Carlsbad Caverns National Park   5 comments

Where Is It: 150 miles east of El Paso, TX, or 300 miles southeast of Albuquerque, NM.

The Birth: In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge established Carlsbad Cave National Monument. In 1930, Congress authorized and then President Herbert Hoover approved the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Size: 46,766 acres.

# Visitors: 2012 visitation was 381,058 people. July was the peak month, and January the least attended … even though the cave is a constant 56*, year round.

Plants: From the Park’s website:

The park’s diverse ecosystem provides habitat for many plants that are at the geographic limits of their ranges. For example, the Ponderosa Pine reaches its extreme eastern limit here and Chinkapin Oak is at the western edge of its range.

There is more diversity of cacti in the Chihuahuan Desert than in any other region. Experts believe that this plant family originated here or to the south, and expanded out through the New World. The park’s vascular plant list notes 26 species or subspecies of cacti, including two species that are federally listed.

The plant families with the most species in the park are species in the sunflower family, with 153 species, and grasses, with 135 species. There are more than 60 known species of the legume family and more than 30 each from the mustard and poinsettia families.

Animals: 17 species of bats live in the Park, including Mexican free-tailed bats. That species’ population in the Park was once estimated in the millions, but is now a fraction of that number. A study published in 2009 by a team from Boston University questions whether millions of bats ever existed in the caverns.

Choices: From NationalGeographic.com:

One full day allows you time to tour the main cavern and take a nature walk or a drive before watching the bats fly at sunset. For a second day’s activity, reserve space on a tour of “unimproved” Slaughter Canyon Cave, if you’re ready for a more rugged caving experience.

At the visitor center, select either the Natural Entrance Tour or the Big Room Tour (both are 1.25-mile walks). Try the first unless you have walking, breathing, or heart problems. It starts at the natural entrance and is mostly downhill, except for one stretch where you climb 83 feet; an elevator whisks you back to ground level. The Natural Entrance Tour is more intimate and may be less crowded than the Big Room.

Fees: Any tour costs each visitor $10.

Staying There: There are no campgrounds and no lodges in the Park. Backcountry camping is by permit; permits are free.

Contact Info:

3225 National Parks Highway
Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220
 
Visitor Information: 575.785.2232
 
Bat Flight Information: 575.785.3012

Current Issues: From Albuquerque Journal:

It’s been more than two decades since a discovery this big has been made at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southeastern New Mexico.

Park officials announced this week that a new room has been discovered high in the ceiling of the main cavern. It was found on Halloween night by Derek Bristol, a caver and volunteer with the Cave Research Foundation, and Shawn Thomas, a cave technician at the park.

The two had climbed more than 250 feet to the “Spirit World” area to finish surveying as part of work to create a new map of the caverns. Once inside, they decided to make their way to a ledge about 15 feet away. The ledge had been observed on previous trips but never explored.

“Most of the time, obscure leads like this go nowhere,” Thomas said.

To their surprise, it opened up to a long passage.

“I remember being really shocked. I couldn’t believe this was happening,” said Thomas, who followed Bristol through the passage and into the large room they dubbed Halloween Hall. “There hasn’t been a room this big discovered in decades.”

Inside the colorful room were football-size crystal formations, light-blue endellite clay, a cascade of flow stone left behind by mineral deposits and thousands of bat bones. The room is about 100 feet in diameter.

Don’t Miss This: From GORP.com:

More than 300 known caves lie beneath the surface of the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas. The Carlsbad Caverns National Park contains 113 of these caves, two of which—Carlsbad Caverns and Lechuguilla Cave—are among the largest and most magnificent underground formations in the world.

More

National Park Service: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Jason’s Travels: My Favorite National Parks Of The West

Terra Galleria: Carlsbad Caverns

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