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Carlsbad Caverns, Living Desert State Park & the Pecos River
HOT in summer, unattractive desert (not Sonoran)
In a nutshell
A wonderful place for people that enjoy nature.
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.
Updated Jan 22, 2003