After White Sands, we travelled north east to get around the tall mountains outside of Alamogordo, past Roswell (no, we did not stop to view any of the UFO sites) and headed down to Carlsbad, New Mexico. The main part of town was all torn up for street construction and we almost scraped street signs as we drove (slowly) down the narrow roads. Then we headed out of town towards the Caverns about 20 miles to Whites City to our RV park. This was a pretty no-frills RV spot but (1) we are living in this gorgeous motorhome, not the park, (2) it saved us a 20-mile journey, each way, to visit the park and (3) we kinda light the rustic and not crowded parks.
|our RV spot for 2 days|
|the sunrises looking east were wonderful|
Anyway, back to the park.... There is an entrance sign about 1/2 mile from our park.
Then you drive about 8 miles up into the hills to get to the visitor's center and the cavern entrance. There are two ways to get into the caverns. One, you walk down this switchback trail, called the Natural Entrance Route, and see the sights and you go further and further in. This is about a mile-and-a-quarter in length and descends more than 750 feet.
|Exit from the elevator|
|Cafeteria. This gets crowded during the summer. Not so much when we were there.|
|Exit to take elevators back up to the surface.|
Now....some photos from inside the cavern. Notice there are formations that come down from the ceiling and those that "rise" from the floor.
|The National Geographic had a survey team come look around decades ago...this is one of the ladders (if you can call it that) that they used to go into one of the holes.|
So...here's the basic question: How were the caverns formed?
A sulfuric acid solution dissolved wide passages and rooms from cracks in limestone rock. The stone formed about 250 million years ago from a reef complex along the edge of an inland sea. Much later, geologic forces pushed the buried rock layers up and erosion wore away softer minerals and exposed the ancient reef as the Guadalupe Mountains. The sulfuric acid resulted from leaked hydrogen sulfide gas from deep oil and gas deposits which moved through rock and eventually mixed with rain water percolating down from the surface. After the rock hollowed and the acidic water drained out, dripping mineral-rich water left "decorations" on the caves walls and floors.
With a floor space equal to about 14 football fields, this underground focal point of Carlsbad Caverns clues visitors in to just how large the caverns really are. Its caverns are close enough to the trail to cause voices to echo, but the chamber itself is so vast voices don't echo far; the White House could fit in just one corner of the Big Room, and wouldn't come close to grazing the 255-foot ceiling.
|The map of the Big Room where we walked around.|
|From the brochure showing a 3D map of the caverns.|
This was a great stop. Absolutely amazing views inside the caves of the rock formations. Put this on your "must see" list.
Kim and Steve