In 1898, a teenager named Jim White was helping a crew locate stray cattle in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico when his eye caught what at first appeared to be a whirlwind high above the hills. White secured his horse to a tree and approached the area to investigate. He soon found himself confronted by an immense black hole out of which flew thousands of bats. In the days that followed, the teen returned equipped with a handmade rope ladder and a kerosene lantern. He lowered himself into the expanse, which is now known as Carlsbad Caverns.
White and a friend later explored and named six of the now approximately two dozen rooms located within the caverns. The latest was found on October 31, 2013 when a technician exploring a chamber named the “Spirit World,” discovered a new chamber above, which was aptly named “Halloween Hall.” Though to date, more than 30 miles of passageways have been explored by scientists, only three miles are open to the public. The locations have paved and lit trails in addition to a visitor center and a cafeteria. The many calcium carbonate formations found within the chambers include columns, draperies and helictites along with popcorn and soda straws.
On average, the vast cave system receives more than 400,000 visitors annually. Early evening and morning often bring many guests to the outdoor amphitheater eager to view the cascade of bats exiting and returning to the caves. Researchers using infrared imaging scans estimate that anywhere from 400,000 to 800,000 Brazilian Free-tailed bats make Carlsbad Caverns their home from late spring to the middle of fall. However, approximately 17 different species of bats live in Carlsbad National Park.
In addition to the bat population, the entrance is also revered for the extensive colony of cave swallows that frequent the area. Other exterior cave attractions include three hiking trails and the Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area. Considered the Caverns Historic District, Rattlesnake Springs features a naturally landscaped oasis that attracts more than 300 species of birds.
Visit CarlsbadCaverns.com for calendar event and tour information along with a spectacular array of interior photographs.