We had visited here in 2002, with our kids on spring break, but we did not visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park that is nearby. Since we were in the area, we decided to make a stop. Carlsbad Cavern’s entrance sits on top a mountain top, making it a climb with a motor home pulling a Jeep, so we left the motor home at the campground and headed out in the Jeep.
In October of 1923, President Calvin Coolidge established Carlsbad Cavern National Monument. It was elevated to a National Park in 1930. The visitors center had a display of the cave along with information.
To enter the cave, you must walk on disinfecting mats. This is to help reduce the spread a fungus that is harmful to bats. The fungus causes White-nose Syndrome.
Carlsbad Cavern is one of over 300 limestone caves in the ancient Fossil reef left from an inland sea. 119 of the caves are within the park boundaries. The park receives it’s name from the nearby town of Carlsbad, which named after a Czech town with the German name, Karlsbad, meaning Charles’ Bath. It’s modern discovery was made by teenager, Jim White, in 1898. He explored the cave using homemade wire ladders. The opening that he used to enter the cave is known as the Natural Entrance. The last time we were here, we used the elevator, this time we opted for the Natural Entrance trail.
This entrance goes through amphitheater. This is where a large colony of Brazilian free-tailed bats exit the cave each evening. These bats are migratory so the evening out-flights only occur from May until October.
The Natural Entrance consists of a series of switchbacks that descend into the cave 750 feet. The switchbacks were used until 1932, when the visitor center was opened and elevators installed. You can choose the elevators or the Natural Entrance to enter the cavern.
You descend quite quickly and the view is very impressive.
For $5.00 you could rent an audio guide that told you about the cave history and features and was well worth the money. There were also numerous informational exhibits along the way.
It took a while to reach the bottom, but it was very interesting, exciting, and mysterious, as the lost the natural light.
Jim White named most of the features in this part of the cavern. Because the cave seemed mysterious and scary, there were names like Devil’s Spring, Devil’s Den and Boneyard. Iceberg Rock is a 200,000 ton boulder that fell from the ceiling thousands of years ago. The path takes you around the rock and a picture can no capture it’s size.
There were examples of cave popcorn and bacon, which are named due to the resemblance to the food.
It was fascinating to think that at 18 year old, with only a lantern explored this deep into the cave. Some of the wooden ladder and stairs are visible from the early tours in the 1920s.
We were at the end of the Natural Entrance trail. We had walked 1.25 miles and descended almost 800 feet. We were now going to enter the Big Room which has a 1.25 mile trail. It is an immense and highly decorated room that covers 8.2 acres.
There was so much to see, like Fairyland.
We saw one of the original wire ladders. This was one was built in 1924 by Jim White for a six-month exploration by National Geographic Society. It descends 90 feet into Lower Cave.
There is Mirror Lake. The sign is upside down, but in the reflection on the water it is correct.
The Bottomless pit was interesting…no bottom could be seen. Researchers used ropes to survey the area and found that it was only 140 feet deep. However, it is pretty impressive that they hung on the ropes from Liberty Dome not knowing the depth.
There were massive slabs of gypsum measuring 15 feet thick.
Every turn was a new feature.
There were numerous “draperies…
At the Rock of Ages, early tours used to stop and sing the Christian hymn of the same name.
There was the Painted Grotto and Chinese Theater.
We had very much enjoyed the Big Room of Carlsbad Cavern. It had not disappointed us, even though it was our second time seeing it.
We made our way to the elevator for our ascent to the visitor center.
As we drove down the mountain, we had a pleasant surprise. A herd of Big Horn sheep with babies, was on a gully rim near the road.
It had been an awesome morning, but we still had Guadalupe Mountains National Park to visit. No time to rest for these adventurers.