November 20 2014
Written By
Josey Orr
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The Great 59 - Part 10: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The Great 59 is a series on America’s National Park Service.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

State: New Mexico

Created: May 14th, 1930

Size: 46,766 Acres

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is known for it’s healthy network of caves, which are the 7th longest in the world. Located in the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico, there was very little interest shown in the caves for a long time, even though many natives and settlers knew about them because they would harvest bat droppings to be sold for fertilizer there. One day, a 16-year-old boy decided to explore the caves a little bit further, and what he found has drawn people there ever since.

As you explore here, you’ll experience the magnificence of the underground labyrinth, one of the deepest, longest, and most beautiful cave systems ever discovered.

What To Do:

Cave Tours – There are a few different cave tours you can take. Some are guided and it’s best to make reservations for the guided tours at the visitor center. You can see The Big Room (more info below) by taking the Natural Entrance or by hopping on the elevator with a guide. You must pay a small fee to participate in the self-tours though.

Bat Watching – We mentioned earlier that people used to harvest bat droppings to sell for fertilizer. So, of course there are a bunch of bats that call these caves home and they come out at night to feed on insects and children. Just kidding about the children part, of course. The bat watching program is ranger led between Memorial Day and Mid-October, but the peak months are July and August.

Star Gazing – Like most of the parks that are located in a desert landscape and far away from city lights, the star gazing here is pretty magnificent. The park rangers go the extra mile here by providing telescopes during peak periods of celestial activity like the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Places Of Interest:

The Big Room - This is the main attraction of the park. The elevator, located in the visitor center, quickly descends 600 feet into the cave and deposits visitors just a short walk away from The Big Room. The Natural Entrance to The Big Room obviously takes a little bit longer and is more of a labor intensive affair, but it’s still mild as far as hiking goes.

Bat Flights - Near the Natural Entrance, there is a seating area for visitors to watch the bats fly at sunset.

Hall of The White Giant - This tour is perfect if you want to add a little bit more adventure to your caving experience. Ladder Climbing, crawling in dirt, slippery surfaces, and some free climbing all happen on this trip. It costs $20 for adults and $10 for children. The children must be ages 12 or older and an adult must accompany anyone under the age of 16.You can go to Carlsbad at any point in the year as the caves usually hover around 56 degrees year round. However, we’d recommend going during July and August so you can experience the bats in all their glory.


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