Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM

We drove over to Carlsbad Caverns on a beautiful sunny day, perfect for driving with the top down on our convertible.  It was at the end of May, and the rains had apparently been good because all sorts of wildflowers were in bloom.  The surrounding country was therefore beautiful.

Although it was warm outside we made sure to bring our jackets because the caves stay at a consistent 56º F (13º C).  Comfortable, rubber-soled shoes are also a must.  When entering the caves you have a choice of taking the elevator from the visitor center, or walking down the entrance ramp.  If you walk down you have the chance to see things like the ‘whale mouth’ formation.

There are so many fantastic formations that it is impossible to describe them.  So we’ve included a variety of pictures in the photo album.

Carlsbad Caverns are living; in other words, the cave formations are still growing as water seeps down into the cave.  The scale of the rooms is huge, and there is incredible variety in the kinds of stalactites and stalagmites.  An easy way to remember which formations grow down and which grow up is that stalactites (with a ‘c’ for ceiling) grow down from the ceiling, while stalagmites (with a ‘g’ for ground) grow up from the floor of the cave.                                                   

It is most interesting when the two kinds of formations grow together, as in this picture.  On this one the process is not quite complete, but there are places where you can see them completely grown together.  This formation is known as the ‘sword of Damocles’.                                                      

One of the great things about the Carlsbad Caverns is that the spaces are so cavernous (we just had to say that!), that it is unlikely that anyone would become claustrophobic.  

There is not much color down in the caverns, but the wide variety of textures makes up for that.

The end of this story is that when we finally came out of the cave, we saw some dark gray storm clouds; it turned out that the storm had already passed, and we had left the top down on our car.  The seats of our car were very soggy for the drive home.  This photo shows a small pool of water left on the top cover.

We did wait to see the bats fly out of the cave.  Our visit was on May 24, and it was apparently too early for the Mexican freetail bats to be there.  We did finally see a few bats leave the cave, but it really was very few, and the wait was akin to our wait in 2008 for Old Faithful to erupt when we were at Yellowstone.

There are several ‘rooms’ in the caverns that are open only for special tours.  That is something we will probably do if we go back.  For an initial visit, seeing the main ‘rooms’ is a major expedition.

Original post May 24, 2009

© Susan L. Stone 2015