Nature June 24, 2016
18 Fascinating Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Carlsbad Caverns In New Mexico
You probably know that Carlsbad Caverns is a breathtakingly beautiful place. It’s New Mexico’s only national park and has been designated a World Heritage Site. But did you know these 18 facts about the most enchanting place in the Land of Enchantment?
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1. The land that forms Carlsbad Caverns was once part of an ancient underwater reef called Capitan Reef. Marine fossils have been found in the rock.
2. The caverns were forged by sulfuric acid – not water erosion, as is the case with most limestone caves.
3. There are no flowing rivers or streams inside the caves.
4. We know, from pictographs in the area, that Native Americans lived on this land starting from 12-14,000 years ago. It is believed that they used the caves near the surface long before they were “discovered.”
(This photo shows a pictograph, not the ones in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.)
5. In the 1880s, people didn’t go into the caves to admire them. Instead, they were there to mine for bat poop! Apparently, guano is a powerful fertilizer.
6. Some people are under the impression that James (Jim) Larkin White was a cowboy who stumbled upon the caves by chance. He was actually a guano miner who explored the far reaches of the caves in his down time. It is up for debate who first found the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns.
7. Before 1925, guests who visited the park were lowered into the caves in a big bucket. Makes you grateful for the elevator, doesn’t it?
8. They used ladders like these to tour the caverns.
9. These unusual rock formations are known as the Queen’s Draperies. They are actually in the Kings Palace portion of the park.
10. The Bottomless Pit in Carlsbad Caverns definitely has a bottom…
…140 feet down.
11. Lechuguilla Cave is the deepest limestone cave in the United States. It is the fifth longest cave on the planet.
12. The temperature in the caverns holds steady at 56 degrees Fahrenheit.
13. The bats here are Mexican free-tail bats and as many as 300,000 of them billow out of the caverns each night.
14. In September of 1928, Amelia Earhart went to see the caverns.
15. In 1959, Carlsbad Caverns served as a location for the movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” Filming took place in the Kings Palace and the Boneyard.
16. Anyone who has yet to visit the park is probably unaware that there is an underground lunchroom. Nowadays it mostly just sells sandwiches but, back in the days before people considered the impact on the underground ecosystem, it sold heartier meals - and cigars!
17. If you’re seeking a low key, one-of-a-kind experience, you can mail a postcard from the depths of Carlsbad Caverns.
18. Some of the guided tours through the caverns are a real adventure, requiring participants to crawl through the caves. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of tamer options as well.)
For more details on ranger-led tours, click
Have you visited Carlsbad Caverns? What was your experience like?