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Just be aware that it is a very long, steep walk down into the cave (the natural entrance). Only walk down if you are in very good health. A lot longer than I had remembered when I visited as child... On second thought, maybe as a child, we took the elevator down.
There is a natural entrance and an elevator down to the bottom of the cave.
Written Mar 31, 2012
Maybe it's a natural reaction with some people in a cave to want to touch a stalactite or stalagmite or the walls of the cave. Formations in caves take thousands of years to form. Touching cave formations puts dirt or lint on them and begins their discoloration. At Carlsbad Caverns park rangers and frequent visitors have stated that they have noticed significant discoloration of some of the formations over the year. Closer examination in a park bulletin indicates large accumulations of lint, human hair, clothing fibers and even skin. NPS microbiologists have theorized that the lints organic material is actually breaking down through action by microbes, mites and spiders in the cave. This gives rise to some of the pitting that the ranger pointed out on the tour of the Kings Chamber.
The photo I have provided shows areas where formations have actually been broken off by human contact. Maybe these were actions of the distant past it is hard to say but if this great treasure to survive for future generations greater care must be taken by visitors.
Written Mar 25, 2012
When I first heard the name White Nose Syndrome (WNS) at the NPS Visitor Center several years ago in South Dakota I had no clue what they were talking about. Today WNS is a serious threat to bats hibernating bats, particularly in the Eastern United States.
In 2006, a caver near Albany, New York noticed several bats with white powder on their nuzzles and many dead bats. Over the past several years the crisis has grown exponentially and over five million bats have now died from WNS, making it the word crisis in wildlife management in years.
WNS is believed to be a sort of fungus that is spread among bats. Humans may spread the disease because fungal spores can congregate on shoes, jackets, cameras and other equipment brought into a cave. Such items if not properly decontaminated could seriously affect hibernating bats. So far WNS has not been a problem at Carlsbad Caverns but that could change.
Before you enter the Natural Entrance you are asked a series of questions by a park ranger. These include when and where was the last time you entered a cave or a mine. If you answer positively to these questions you will not be permitted entry into the cave with the affected clothing you wore in that place. For other cave tours like Lower Cave and caves that require crawling the NPS furnishes you with some of the equipment for the journey and that equipment has been decontaminated.
Most importantly the procedures that I saw being used by the NPS are intended to protect Carlsbad Caverns from WNS and recognize the importance of bats to our economy and ecosystem.
Written Mar 9, 2012
Please obey all warning signs and the warnings provided by the rangers. They are designed for your safety and the protection of the caverns.
The Natural Entrance Trail is strenuous and is not recommended for people with health conditions or weak knees/back problems. Other trails have other warnings. The trail can also get slippery so wear closed toed, sturdy shoes with rubber soles for good traction, and use the handrails where available. The rangers have to carry out at least one or two people a week because they underestimated how strenuous the trails are.
Stay on the trails. There are steep drop-offs, where you can get hurt and unlighted passages where you can get lost. There are also fragile formations you may damage if you leave the trail.
The temperature inside the cavern is a constant 56 degrees so dress appropriately. On the day I visited it was 41 outside so the cavern was a relief.
Written Feb 25, 2010
Phone: (575) 785-2232
Carlsbad Caverns National Park has its share of desert creatures and this snake sunning itself in the 9 AM morning sunshine was the first one I came across as I began the walk from the Visitor's Center to the Natural Entrance to the cavern. It was not moving, just soaking up some rays as people gingerly passed by or stopped to take a photo of it.
I'm not 100% sure of the type of snake, but park literature says the Mottled Rock Rattlesnake inhabits this part of the state and is the most commonly seen snake in the park. They grow to about 32-inches in length but are not very aggressive. However, if they do bite it can be serious because their toxin also affects the nervous system, unlike bites from most other types of rattlesnakes. That being said, there is no record of anyone ever being killed by a bite from this type of snake.
Updated Aug 23, 2008
I am only an amateur photgrapher, so if you are more knowledgeable than I - please feel free to share. But, I thought sharing what I learned during my jaunt into the bowels of the earth might help someone else .....
Between the 6 of us, all of our cameras were no longer able to work by the end of the tour ... 2 without battery power, 4 out of film. So, charge up and stock up before you begin your walk.
The lighting is subdued, and artistic lighting has been added to aid your ability to actually see all of the wonderful formations mother earth has provided for us.
Standard flash photography doesn't work well in the caverns. It tends to wash out the the amazing colors and textures of the formations.
Going without flash doesn't work w/out a tripod. The shutter speed is too slow for handheld work - the picture blurs :(
The compromise I found was putting my little camera on an alternate flash setting ... the one for red eye reduction. Since the flash is timed to go off BEFORE the shutter mechanism opens, you get the benefit of some light, without interfering w/ the image you are trying to capture.
Updated Jun 14, 2005
Before you enter the caves from the natural entrance, rangers pull you aside, take your ticket, and give you verbal instructions .....
Don't go off the path.
Don't take anything into the caves you can't take back out with you.
Don't take food, or fluids other that water with you into the cave.
Don't throw coins into undergroud water supplies.
The rangers are very clear: as long as you remain on the path, they will find you and help you if you are ill or injured. They will not go looking off path for you!!
The ranger who told me this story told me that in the past people have done similar things, been locked in for the night , died. They would panic, wander or run, and fall into the holes that lead to the deeper portions of the cave. Between injuries, and hypothermia, they wouldn't be found for quite a while - and very dead.
I did hear a story about a guy a few years ago who chose to go off path for photography excursion. He hid from the last ranger of the night - then decided he'd better not. He tried to get the ranger's attention, but that particular ranger was a deaf interpreter - and deaf himself. As a result, he didn't hear the guy. After this final round through the cavern, the ranger turned off the lights.
This guy, stayed calm. He was already back on the pathway, and felt his way until he found a bench. He just curled up and went to sleep. They found him in the morning - and took him off for medical treatment for hypothermia.
Updated Jun 14, 2005
This is the desert, and therefore ... um .... HOT! Remember, no matter how uncomfortable it might be for you - it will be several times worse for a pet left in the car.
Because of this, the Caverns staff have developed an airconditioned kennel for your furred family member. For $4.00 a day, your critter will get care, attention, and a private cage. They can handle up to 30 pets at a time.
Written Jun 14, 2005
There are restrooms before you enter the caves, and one at the rest area undergound. But during the long hike down into the cave from the natural entrance, or during your walk in the Big Room - no facilities!
So be prepared and just take a moment to 'relieve yourself' BEFORE you wander 72 stories into the depths of the earth :)
Updated Jun 14, 2005
It is important that you stay on the designated trails and that you supervise your children at all times, as it would be easy to get lost or fall into steep drop offs if you strayed from the trails. Another reason you are not allowed off the trails is because the fragile formations on the floors and walls would be damaged. It is also against the rules to touch the cave formations as oils on your hands were waterproof and stain the cave formations Please do not throw coins or other objects into cave pools as this will damage the pool. Remember that the cave is 56 degrees all year, so wear a jacket. Also the cave trails can be steep and slippery, so be sure to use the handrails when available and wear good walking shoes.
Written Oct 2, 2004