Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns!

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
Deer came by every day and, one day while outside, I saw two wild pigs come by....very thin legs. But, when they spotted me, they took off in a flash. I did not know pigs could move that fast...scary. Good thing they did not come after me.....I would looked for the nearest tree. Man, they were fast!

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.
Just above these trails is an amphitheater where, in the right season, the bats will fly out of the caverns at dusk to go for food. You can sit and watch thousands fly out. Unfortunately, it was not the season while we were there. They had already gone south for the winter. Rats....or, should I say Bats.
The other entrance is down an elevator which takes you down 754 feet. We did this one. When you step out you see the gift shop (naturally) and the cafeteria.
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.
Kim and I got there on the very first elevator ride down....it was just the two of us and the operator so, when we got into the caverns we had it all to ourselves for about 30 minutes or so.

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.

It's very quiet inside and a bit cool. The Big Room, where we walked around to see all these areas, was HUGE....

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.
When we got back to the surface and walked outside for some real air, this is the view looking south.

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

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