Located high in the Guadalupe Mountains in 46,000 acres of southeastern New Mexico — the Land of Enchantment — Carlsbad Caverns is a name of worldwide renown. A deep, mysterious, spiritual place where trickling water has over eons created lavish limestone formations on the roofs of caves formed by dissolving sulfuric acid. It’s strange and bizarrely beautiful, and it’s legendary.
Carlsbad Caverns went unknown to white settlers until the end of the 19th century, when a lone sixteen-year-old cowboy named Jim White discovered it. He saw a mass of bats rising from the desert hills, and assumed such a massive army of bats could only come from a whale of a cave. Lowering himself on a homemade ladder, Jim began to explore the cavern, and did so for years.
No one in town believed what he’d discovered until curious tourists joined him. The first visitors were lowered into the cave in a large guano bucket. Today, visitors plunge deep into the cave via a modern elevator, going down 750 feet to its floor.
What you’ll find in Carlsbad Caverns
The Big Room, named by Jim White, is a limestone chamber of extraordinary proportions that could hold six football fields. From the darkness emerge fantasy shapes and forms, each unique its patterns and hypnotizing in its natural artistry. Stalagmites climb from the floor like petrified fingers, stalactites protrude from the shadow ceiling 250 feet above.
Each drop of water that forms these dragon’s teeth is laced with calcium carbonate, and it can take thousands of years for enough mineral to amass one additional inch.
Down in Carlsbad Caverns, visitors view with a sense of awe and wonder several other magnificent features named by Jim White. These include Temple of the Sun, Painted Grotto, Chinese Theater, and Rock of Ages. Additionally, parts of the caverns are dense with several hundred thousand bats that emerge to the cave’s mouth each summer evening to eat their weight in insects. It’s truly a sight and sound to behold!
The park is preserved and researched by geologists, who are almost constantly exploring the cave’s furthest reaches for more information and undiscovered majesty. One can only imagine what mysteries still lie beyond the charted territory of this unbelievable park!