Press Kit

Interesting Facts About Carlsbad Caverns

Size: 46,766 acres, including over 33,000 acres designated wilderness

Location and terrain: Southeastern New Mexico; Guadalupe Mountains (primarily limestone) and Permian Basin (primarily gypsum)

Elevation: Ranges from 3,596 feet to 6,368 feet above sea level; Visitor center at 4,406 ft

120 caves known at this time; This number will change as exploration continues.

Largest caves in the park by surveyed length - as of July 31, 2012:

  1. Lechuguilla Cave, > 136 miles; 1,604.2 feet deep. Access to this cave is limited to research and exploration only.
  2. Carlsbad Cavern, > 30 miles; developed for public touring; Big Room - 8.2 acres - largest, readily accessible cave chamber in North America.
  3. Spider Cave, 3.52 miles; undeveloped; guided adventure tour offered weekly.
  4. Slaughter Canyon Cave, 2.3 miles; minimally developed, adventure tours offered.

Annual visitation: ~ 360,000. Since 1923, the park has had over 41,000,000 visitors.

Park services:

  • 7 mile paved road, Highway 7, from entrance at Hwy 62/180 to visitor center; with wayside exhibits.
  • Visitor center (GPS location 32.174212°N; 104.445855°W) - Giftshop, cafeteria, bookstore, ticket counter and information
  • National Park Service operates information and ticket desks; educational exhibits; theater; cave art exhibit; restrooms; drinking fountains; elevator into/out of Carlsbad Cavern.
  • Carlsbad Caverns-Guadalupe Mountains National Parks Association (non-profit partner) operates: book store, audio guide rental for cave self-guided areas.
  • Carlsbad Caverns Trading Company, LLC (contracted concessioner) operates: gift shop, restaurant, kennel, and ATM machine. In Carlsbad Cavern, at base of elevators, they operate a limited snack bar and merchandise sales area. www.carlsbadcavernstradingco.com
  • Walnut Canyon Desert Loop drive: 9 mile gravel road; not recommended for low clearance vehicles or RVs.
  • Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area - For day use only, this 40 acre area is about 2.5 miles off highway 62/180 (turn off is about 5 miles south of White's City). Tables, grills, restrooms, and water are available. Very popular with bird watchers.
  • Over 50 miles of backcountry trails, minimally maintained; no dependable water sources in the backcountry; overnight camping in backcountry only, with free permit from visitor center.

Surface ecosystems: Chihuahuan Desert, with Pinyon-Juniper in higher elevations and shrub/grass lands in lower; over 750 plant species.

Mammals: 67 species

Bats: 17 species known to live in the park; 3 species roost inside Carlsbad Cavern; largest colony is of Brazilian Free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis, also called Mexican Free-tailed bats - population estimated at about 400,000.

Birds: 357 species

A large colony of Cave Swallows, Petrochelidon fulva, have nested just inside the cave entrance since 1966 and been banded and studied continually for over 30 years.

Amphibians and Reptiles: 54 species

Significant dates:

1903 - Guano mining begins in Carlsbad Cavern, then known as "Big Cave" or "Bat Cave"

1915-1918 - Ray V. Davis photographs Carlsbad Cavern, which stimulates interest in the cave. Davis' photos appear in the New York Times in 1923.

1923, April 6-May 8 - First survey and mapping of cave, performed by Robert Holly of General Land Office; his awe of the cave and recommendations led to establishment as national site.

1923, October 25 - President Calvin Coolidge creates Carlsbad Cave National Monument

1925 - Wooden stair system built through cave's natural entrance eliminates need for cave visitors to enter via guano bucket

1930, May 14 - Congress designates Carlsbad Caverns National Park

1931 - First elevator shaft blasted and infrastructure installed, goes into operation in January 1932

1950s - Throughout Carlsbad Cavern dirt trails and wooden stair systems are replaced with winding, paved trails.

1955 - Second elevator shaft blasted and installation of larger capacity "passenger" elevators. These become the "primary" elevator system, while smaller original elevators are secondary.

1959, March - Construction of Visitor Center is completed; most recent renovation completed in 2008

1963 - Bat Flight Amphitheater is constructed at the cave's natural entrance to provide seating for visitors to view evening exodus of bats from cave

1972, January 6 - Self-guided tours of entire Cavern are initiated

1973, September - First public, guided tours of Slaughter Canyon Cave, then known as New Cave

1986 - Lechuguilla Cave discovered to have more than entrance pit; current mapped length is over 130 miles

1993, November - Kings Palace guided tours start in "Scenic Rooms" portion of Carlsbad Cavern paved trail system because excessive damage, such as breakage, to cave features during twenty years it was self-guided

1993-94 - Scheduled "adventure tours" are started to Left Hand Tunnel, Lower Cave, Hall of the White Giant, and Spider Cave

1995, December - Carlsbad Caverns National Park is designated a World Heritage

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