If it had not been for those darn bats, this enormous cave system, known as Carlsbad Caverns, in southeastern New Mexico may have never been discovered. Now, you can not only visit there and venture down underground 750 feet where you will not see the light of day, but you don’t even have to take the trip strapped in a guano mining bucket. I do realize that to some adventurous souls that probably sounds like a lot of fun. By the way, guano here refers to bat droppings and has value as fertilizer.
From early May through September, it is likely to be quite hot in Carlsbad area, which makes it the perfect time to cool down by treating yourself to a nice air conditioned (right around 60 degrees) walk about seven stories down into this incredible cave. There are guided tours available, but the self-guided tour is easy and informative for those who enjoy doing the mostly downhill walk at their own pace. You could use your favorite search engine and find hundreds of pictures showing many of the amazing scenes inside, but they absolutely do not capture the experience felt in the actual environment. It really is amazing. The feel of the atmosphere, the interesting smells and what you see are exclusive to being there.
Discovery of Carsbad’s Caves
Although human presence around the caves goes back to prehistoric times and American Indian cultures, closer to present time the caves were discovered because a young cowboy named Jim White witnessed bats, lots of bats, coming out of a very large black hole. That was back in the 1890’s, and although Jim did his own exploring, it took a while for anyone to take notice. By the 1920’s, it became a National Monument.
There are over 20 named rooms in this great big cave, including the largest at the very bottom, called the Big Room. It hosts rest rooms, a gift shop, concessions and the elevator that gives you a nice ride back to the top. For those who can not do the stroll down, or choose not to, the elevator works both ways. We can be grateful for that since years ago visitors actually did ride up and down in a guano mining bucket. In the main center, you can expose yourself to even more facts, including a few films about the area.
The majority of the population is … BATS
Where there are bats, you just might have a bat show. Around the beginning of June, into the month of October, that is the case. In the evenings, many visitors watch the bats’ activities in a specially designed amphitheater as a ranger tells some of the details. Don’t worry you get used to the smell, and it is worth it.
Where to stay
The Carlsbad area has a lot to offer for accommodations. There are motels nearby and several campgrounds. If you camp there in early summer you are likely to encounter some tarantulas migrating through. I did get close to a few by choice, only to learn that they are pretty harmless as long as you leave them alone. From Albuquerque, Carlsbad is about 300 miles southeast. It is also easy to locate from southern New Mexico and the Texas border.