Interesting Facts About Carlsbad Caverns

Size: 46,766 acres (18,925 hectares), including over 33,000 acres (13,354 hectares) 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 (1,036 m to 1,941 m) above sea level. The visitor center is at 4,406 feet (1,343 m).

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

Largest caves in the park by surveyed length:

  1. Lechuguilla Cave, > 140 miles (225 km); 1,604.2 feet (489 m) deep. Access to this cave is limited to research and exploration only.

  2. Carlsbad Cavern, > 30 miles (48 km). Developed for public touring. The Big Room is 8.2 acres (3.3 hectares)-- the largest, readily accessible cave chamber in North America.

  3. Spider Cave, 3.52 miles (5.7 km). Undeveloped. Guided adventure tour.

  4. Slaughter Canyon Cave, 2.3 miles (3.7 km). Minimally developed. Guided adventure tour.

Annual visitation: ~ 500,000. Since 1924, the park has had over 44,000,000 visitors.

Park services:

  • Paved entrance road, seven miles (11 km) from Hwy 62/180 to visitor center; with wayside exhibits.

  • Visitor center (GPS location 32.174212°N; 104.445855°W), gift shop, cafeteria, bookstore, ticket counter, and information.

  • National Park Service operates information and ticket desks, educational exhibits, theater, restrooms, and drinking fountains.

  • 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.

  • Walnut Canyon Desert Drive: scenic nine mile (14 km) drive off the main road, gravel road not recommended for low clearance vehicles or RVs.

  • Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area: For day use only, this 40 acre (16 hectares) area is about 2.5 miles (4 km) off highway 62/180 (turn off is about five miles (8 km) south of White's City). Tables, grills, restrooms, and water are available. Very popular with bird watchers.
  • Over 50 miles (80 km) 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. Three species roost inside Carlsbad Cavern. The largest colony is of Brazilian free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis-- 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 cavern, performed by Robert Holly of General Land Office; his awe of the cavern and recommendations led to establishment as national monument.

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

1925: Wooden stair system built through cavern's natural entrance eliminates need for cavern visitors to enter via guano bucket.

1930, May 14: Congress designates Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

1931: First elevator shaft blasted and infrastructure installed and 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 with the most recent renovation completed in 2008.

1963: Bat Flight Amphitheater is constructed at the cavern'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. The current mapped length is over 140 miles.

1993, November: King's 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 Site.

Last updated: August 3, 2019

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Mailing Address:

3225 National Parks Highway
Carlsbad, NM 88220


575 785-2232

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