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Carlsbad Caverns ... World's Most Amazing Cave?
Unusual & Interesting Travel Destinations #7

If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind underground adventure, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico should be tops on your travel list. Located beneath the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas are over 300 caves, 113 of which belong to the national park. Carlsbad Cavern is the most famous of the caves that are open to the public.

Doll's Theater

Doll's Theater, part of Carlsbad Cavern's "Big Room," is filled with tiny stalactites called "soda straws" (because they are hollow and resemble straws).

Millions of Years Ago, the Caves Were Covered by an Inland Sea

Carlsbad Caverns are made out of limestone that once -- about 250 million years ago -- formed a reef on the edge of an inland sea. Today the ancient reef has been pushed up to form the Guadalupe Mountains, and sulfuric acid left in the basin dissolved the limestone and created the cave passages that are now Carlsbad Caverns.

Carlsbad Cavern

This ray of light, located near the Natural Entrance Route, is only visible at certain times of the year.

The caves are filled with "cave decorations" -- mineral deposits that settled on the ceilings, walls and floors of the caves after the seawater drained and fresh water percolated through the passages.

Who Discovered Carlsbad Caverns?

The U.S. National Park Service credits explorer Jim White as the first person to explore the caves in 1898. They don't credit him with "discovering" the caves because local Native Americans knew of them for centuries.

In fact, the caves are so old that ancient artifacts, including a stone scraper from Ice Age Indian hunters, and fragments of two spear points from Midland-style Paleo Indian projectile points dating back some 10,000 years, have been found nearby.

Things to See (Don't Miss the Mexican Free-Tail Bats!)

Lechuguilla Cave lake

In Lechuguilla Cave, the deepest cave in the United States, which is highly protected and nearly pristine, scientist are studying "extremophile" microbes as a potential cure for cancer.

Carlsbad Caverns are some of the largest and deepest caves in North America, and the park offers both self-guided and ranger-led tours. The cavern has two entrances, the Big Room Route, which is accessible by elevator, and the Natural Entrance Trail, a steep 11?4-mile descent that's equal to about 79 stories.

Once inside, visitors can crawl through narrow passageways or stick to the more easily accessible routes in the Big Room. Guided tours (reservations recommended) take you into other cave areas, including Kings Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Lower Cave and the Hall of the White Giant.

Aside from the caverns, the park also offers hiking and backcountry camping, various visitor center programs … and a unique chance to see Mexican free-tail bats.

bat flight

From mid-April through mid-October, nearly 400,000 bats leave Carlsbad Cavern each night to search for bugs.

Close to 400,000 of these bats live in Carlsbad Cavern in the summer months. If you plan your visit during this time (from mid-April through mid-October), be sure to be there at dusk, when the bats leave the cavern to catch their nightly meal -- several tons of bugs!

For More Information …

General admission tickets for adults 16 years and older are $6, and children 15 and younger are free (guided tours are an additional charge).

For more detailed travel information, please visit:

Recommended Reading

The Catacombs of Paris: Unusual & Interesting Tourist Destinations

Seven Essential Survival Skills Everyone Should Know


The U.S. National Park Service

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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