May 18, 2022 Carlsbad, NM Day 3

We had breakfast and got ready for our visit to Carlsbad Caverns. We had a 10:30 timed-entry reservation. It was a 30-minute drive from the campground to the Visitor Center, so we left at 9:45 just to give us a little extra time. We packed a lunch and our hiking boots. We turned at White City and headed for the park.

We stopped to take a picture at the park entrance.

Carlsbad Caverns is in the Chihuahuan Desert and features more than 100 caves. The Natural Entrance is a walking path into the primary attraction which is Carlsbad Cavern. In 1898, Jim White explored the cavern as a teenager using a ladder to gain entry, after discovering it by accident. He named many of the rooms and prominent formations which are still used today. The drive took us into the canyon and then up and over the mountains to the cavern which you enter from the top.

We saw more interesting features along the way. This looked like another cave.

This looked like a cave entrance in the hillside.
These ruins were sitting on the hillside on the drive to the cavern.

The highway signs gave a day speed and a night speed. We haven’t seen those types of signs in a long time.

At the Visitor Center, we parked, put on our hiking boots, checked in at 10:30 and showed our Lifetime Senior Pass to enter for free, and began our walk to the natural entrance. We had the option of using the elevator, but wanted the experience of walking into the cavern.

We had to walk down a path from the Visitor Center to get to the natural entrance. Then we walked down a switchback ramp to get to the opening of the cavern.

It was a little intimidating for Bob with the narrow walkways and heights, but he was a trooper and did great. Bob wore a headlamp and I carried a small flashlight inside the cavern.

The walkway took us for a total of 750 feet below the surface.

Much of the walk down had hand railings and parts were well-lit, but for much of the walk the extra light was helpful. We noticed the cool temperature down in the cavern. It was a consistent 54 degrees and felt very pleasant. We never had to put on our fleeces that we carried in our backpack. Our first stop was the Bat Cave. The majority of the cave’s bat population lives in this part of the cavern. They mined here for bat guano (poop) in the early 20th century. Bat guano is a highly effective fertilizer and used in the production of gunpowder and other explosive materials. This is where the bats come from for their night flight. The dark area behind the sign is the “bat cave”. Oooooo!

We continued down, down, down, stopping occasionally to read the informational kiosks that were provided.

This one reminded me of a giant Idaho potato.
This explains the next photo.

We passed the Green Room named after a deep, colored pool found here.

This is a large white stalagmite called the White Giant for obvious reasons.

This room of the cavern contained a dense collection of “soda straw” stalactites.

We also saw formations that are called “ribbons”. They are thin, flat formations that we learned about while we visited Mammoth Cave, but we didn’t see too many in this cavern.

Can you see the “ribbons” in these pictures?

With every twist and turn of the path, we saw more and more beautiful formations. My pictures don’t do them justice.

Finally, we reached the Big Room, the largest chamber in Carlsbad Caverns. The Big Room is a limestone chamber 4000 ft. long, 625 ft. wide, and 255 ft. high at its highest point. It is the largest chamber in North America and 31st largest chamber in the world.

Can you see the two formations that look like old men sitting in the left center?

This formation is called the Rock of Ages.

Here it is up close.

The ceiling of the Big Room is filled with white stalagmites that resemble angels.

Near the end of our walk, we saw the Temple of the Sun.

We spent two hours walking along the path inside the cavern and throughout the Big Room. We walked around in the Big Room, but didn’t go any farther. There was more to see, but we were tired. We took the elevator 750 ft. back to the surface.

We visited the Gift Shop and saw many “bat” articles for sale.

I picked up another Christmas ornament to add to my collection. This was a cool sculpture of bats flying outside of the gift shop.

From the Visitor Center, we could look out on the wilderness. Two-thirds of the many acres that make up the park have been set aside as a wilderness area.

If it was clearer, we probably could have seen for miles.

We ate our lunch upon returning to the Jeep and then drove back to the campground. We hung out with Auggie for the afternoon. On Monday, Bob had called and scheduled a detailer to wash the bus while we were at the cavern today, but he never showed up. We called the next two campgrounds and found a good detailer in Alamagorda who is scheduled to come on Sunday to wash the bus. Let’s hope he shows up. The bus colors are black and silver, but looks pretty brown right now. Bob grilled brats for dinner and then we got ready to drive back into the park. We returned to the park for the bat flight viewing which would take place at sunset. We were told to arrive around 7:00 so we could get a seat in the amphitheater and hear the Ranger talk. It wasn’t very crowded. Someone who had visited here before us, told us it was best to sit down low to see the bats. The Ranger said to look at the bats with the sky as the background so you could see them better. From where we sat near the bottom, we could see the bats swirl around in the cavern entrance and emerge from the cave into the sky.

The Park Ranger spoke to us about the bat colony in the park and gave us directions on what to do when the bats begin to exit the cave. He dispelled a lot of false facts about bats and provided some very interesting information. Everyone had to turn off their phones and sit in silence when the bats emerged.

The number of bats that are in the attendance right now are about five thousand. After more bats return at the end of the month from their migration to Mexico, there can be 250,000 to 500,000 bats that reside the cave. In July and August, the bat pups have grown up enough to join the flight of the adult bats. The Ranger answered questions until about 7:50 when the bats began to emerge from the cave just as the sun was setting. The entire audience went silent and remained that way for 30 minutes while the bats flew out of the cave in wave upon wave. IT WAS AMAZING TO SEE! It was also amazing that a crowd of people could be silent for that long. They did not allow picture-taking for this event, so we just had to soak it all in and watch in awe. We drove back from the cave in the dark. There was still a glow on the horizon from the setting sun.

We had to drive very carefully in the dark to avoid hitting any wildlife. We did see 3 deer at the intersection where the park road meets the highway, but they were off to the side where they didn’t cause danger to anyone. When we got back to the campground at 8:30, Auggie got his evening walk. It was a very pleasant evening. The temp today did not get close to 100, so that was especially comfortable. We got some things put away for our departure tomorrow. We are going to El Paso for a couple nights to see the town and to view “The Wall”. We also want to find some Navaho fry bread tacos. We had our first Navaho tacos in Montana and have been searching for more ever since. This might be the place to find them.

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