The Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an impressive American park located within the Guadalupe Mountains in Southeastern New Mexico. The most visited part of the park is the Carlsbad Cavern, which can be reached by hiking a few miles along a paved path. Located on US Highway 62/180, about 18-miles south of Carlsbad, New Mexico, the park has two entries on the National Register of Historic Places: The Caverns Historic District and the Rattlesnake Springs Historic District.
The cavern is home to a limestone chamber called the Big Room, which is close to 4,000 feet long, 255 feet high, and 625 feet wide. The chamber is famous for being the largest chamber in all of North America. As far as worldwide statistics go, it ranks as the 31st largest chamber in the world.
Discovered by European settlers in 1898 when teenager Jim White explored the cavern using a ladder he built, the teen named many of the rooms, including the Big Room and the New Mexico Room. He also named the cave’s prominent formations, like the Totem Pole, Witch’s finger, and the Bottomless Pit. Upon his discovery, locals had to walk down a switchback ramp that took them about 750-feet below the surface to check out the cave. It was a strenuous hike that made it impossible for many to see the caves for themselves.
By 1932, the National Park opened a visitor center which built two elevators into the caves. Visitors could now come in and out of the caverns below without needing to climb. The visitor center was equipped with a cafeteria, waiting room, and a museum. The park was officially proclaimed the Carlsbad Cave National Monument in 1923 by President Coolidge.
Currently, roughly two-thirds of the park is protected wilderness area in an effort to ensure there are no harmful changes to the habitat. The high ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cacti, desert wildlife, and 119 caves make this National Park the only one of its kind.
There are 67 mammal species, 357 bird species, 5 fish species, and 55 amphibians and reptiles found within the confines of the park. Most of the animals are desert species, which means they sleep during the day and forage at night.
The Carlsbad Cave National Park’s Top Animals
Balloon Ballroom: This small room was first accessed by floating someone into the passage using balloons.
Bat Cave: This unadorned rocky passage is home to the majority of the park’s bat population. It has been mined for bat guano in the past.
Bell Cord Room: Characterized by the narrow stalactite that comes in through a hole in the ceiling, this room is found at the end of the Left Hand Tunnel.
Bifrost Room: Named for its location above the Lake of the Clouds as well as its colorful oxide-stained formations, the Bifrost Room wasn’t discovered until 1982.
Big Room: The biggest room in the Carlsbad Caverns.
Green Lake Room: Named for the malachite-colored pool in the room, the Green Lake Room is probably your best bet for getting photos that look like they were captured on another planet.
Guadalupe Room: The second largest room in the Carlsbad Caverns, the Guadalupe Room is known for its soda straw stalactites.
Queen’s Chamber: Regarded as the most beautiful area of the cave, Queen’s Chamber is where Jim White spent hours after his lantern went out.
Spirit World: Nestled into the ceiling of the Big Room at its highest point is an area filled with white stalagmites that look like angels to those just seeing the room for the first time.
When Should You Go?
If you want to get in on the Bat Flight Viewing celebration that happens every year, flight programs are scheduled from Memorial Day weekend through the middle of October. The best time to see the bats in flight is during July and August. Morning programs are great for making your way into the caves before the tourists arrive.
As for stargazing, programs throughout the entire year are hosted to help visitors better understand what they are seeing in the sky.