Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico

North America - Editor - 24 March 2011

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico

As the name suggests, the main attraction at the Carlsbad Caverns National park, located in the Guadalupe Mountains in south-eastern New Mexico,United States, is the extensive network of underground caverns that attracts thousands of visitors each year. A series of pathways and lighting have been installed in large areas of the caves making it easy for visitors to safely view the fascinating geological formations found there.

The history of the formation of the Carlsbad Caverns goes back more than 250 million years ago with natural forces carving out the caverns. These caverns were later adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as other formations, over an estimated period of more than 500,000 years. The result of all this geological activity is spectacular, and thanks to the adventurous spirit and efforts of National Park Service ranger James Larkin White, these natural wonders are available to the public to see.

Having explored the caverns from a young age, Jim White had unique insight into this underground wonderland with its enormous 'rooms' joined by natural passages. He named many of the rooms, as well as many of its prominent formations, and these names remain in use today. Visitors to the caverns will see why certain names were chosen. For example, Bell Cord Room was named for the long, thin stalactite originating from a hole in the ceiling of the cave, looking very much like a bell-rope in a church steeple. Bat Cave is home to the majority of the estimated one million Mexican Freetail bats that live in the Carlsbad Caverns. Access to this particular cave is restricted to scientific researchers, but if you wait until nightfall you will see the bats venture out in swarms to hunt for food. The lowest known point in the caverns has been named Lake of the Clouds, a reference to the large lake with its rock formations resembling clouds. Directly above this cavern is the Bifrost Room with its colorful oxide-stained formations, named in reference to a Norse legend which tells of a world in the sky reached by a rainbow. Other interesting rooms include Mabel's Room, King's Palace, Hall of the White Giant, Guadalupe Room, Queen's Chamber and Papoose Room.

When the caves were first opened to the public in the early 1900s, they were only really accessible to visitors who were quite fit as there was quite a lot of climbing involved. But in 1932, two elevators were installed, providing easy access to caverns more than 750 feet below the surface. At the same time, a visitors’ center was built, with a cafeteria, museum, waiting room and first aid facilities. The exploration of the Carlsbad Caverns continues, with researchers continuing to make amazing discoveries and advancing their understanding of the forces of nature below the surface of the ground.


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