Lincoln National Forest
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Located beneath the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains in Southern New Mexico is one of the most amazing wonders on the American continent. Even though their are some caverns that are deeper or longer, Carlsbad Caverns is by far the largest set of underground chambers in the world. The famous Big Room is widely considered the largest underground room in the world.
Visitors step into a entirely different world where limestone formations create endless variety and beauty. Inverted spires known as stalactites reach down from the ceiling as fragile chandeliers. Stalagmites rise from the floor and point upwards. In some instances stalactites and stalagmites join and form monumental columns and pillaars. Nearby are dence growths called helictites that appear fragile and delicate.
Did You Know that the 110-plus caves of Carlsbad Caverns National Park were carved out not by running water and streams like many limestone caves in the world? Rather these caves were dissolved by very aggressive sulfuric acid.
The underground climate remains at 56 degrees throughout the year, you might want to wear a sweater.
Besides canyoneering, many outdoor activities are available here. Hiking backcountry trails is a popular activity here.
Points of Interest:
The Big Room - The largest underground cavern in the world - ceiling space for a 60-story building and floor space to accomodate 14 football fields. It is accessed by a 750 foot elevator drop from the Visitor Center. A short trail tour covers 1.25 miles of mostly level trail in the Big Room and takes about an hour.
Visitor Center - Displays about the geology and history of the caverns. On-site restaurant.
Cave Walk -
Three mile trail starting at the natural entrance through an 90 foor wide arch. Average time is about three hours to traverse this trail that goes about a mile downwards through natural corridors and passageways. Along the way you'll see:
New Cave - Recent addition opened to the public 1974. Reached by a steep trail from nearby Slaughter Canyon. Discovered by a goat herder, Tom Tucker, in 1937 while searching for lost animals. Used in 1950 for the filming of King Solomon's Mines.
Bat Flights - Every evening from May through October, thousands of bats spiral out from the main arch natural entrance to feed on insects in the surrounding valleys. Today's population is only a half-million, down from a high of nearly 8 million. Hibernating by day (hanging upside down in dense clusters) they zoom out in the evenings at the rate of 5,000 per minute. Park naturalist is usually on duty to narrate the event.
Old Springs Trail -Outdoor nature trail leads to an observation tower atop the Visitor Center where are the best views of the vast Delaware Basin.
Please note that Southern New Mexico is heavily visited in the summer (May-August) which makes getting reservations difficult. The best time to visit is March / April / September / October when there is beautiful weather and less competition for reservations. New Mexico area code is 505.
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