The Carlsbad Caverns is the largest cave system in the United States, featuring more than 120 caves. Carlsbad and Lechuguilla caverns, the park’s main attractions, are noted for the variety and beauty of their beautiful rock formations. It is a protected area managed by the National Park Service and at present time, there are about 32 known caves and about 25 miles of explored passageways with new discoveries still being made to this day.
The Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in southeastern New Mexico, about 250 miles from both El Paso and Albuquerque. It has been recognized as a U.S. National Park since 1930 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 for its outstanding geological resources. With its magnificent natural limestone formations, cascading waterfalls and underground lake, Carlsbad Caverns is one of the world’s most spectacular caverns.
Formed over a million years ago, Carlsbad Caverns is one of the most impressive caves in the world. You can discover its beauty while taking in a ranger-guided tour or by exploring on your own. In this article, we will reveal amazing Carlsbad Caverns facts you should know before visiting this wonderful place. Let’s check this out!
1. Capitan Reef Formed Carlsbad Caverns
The land that now makes up Carlsbad Caverns was formerly part of Capitan Reef, an ancient underwater reef. The ocean fossils found here provide a vivid picture of life 265 million years ago along the coast of a shallow inland sea. These fossils reveal that the “Capitan Reef” was composed primarily of sponges and algae, rather than coral, as many modern reefs are. Ammonites, crinoids, snails, nautiloids, bivalves, brachiopods, and the rare trilobite are among the other marine fossils found here. The Capitan Reef complex can be found in Texas and New Mexico’s southern Guadalupe Mountains.
2. Carlsbad Caverns Were Forged by Sulfuric Acid
The caverns were formed by sulfuric acid rather than water erosion, as most limestone caves are. Geologists have known since the 1970s that sulfuric acid had a significant part in the dissolution of all Guadalupe Mountain caves. Evidence suggests that sulfuric acid is formed when hydrogen sulfide from nearby oil deposits and a variety of recently identified bacteria interact with oxygen in the subsurface water table. This rapid pathway dissolving took place near the water table, along cracks, fractures, and faults in the limestone.
The water table lowered in relation to the ground surface as the Guadalupe Mountains gradually rose, and the very violent “acid bath” drained away, leaving a newly disintegrated cave behind. The mineral gypsum is one of the many by-products of the sulfuric acid breakdown of limestone. The floor of Carlsbad Caverns is still lined with massive gypsum slabs. Other by-product minerals have been radioactively dated to determine the date of the “sulfuric acid bath.”
3. There are No Flowing Rivers Inside
Usually, these caves are often quite wet, with streams, rivers, and occasionally lakes or enormous waterfalls. However, none of the hundreds of caverns in the Guadalupe Mountains have flowing rivers or streams. Furthermore, there is no evidence that these massive cave chambers were dissolved by carbonic acid.
However, a group of explorers discovered a natural pool in 2020 that may have never been seen by humans before. This magnificent water body was discovered in Carlsbad Caverns National Park’s Lechuguilla Cave. The explorers went beyond the Lake of Liquid Sky, which was found in 1993. They were astounded to discover an underground pool that appeared to be “absolutely immaculate.”
4. Native American Once Lived Here
Carlsbad Cavern is one of approximately 300 limestone caves found in a 265 million-year-old fossil reef put down by an inland sea. American Indians lived in the Guadalupe Mountains between 12 and 14 thousand years ago. Long before they were “found,” it is thought that they used the caverns near the surface. Within the park’s current boundaries, some of their cooking ring sites and pictographs have been discovered.
Later, Spanish explorers passed through what is now west Texas and southeastern New Mexico in the 1500s. Until 1821, when Mexico revolted and declared independence, Spain claimed the southwest. In the late 1840s, Mexico lost the southwest to the westward expansionist United States of America (US). New Mexico Territory was established in 1850, and the cultural clash between American Indians and the US government persisted for the following 30 years.
5. It Had Been Used for Guano Mining
People didn’t go inside the caverns to admire them in the 1880s. They were actually looking for bat poop! It is called guano, a common fertilizer that comes from the Carlsbad Caverns and is abundant in soil-enriching nitrates. Guano appears to be a potent fertilizer.
At the same time, they were facing greater rivalry from farmers homesteading in the West who were shipping farm produce east. Researchers creating the new area of organic chemistry to investigate plant development and metabolism were inspired by the hunt for ways to improve the fertility of the soil in Eastern fields. It prompted further research into several potential fertilizers, including guano.
6. The Cave was Discovered by A Cowboy
Some people believe Jim White was a cowboy who happened to stumble upon the caves by chance. Jim White was a teenage cowboy in 1903 who worked for a man harvesting bat guano near Carlsbad. Before he found the cave, White decided to investigate the origins of the bats and discovered Carlsbad Caverns.
In 1898, he once saw smoke from a wildfire from a distance. However, as he approached the location, he couldn’t smell the smoke, but he saw thousands of free tailed bats. He once claimed that he stood watching the bats for nearly half an hour before the darkness enveloped him completely and forced him to return to camp. Later, people believed it was one of the signs before Carlsbad Caverns was discovered.
7. Visitor Used Big Bucket Instead of Elevator To Visit The Cave
Carlsbad Caverns erected the first elevator in 1931. Visitors to the caves were previously lowered into a large bucket. In fact, Guano miners used a bucket to go into and out of Carlsbad Cavern in 1903. Therefore, the cavern’s first visitors used the same system. From 1923 to 1925, the National Park Service used the guano bucket, which could only hold two people at a time. The deepest of the three primary levels is 1,027 feet (313 meters) underground.
Today, you can visit the Carlsbad Caverns by exploring two pathways on your own or joining one of the ranger-led tours. For access to two self-guided trails, you must purchase a standard admission ticket. Advance bookings are necessary for ranger-led tours.
8. The Breathtaking Queen’s Draperies In Carlsbad Caverns
The Queen’s Drapery, a 40-foot-tall drapery column, can be located in the Queen’s Chamber as part of the King’s Palace tour. The Queen’s Draperies are a group of remarkable rock structures. Water flowing down steep inclines forms draperies, which are thin, wavy, curtain-like speleothems.
Dripstones or stalactites frequently occur at the drapery’s lowest points. Planar to subplantar, mildly wavy to very crenulated are all physical kinds of drapery. Draperies are frequently translucent due to their thinness. To demonstrate their translucency and color banding, many tourist caves have lights mounted behind curtains.
9. The Bottomless Pit Has A Bottom
The Bottomless Pit in New Mexico has curiosities thrown by travelers at the bottom. Therefore, a crew of cavers recently undertook the risky descent on an odd-but-important mission to reach its bottom in 2020. In fact, the Bottomless Pit at Carlsbad Caverns National Park has a bottom.
For early explorers without strong illumination, this gaping hole appeared bottomless. Meanwhile, the trail descends 140 feet to the bottom. It includes the “Bottomless Pit,” which, according to park officials, does have a bottom.
10. Lechuguilla Cave, The Second Deepest Limestone Cave In The US
Lechuguilla Cave, which is located in the Carlsbad Caverns area, is the United States’ second deepest limestone cave with 1,604 feet. Moreover, Lechuguilla Cave is the eighth-longest cave in the world, measuring 150.4 miles. It is home to a number of uncommon speleothems. including lemon-yellow sulfur deposits, 20-foot gypsum chandeliers, 20-foot gypsum hairs and beards, 15-foot soda straws, hydromagnesite balloons, and cave pearls.
Chemolithoautotrophic bacteria are thought to be present in the cave. These bacteria eat sulfur, iron, and manganese minerals, so they might help enlarge the cave and figure out the shapes of odd speleothems.
11. Carlsbad Caverns Has Steady Temperature
In fact, the caverns maintain a constant temperature of 56 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Carlsbad Caverns National Park officials, most caves’ temperature and humidity levels become rather steady after passing through the entrance section. This is primarily owing to the lack of external environmental input.
Furthermore, heat is slowly transmitted through rock. When the temperature differential between summer and winter on the surface reaches a cave, it balances out, and the average surface temperature becomes the ground temperature.
12. There are More Than 300,000 Bats Out Each Night
People travel from all over the world to see nature at its most beautiful when the Brazilian free-tailed bats emerge from the cave each nightfall during the summer. The colony’s size changes from night to night and season to season. During the summer, the cave is home to between 200,000 and 500,000 bats, rising to over one million during migration. Each night, up to 300,000 of them billow out of the caves.
The bats usually leave during civil twilight, which is 28 minutes after sunset. Depending on a variety of variables. Bats usually return to the cave entrance between 4 and 6 a.m., with the most bats arriving at daybreak. The greatest time to visit the park is in September, when the bat flights are still visible but there are less visitors than in the summer.
13. It was Served for Movie Filming
Carlsbad Caverns National Park was used to film some of the underground sequences for Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1959. Previously, Slaughter Canyon Cave had already starred in the 1950 adventure film King Solomon’s Mines, which was based on an 1885 novel by H. Rider Haggard. In the movie, hunter Allan Quartermain leads a quest to find an explorer who disappeared in the African interior while searching for the titular mines.
Moreover, Earth vs. the Spider was also one of the odd movies filmed at Carlsbad Cavern in 1958. A huge cave-dwelling tarantula hunts victims in this science fiction horror flick. A movie about a huge spider living in a cave would be amazing. The genuine spiders in Carlsbad Cavern, on the other hand, are minuscule.
14. You Can Mail A Postcard from The Depth of Carlsbad Caverns
Have you ever thought about writing a letter while admiring the beauty of Carlsbad Caverns? Well, you may mail a postcard from the depths of Carlsbad Caverns if you want a meaningful, one-of-a-kind experience. There is, in fact, a mailbox in the cavern! Yes, you can write and send postcards from underground at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. In addition, there’s even a stamp that says “sent from 750 feet underground” on it!
Before venturing into the cave’s depths, you should know how to reach Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The park’s entrance is located 20 miles south of Carlsbad and 142 miles northeast of El Paso, along US Highway 62/180. The park entrance road begins in White’s City and leads to the tourist center after seven miles. The park road is steep, narrow, and winding in places.
15. The Big Room, The Largest Cave Chamber In North America
The Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns is the largest cave chamber in North America in terms of volume. It’s around 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet tall at its peak. This chamber could hold more than six American football fields.
Carlsbad Cavern is a massive network of caves connected by a succession of tunnels and corridors. The Big Room is just one of them. The Big Room contains some extremely large limestone formations. Without visiting, it’s impossible to gain a true sense of their size.