The Park and Filming
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, in southeastern New Mexico, is known for its highly decorated limestone caves and for the spacious Chihuahuan Desert. From its vast cave systems to its rugged canyon country, Carlsbad Caverns offers a variety of locations for commercial filming.
The park was established in 1923 to preserve, for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people, its unique natural and cultural features. All filming activities will be conducted in a manner that ensures park resources and our visitors' experiences are protected.
Filming in any cave can be a complex endeavor due to low light conditions, limited access to cave areas, and difficulties in transporting equipment within caves. For these reasons, a scouting trip to the park, well in advance of filming, is strongly recommended.
Generally, commercial filming is permitted in Carlsbad Cavern during the evening hours when the cave is closed. This facilitates the filming activities with fewer disruptions to visitors and production crews alike.
The National Park Service (NPS) encourages filming and photography when it will promote the protection and public enjoyment of park resources and it assists the NPS in fulfilling its mission.
A filming permit will be issued provided the proposed activity does not violate the following criteria:
- The filming/photography is appropriate to the purpose of which the park was established.
- The filming/photography is inspirational, educational, or healthful, or otherwise appropriate to the park environment.
- The filming/photography will foster an understanding of, and appreciation for, park resources and values, or will promote enjoyment through a direct association with, interaction with, or relation to park resources.
- The filming photography can be sustained without causing unacceptable impacts to park resources or values.
- Resource protection (natural and cultural) will prevail over any permitted activity, and non-mitigatable degradation of the park's resources will not be allowed to occur.
A permit will be required if the project involves any of the following:
Involves the use of a model (or any on-camera talent), set, or prop, or when the filming, video taping, sound recording, or still photography could result in damage to park resources or disruption of normal visitor use; and/or
Involves access into areas not normally open to the public.
Coverage of breaking news does not require a permit, but is subject to restrictions and conditions necessary to protect the park resources, public health and safety, and to prevent impairment or derogation of park resources, values, or purposes.
How to Apply
Complete form 10-931 [60k PDF file] and return it to the address on the form with a check for $100 made payable to the National Park Service. This non-refundable processing charge covers up to two hours of documented staff time for permit negotiation, preparation and processing. It is not a guarantee that you will be issued a film permit.
All permits are subject to cost recovery and location fees. Additional permit review and documentation (above two hours) is $50 per hour. Permit compliance monitoring by a park ranger is required for filming projects is $50 per hour. Location fees are calculated per day and are based on the following schedule:
1 to 10 people: $150/day
11 to 30 people: $250/day
31 to 49 people: $500/day
Over 50 people: $750/day
Commercial Still Photography
1 to 10 people: $50/day
11 to 30 people: $150/day
Over 30 people: $250/day
A certificate of insurance (original copy) is required to show proof of general liability coverage in a minimum amount of $1,000,000. This certificate must name the United States Government as an additional insured.
A performance bond may also be required to ensure completion of any repair, rehabilitation, or restoration not performed satisfactorily by the permittee and to guarantee payment of all costs. The bond amount will be determined by the complexity of the operation. A performance bond issued by a bonding company, a cash deposit, or certified check may be used for this purpose. The bond will be returned upon satisfactory completion of filming activities and payment of outstanding charges.
In many cases, it is desirable to use stock footage for scenic cave shots and only film what is necessary to depict the talent in the cave. This greatly reduces impacts to the cave and saves production costs.
The park's cooperating association, The Carlsbad Caverns Guadalupe Mountains Association, produced a video, Spirit of Exploration, in 1993. This digitally mastered production, featuring a wide variety of cave formations, is available for use. A review copy of Spirit of Exploration, as well as other information on the park (including books and postcards) may be purchased from the association by calling 575.785.2485.
Public Law 106-206, enacted on May 26, 2000, allows the Secretary of the Interior to establish a fee system for commercial filming activities on Federal land. This includes cost recovery related to permit administration, monitoring and land/facility use (location) costs.
In compliance with the requirements of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, the applicant must submit their social security number or Federal tax ID number when filling out the permit application. Applications will not be processed if submitted incomplete or are received without payment.