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From January 30 to March 8, on weekdays, elevator service into Carlsbad Cavern will be limited to a few hours per day while the elevators undergo routine maintenance to keep them running safely and smoothly. On weekends and holidays, one elevator will be available throughout the day. The Visitor Center and surface attractions, such as trails and picnic areas, will be available as usual.
From Monday through Friday, visitors wanting to tour Carlsbad Cavern will take the elevator from the Visitor Center or Underground Lunchroom during these scheduled times: 9:30 - 10 a.m., 12:30 - 1:30 p.m., 4:30 - 5 p.m. Or if physically able, visitors may hike in and out of the cave by the Natural Entrance Route, an elevation change of 800 feet over about 1 ¼ miles of trail. The Natural Entrance hike takes most people 30 to 90 minutes, one-way. During this period, the last time visitors may enter the cave via elevator will be 1:30, and the last time to enter on foot will be 2:30.
"Like keeping your car running well, elevator motors and mechanisms need routine maintenance and repairs," said Carlsbad Caverns National Park Superintendent John Benjamin. "We wish we didn't have to inconvenience park visitors, so we scheduled the work for the months with fewest visitors." During this period, park Rangers will present additional programs in the Visitor Center and the cave to engage visitors while they wait for elevators to be available.
"We have to limit elevator use because elevators cannot be running while personnel are working in the hoistway," explained Carlsbad Caverns National Park Facilities Manager Chuck Burton. "Safety is of utmost importance. The elevators have always been safe to use, but we want to be sure they are in top shape and get the service they should have." Schindler Elevator Corporation, of El Paso, Texas, was awarded the contract to perform the maintenance and repairs on the secondary elevator system.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park has two elevator systems with two elevators each that carry visitors and cargo from the surface into Carlsbad Cavern. Since September 2010, the primary elevators have been out of service for a project to replace structural steel beams in the hoistway, and the smaller, secondary elevators have been used for transportation.
Constructed in 1955, the primary elevators traveled for 55 years on the original structural steel and guiderails, which rusted and weakened after decades of exposure to the humid and corrosive environment inside the limestone shaft. Numerous unanticipated difficulties caused work delays as White Construction Group, of Castle Rock, Colorado, replaced 154 steel beams in the elevator hoistway. Complexity of the tasks and challenges in working in the narrow and deep hoistway increased the delays. The primary elevators are expected to return to service in spring 2012.
While the primary elevators are out of service and visitors use the secondary elevators, visitors should expect lines for the elevator and should schedule more time for their visit. For more information about park activities and tour options, call (575) 785-2232 or visit www.nps.gov/cave.