The Carlsbad Caverns are part of the remains of a giant inland ocean from millions of years ago called the Delaware Basin. When that ocean eventually receded, sulfuric acid ate away at underground limestone forming the caves, and natural water movement created the magnificent stalactite/stalagmite formations.
Below is an introduction to the various aspects of the park visitors can enjoy. Check out the photo gallery to the left to get a peak at what Carlsbad Caverns has to offer.
The Rooms of Carlsbad
There are two ways to enter and experience Carlsbad Caverns: the semi-steep and winding walkway, and an elevator out of the visitor's center. Both options get you into the Big Room, but the walkway is certainly more rewarding as this is how the caves have been approached for thousands of years. Once in the Big Room, visitors can eat in the cafeteria or set out of guided or self-run tours of the 8.2 acre cavern.
Though lightly explored by Native Americans for a thousand years, the experience of Carlsbad Caverns today comes largely from explorer Jim White, who began exploring the caves as a teenager in 1898 and gave many of the largest caverns and formations their names.
Some examples of the most visited rooms include:
- Big Room or The Hall of the Giants - This is the main entrance to the caverns and the largest of the known caverns in the system.
- Guadalupe Room - Second largest and only discovered in 1966, this room features a dense collection of "soda straw" stalactites.
- King's Palace - Home of the "Bashful Elephant" formation, this is one of four scenic rooms and has a large, castle-like formation in the center.
- Lake of the Clouds - Lowest known point in the caverns, this room has a large lake with underwater globular rock formations.
- Queen's Chamber - Scenic masterpiece of the caverns, this is one of the most popular and beautiful views in Carlsbad Caverns.
Bat Flight Program
Every morning and every night the bats of Carlsbad Caverns take flight. At sunset a park ranger gives a program on their history, habitat and the park in general. When the bats sense that the time is right (as sunset changes times with each passing day), thousands rise into the air as visitors watch from the amphitheater outside the main cave. For those who can brave the early morning hours, a similar event takes place as the bats return to the caverns at dawn.
Because of the nature of bats and the times of day this event takes place, photography is not allowed. The bats respond poorly to flashes of light, and without these no meaningful photographs can be taken because of the low light situation. Pictures are available for purchase at the park, but such an experience is something to be had in person.
Some Other Things To Know
Pets (except for service dogs) are not permitted in the cave. For a small fee, pets are sheltered in a kennel in the visitor center while you visit the park. Pets must not be left in your car if the outside temperature is more than 70°F (21°C), as heat may cause serious injury or death.