Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns are one of the largest and most impressive cave systems in the world. Notable for the variety of their stalactitic formations, the caves were already known to the local Indians in the 10th and 11th centuries, as a rock carving at the entrance shows. The first systematic exploration of a small part of this subterranean labyrinth was carried out by James L White in 1901. So far some 22mi/35km of passages have been explored. A 3mi/5km tour takes visitors through the main cave and a series of spectacular chambers containing stalactites and stalagmites.The caves are home to vast swarms of bats whose evening antics have long attracted fascinated audiences. Up until the 1920s the abundant supplies of bat guano in the outer reaches of the caves provided a much valued source of fertilizer.Origin of the cavesThe cave system has been created over many millions of years, and the process is still continuing. Some 200-250 million years ago calcareous sediments were deposited by a warm sea, and thereafter upthrusts and subsidences of the earth's crust in this part of the world, advances and retreats of the sea and varying climatic conditions brought about chemical disintegration processes which were particularly active during the rise in the level of the land which took place some 40-20 million years ago. Groundwater and rainwater seeped into the limestone through fissures and crevices, creating cavities which grew steadily larger. In course of time the water filtering through the rock, with its high lime content, created the marvelous stalactites and stalagmites and the waterfall-like limestone terraces to be seen today.There are different types of tours, starting from the Visitor Center.
Address: 3225 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad, NM 88220-5366, United States
Carlsbad Caverns - Blue Tour and Big Room
The Blue Tour (1.5 hours on foot; stout footwear essential), leads down through the main passage to the fascinating Big Room. It first runs down into the first chamber, the Bat Cave, and then past the Devil's Spring (with stalactites and stalagmites still in course of formation) and the Natural Bridge to reach the main show caves, with the Veiled Statue, the Green Lake Room, the Queen's Chamber, the King's Palace and Iceberg Rock. The tour continues past the elevator to the striking stalactitic formations in the Hall of Giants, the Twin Domes and the Temple of the Sun; then on to the Lower Cave and the Big Room. Particularly fascinating is the Top of the Cross, a huge chamber 255ft/78m high. The route continues by way of Mirror Lake and the Bottomless Pit, a sinkhole over 130ft/40m deep, to the Crystal Spring Dome, with stalagmites still in process of formation, and the Painted Grotto, where water containing iron has colored the rocks in tones of red.
Carlsbad Caverns - Red Tour
For visitors who are pressed for time there is the Red Tour, which takes them down by elevator to see the finest cave chambers, 750ft/230m below the surface.
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