Not very inspiring countryside
I'd have to say that the rolling terrain of southeast New Mexico is some of the least attractive I have seen anywhere. My earlier trip to New Mexico involved the central to northeast part of the state, a beautiful mountainous area with lots of trees and river valleys providing some great scenery. Making the situation worse in the Carlsbad area is the fact that it is rich in oil, natural gas and potash - leading to mines, power stations and well-head pumps located all over the place. To make things worse, it means that major power lines and smaller distribution ones to run the pumps criss-cross the landscape no matter how far from civilization you think you are. Most of our 5-hour drive down from Albuquerque took us through the same sort of terrain including Roswell, the 'flying saucer' city. There was a good reason why the US Government set off the world's first Atomic blast at Alamagordo - not far west of Carlsbad! The nearest escape from Carlsbad for a bit of scenery is up on the hills of the Living Desert State Park or a bit further west and south as you enter the Guadaloupe Mountain range - which actually has its own National Park (in Texas) not far from Carlsbad Caverns.
Marvel at the amount of time...
Marvel at the amount of time that is required of nature to make this formation. It takes about 70 years to build up just one-inch length of the limestone rock! So, can anyone take a guess how long it's going to make such formations?
Text By Ann House
Text By Ann House:
Thrusting up from the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert, the Guadalupe Mountains form the leading edge of an ancient reef that conceals one of the great natural wonders of the world - Carlsbad Caverns.
Briney waves of an inland sea 250 million years ago provided a favorable environment for marine plants and animals to flourish. Their limey remains, along with calcium carbonate from the water, built up a reef which grew upwards & outwards while, for millions of years, the entire region subsided. The channels supplying water from the ocean closed and water evaporated faster than it was replaced. Salts and gypsum filled the basin. Eons passed. The earth stirred, and the reef, which today forms the Guadalupe Mountains, reared skyward (20 to 40 million years ago.) Dissolution of the limestone began as water carried the material away, creating a honeycomb of openings. Further uplifting & tilting, 2 to 4 million years ago, raised the area again, allowing the groundwater to drain away which left air-filled openings. Decoration of the caverns began.
In the late 1800's, someone reported having seen a cloud swirling up from the desert: smoke? No, bats! Soon bat guano mining was booming near the cave entrance. Few ventured deeper into the caverns, except James Larkin White, an employee of the guano mining company. He challenged the darkness with his miner's lantern and returned with stories of wonder. As others followed Jim White, it was soon realized that a national treasure existed beneath the craggy surface of the mountainous desert. In October, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation creating Carlsbad Cave National Monument. Then, on May 14, 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed the bill to establish Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Just to the southeast of town, in the opposite direction of Carlsbad Caverns and on a little-used state highway, lie several stunning alkali flats.
Alkali flats are essentially dry lake beds where salt has accumulated. After a light rain, they become a gorgeous, shimmering white.
From Carlsbad take US 285 south to NM 31. Turn left (east) and turn right (south) approximately 10 miles later at NM 128, Jal Highway. This will take you to Texas.
Carlsbad - a unique experience for me!
My chance to experience the small city of Carlsbad came as a result of a sudden work opportunity that was offered the company I work for in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. It was July, 2008 and prices for potash, the world's number one crop fertilizer, were reaching never before heard of highs. One of the American mines in the area urgently needed some electrical maintenance work carried out on their facilities and chose us to do the work (after all, we do similar work in Saskatchewan and it is the world's largest producer of the stuff).
This translated into an initial 3-day scouting trip while we sized each other up and was then very quickly followed by a contract to send a 6-man crew down to start the process. I was involved in both expeditions, so this summary of my Carlsbad impressions is based on those initial few days followed by three weeks of working 10-hour days (plus an hour travelling) for six days per week and having Sundays off.
It turned out to be a great experience, since I always seem to enjoy trying something different as well as seeing what life is like in the many parts of this big world. The weather was great (usually in the low 30s C) and so were our accommodations - and it was fun seeing what Carlsbad had to offer!