For our anniversary we took a trip to Carlsbad Caverns. We had heard wonderful things about the caverns, but what we saw surpassed all expectations. I recommend it as a place to visit. No wonder Nevada Bahr places her stories at national parks.
Because we took a tour, we went down on the elevator with our tour group about 750 feet to the Lunch Room, a medium size room off of the main room. The Lunch room is set up with food service, gift shops and bathrooms. After our tour, we explored the paths of the main room and then walked up the path to the natural entrance.
Most caves are the result of carbonic acid etching the limestone. Carbonic acid is carbon dioxide from the air dissolved in surface water that seeps through the cracks in the rock. Thus cave formation is highly dependent on water flow. The Carlsbad Caverns are the result of sulfuric acid etching. Oxygen rich surface water seeps through the cracks to where it meets sulfur bearing gases rising from the petroleum deposits deep under New Mexico. The sulfur is oxidized there in the cracks of the rock to form sulfuric acid. The result is that Carlsbad Caverns have much larger rooms than Mammoth Cave and the cavities are more random.
The park service has lit the main section of the cave with electric lights and have provided paved paths through the main room. Parts of it are wheelchair accessible. The path up to the natural entrance is steep with a vertical climb of about 800 feet, but it is lit, well paved and can be walked easily by those who are fit. We are glad we did not miss this part of the cave. If you are not sure you can make the climb, walk down and take the elevator back up.
Several parts of the caverns are not open to the general public. The bat cave is reserved for the bats. Some other areas can only be accessed by taking a guided tour. The tour we chose was the “Left Hand Tunnel Tour”. The Left Hand Tunnel is unimproved except for markings to show where we may walk and a railing to keep people from falling into a pit. We were provided with lanterns fitted with candles. Thus we shared with the early explorers the sensation of going through the cave by lantern light.
At sunset, we gathered with others in an amphitheater overlooking the natural entrance to watch a quarter million Mexican Free Tail Bats fly out for their night’s hunt. That sight alone was worth the trip, but, alas, photography was prohibited. The sounds of cameras interfere with the bat’s sonar ranging.
We enjoyed an anniversary dinner at the Trinity Hotel.