• Photo of the steep natural entrance of Carlsbad Caverns

    Carlsbad Caverns

    National Park New Mexico

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  • Cave Lighting Project

    We are undergoing a year-long lighting project in the cavern. Please be aware of caution tape along pathways inside the cave and use due care.

Press Kit

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Fact Sheet - a quick reference guide to basic information

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

118 caves knownat this time; This number changes 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, with skilled technical ability.
  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: ~ 400,000. Since 1923, the park has had over 41,000,000 visitors; most arrive by private vehicle

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) - 3 organizations provide services

o National Park Service operates: information and ticket desks; educational exhibits; theater; cave art exhibit; restrooms; drinking fountains; pay phone; elevator to/from Carlsbad Cavern

o Carlsbad Caverns-Guadalupe Mountains National Parks Association (non-profit partner) operates: book store, audio guide rental for cave self-guided areas; www.ccgma.org

o Carlsbad Caverns Trading, 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 Whites 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 Invertebrates: unknown number of 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

Did You Know?

Soda straws in Carlsbad Cavern.

Most of the formations—or speleothems—found inside Carlsbad Cavern today were active and growing during the last ice age when instead of having a desert above the cave, there were pine forests.