirty.

  • Tours in the Big Cave reach areas of Carlsbad Cavern not on the main tourist path, which only covers a small part of the cave. As of 2005, there are tours to Kings Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Lower Cave, and the Hall of the White Giant.
  • Slaughter Canyon Cave, also known as New Cave, is a separate "wild" cave that can be reached on a ranger-led tour. This cave is in the detached part of the park containing Slaughter Canyon, reasonably enough, and requires a short but testing hike aboveground before the cave entrance is reached. Several spectacular formations are visited on this tour.
  • Spider Cave is another "wild" cave that requires considerable crawling -- not for the claustrophobic. The visitor who pays the fee and endures the entrance crawl is rewarded with up-close views of a number of delicate and remarkable formations, perhaps the most famous of which is "The Mace."

Backcountry caves

The park's policy toward access to caves in the backcountry varies from year to year. Most backcountry caves are closed completely to the public except on special occasions. However, Goat Cave, Ogle Cave, Corkscrew Cave, Christmas Tree Cave, Wen Cave, and Lake Cave have all been open to the unescorted recreational caver at various times on a permit basis. Most of these caves have significant vertical sections and require proficiency with rope and ascending/rappeling gear. Know what you're doing before even thinking about getting a permit for them.

Hiking

There are several surface trails in the park that afford the hiker a first-hand look at the ruggedness of the terrain. (No mountain bikes allowed.) Several are in the Slaughter Canyon area. Day use is unrestricted, but the backpacker planning an overnight stay must obtain a free permit from the park. Campfires are prohibited in the backcountry; use a stove, and take plenty of water. Good hiking boots are a must, and long pants are preferred to shorts owing to the remarkable variety of spiny and thorny plant life that can poke a good-sized hole in you.

Birdwatching

Rattlesnake Springs picnic area, in the detached part of the park, is not only an interesting place to catch a lunch, but a good place to see birds in surprising abundance. It is open for day use only; no camping is allowed.

Buy

There is a small gift shop at the visitor center with the usual trinkets, books, (nice) photographs, etc. Please do not buy pieces of cave formations from any fly-by-night "vendors" on the way to the park! Even if collected from caves on private property, collecting them amounts to cave vandalism, and in any event, it's a purchase you'll regret soon enough. Within the caves, they are things of beauty; outside, they are just little hunks of rock that are likely to disintegrate before you get them home. Spend your money on good photo collections instead.

Eat

The visitor center contains a snack bar/cafeteria with the usual national-park fare. One unique feature of the Big Cave is a "lunchroom" within the cave, at the lower terminus of the elevator from the visitor center. Cafeteria-style munchies can be bought and consumed here. (Please don't take them into the rest of the cave.) Otherwise, restaurants and convenience stores exist in White City, near the park entrance; none are particularly noteworthy.

  • White City (or Whites or White's), just before the park entrance, is largely a noisome tourist trap, but does have the acceptable Best Western Guadalupe Inn (formerly "Cavern Inn"). The usual Best Western accommodations, with spa, pool, etc. Rooms start at $65 depending on season. Phone 800-215-2167; it's a fairly small property, so don't count on being able to appear unannounced and get a room without a reservation.
  • Carlsbad itself has the usual motor-inn/motel franchises, largely clustered along "National Parks Highway" (US 62/180). Days Inn, Super 8, Comfort Inn, another Best Western, and others can be found; none are spectacular, most are acceptable.

Camping

There is no car camping within the park itself. A KOA campground is on 62/180 near Carlsbad.

Backcountry

Backcountry camping requires a free permit and is best in the (relatively) high country beyond Slaughter Canyon Cave. Pack in lots of water, as there are no reliable water sources in the backcountry for much of the year. When arising in the morning, check your sleeping bag and footwear for scorpions as well as snakes.

Stay safe

Visiting the "tourist" parts of the Big Cave poses no serious safety hazards. As mentioned above, footwear with balance and traction is a good idea, particularly if you're walking down from the natural entrance; the trail is steep in spots and may be wet due to water dripping from the ceiling. If you're suffering from ear problems (e.g. blocked Eustachian tubes), you might find it more comfortable to descend into the cave via the natural entrance rather than the elevator, which descends so rapidly that it may cause discomfort due to difficulty in pressure equalization.

When visiting backcountry areas, whether on tours or on your own, make sure you are properly equipped. Many of the "wild" caves require proficiency in vertical technique that is considerably different than that used in rock climbing. The Park Service's recommendations for any particular cave are usually well thought out and helpful. Make sure you have sunscreen and plenty of water for any hiking; it's sunny, and hot, out there.

Get out

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is just over the Texas state line; continue west on 62/180. This park features terrain similar to that of Carlsbad Caverns, with fewer caves and more above-ground hiking, including a trail to the top of Guadalupe Peak, highest point in the state of Texas.

Routes through Carlsbad Caverns National Park
El PasoGuadalupe Mountains NP  W noframe E  CarlsbadHobbs
El PasoGuadalupe Mountains NP  W noframe E  CarlsbadHobbs
This is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

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