Day 13 – Carlsbad Caverns

Two in one day!!!!!!!

This morning, we made up for yesterday’s lazy start, and by 7:30 we were on the road over to Carlsbad Caverns.  It’s a nearly 4 hour drive there. Ditto back.  And lots to see in between!

For those who don’t know… I know I didn’t… a little geological history.  To get to Carlsbad Cavern, one drives up a windy road to the top of a cliff several hundred feet above the level of the High Plains region of southern New Mexico.  This cliff area is known as the Guadalupe Escarpment.  The Escarpment is actually an ancient reef on edge of an inland ocean during the Permian era, over 250 million years ago.  This reef was not a coral reef was formed from sponges and aglae, along with lots of other marine animals.  Over the ages, the ocean receded then disappeared.  The area over time was buried by younger layers of rocks. 

Road to Visitor Center - Up the Guadalupe Escarpment
Road to Visitor Center - Up the Guadalupe Escarpment

But, about 15 million years ago, the ancient reef rock began to rise, creating the Guadalupe Mountains.  The rock folded and fractured.  The process of forming the caverns began as rain seeped through the soil, and began to carve out the system.  But unlike many caves, this action alone does not account for Carlsbad.  4 to 6 million years ago hydrogen-sulfide rich water migrated up from below from oil and gas rich fields surrounding the reef.  This mixed with water from above, and formed sulfuric acid.

Anyhow, I won’t bore you further.  You’re welcome to seek out more info yourself.

We began our tour at the “Natural Entrance” where we walked down a switchback trail into the cave. 

The Mouth
The Mouth

 Eventually, we reached the bottom, 755 feet below the surface!  This trek took about 1 hour 45 minutes, and covered about 1.5 miles.  All I really can tell you is… if you’ve never seen it, you’re really missing something!  Absolutely amazing!

We then took an elevator back to the surface, and ate a quick lunch.  Then, back down the elevator (they don’t allow ANY food in the cavern, any more for a number of reasons) and a long slow walk around the 1.5 mile path through the “Big Room” cavern.

We’re back in Alamogordo now, our last night here.

Or IS IT?????

Scott on path into cave
Scott on path into cave

 

Eric on path into cave
Eric on path into cave

 

Some speleothems
Some speleothems
Looking down to the High Plains floor... once an ocean bed.
Looking down to the High Plains floor... once an ocean bed.

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