• Photo of the steep natural entrance of Carlsbad Caverns

    Carlsbad Caverns

    National Park New Mexico

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  • Scenic Loop Road Closed

    The 9-mile scenic Loop Road (Desert Drive) is closed due to flood damage. The road will reopen as soon as repairs are done. This scenic road does not affect access to the visitor center or the cave.

  • Rattlesnake Springs Area Closed

    Rattlesnake Springs area will remain closed through the weekend (9-28-14) due to hazardous road conditions and downed trees caused by torrential rains.

  • All Camping Suspended Until Further Notice

    All camping in the park has been suspended until further notice due to flood damage on backcountry roads and trails.

Brazilian Free-Tail Bat Outflight

From April through mid-October, visitors watch the nightly spectacle of several hundred thousand Brazilian free-tail bats exiting Carlsbad Cavern in search of food.
From April through mid-October, visitors watch the nightly spectacle of several hundred thousand Brazilian free-tail bats exiting Carlsbad Cavern in search of food.
NPS Photo by Nick Hristov.
 

What triggers emergence of the bats from the cave at night is something of a mystery. The only scientific correlation found with the emergence of bats is civil twilight (28 minutes past sunset). Bats flying around the roost site can see light entering Bat Cave from Carlsbad Cavern’s second natural entrance. But based on the variability of the bats emergence, civil twilight is not the only explanation.

The outflight can last up to three hours, depending on a variety of factors, including the number of bats in the colony. Bats can begin returning at any time, particularly when they have pups to nurse (in which case they typically head out to feed again before morning). The number of bats returning usually peaks around dawn. When the bats fly over the amphitheater, you can hear their wings and also smell them. The Brazilian (Mexican) free-tail bats have a unique odor—not all bat species have an obvious odor. The bats spiral out of the cave in a counter-clockwise direction. It is not known why they choose to spiral counter-clockwise, but current research suggest a variety of factors play roles. One of these may be an internal ‘compass’ in the bats that is based on the earth’s magnetic poles.

For more information on the park’s evening bat flight program, click here.

Did You Know?

Jim White in Carlsbad Cavern.

Jim White is the cowboy credited with being the premier explorer of Carlsbad Cavern. He began to explore the cave as a teenager in 1898, using a handmade wire ladder to descend 60 feet into the cave. For more than a decade, he couldn't convince many locals that there was much to Carlsbad Cavern.