Friday, April 27, 2012

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We visited Carlsbad Caverns today and all I can say is WOW!

When we turned off the highway onto the National Park Road, I wasn’t expecting such a spectacular drive to the caverns.

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It’s a 7 mile trip on the park road and what a ride it was!

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Once we reached the visitor’s center, we detoured onto a 9½ mile scenic gravel loop through the park. Carlsbad Caverns is located in the Chihuahuan Desert.

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In June 2011, 30,000 acres of the park land was burned from a fire started on this scenic loop. There are charred remains of plants all over. The Caverns, visitor center and several other buildings were all evacuated and the Park was closed for 2 days while fire fighters battled to contain the blaze.

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The burned remains seem to be nourishing the soil though, and there was a lot of new growth.

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This photo shows the contrast. The land on the right was burned, the land on the left of the road was not. Very sad.

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Once we completed our outdoor tour, we headed to the visitor center. Rick has told me numerous times that I would never get him into a cave. He’s a little claustrophobic :) I think it has to do with the fact that the caves are 750 feet below the ground. He graciously agreed to accompany me. I think he was afraid I’d trip over my own feet in the dark and break my neck! He was probably right :)

We did not plan well. This is National Parks week, which means there was free admission every day this week. As we approached the parking lot, there was not 1, not 2, but 6 school buses in the lot! Plus a couple hundred cars :)

Given the unbelievable size of this place, the only time we had contact with the school kids was at the elevators, so that wasn’t too bad :)  Unfortunately, the large elevators are closed for repairs so there were only 2 small elevators in operation. We got to spend about a half hour of quality time standing in line with a bunch of elementary school kids at the completion of our tour :)

We took the self-guided tour of “The Big Room”, the largest cave. This cave is the size of 14 football fields. 14!  It was truly mind blowing. We picked up a digital audio player in the gift shop ($5 rental). There are numbers posted at various areas on the tour. You just punch in that number and the recorder tells you what you’re looking at and gives you other background information. RIck manned the player and I manned the camera and off we went.

I took 140 photos this afternoon. I don’t want to  give you “glassy eye” syndrome, so I’ve picked out a few of my favorites to share with you. (click to enlarge)

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It was absolutely incredible. If you’re ever in the Carlsbad area, this is an absolute “must see”!

We were disappointed that we couldn’t take in the evening bat flight that many of you had recommended, but that program doesn’t start until after Memorial Day. The bats don’t usually return to the Caverns until Mid-May. Guess we’ll just have to come back another time :)

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

13 comments:

  1. We like to go down the via the Natural Entrance and come back via elevator. Try that next time, it really isn't that bad.
    Your photos came out well.

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    1. Bill, we wanted to go in via elevator and out via the Natural Entrance but our timing was off and we wouldn't have had enough time to spend in the cave before their cutoff. Due to an accident a couple years ago, I have a difficult time going downhill but uphill is fine. We'll try again next time.

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  2. I so want to see those caverns but unfortunately we are not going anywhere near them. So sad but maybe on another trip. Your pictures are beautiful.

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  3. Wow, great photos!! Put this on the TODOS list:)

    Hard to understand the planning with those elevators. I guess The National Park Week was a last minute thing?!?!?!

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  4. I love caves! Really cool during the hot summer weather. We did Luray Caverns a few years ago in Virginia but that doesn't compare in size to Carlsbad. Enjoyed your ride there too.
    Syl

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  5. We got tangled up in the National Park week last year at the Wright Brothers in the OBX, so I can empathize about the busloads. Have visited lots of caves, and tend to skip them now, but it looks like Carlsbad is one to definitely take the time to visit.

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  6. The bat flight is amazing. When we were there, the amphitheater was packed with completely quiet people. The bats swirl out like a tornado and fly up into the evening sky. I remember the odor!

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  7. Great pics of the caverns! Carlsbad Caverns is one of our all-time favourite places to visit. Just spectacular and that main cave is so huge.

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  8. I've been twice to the Caverns and have yet to see the bats. Now I have an excuse to go again. :c)

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  9. I'm a little uncomfortable going into caves, mainly because they're so dark and I'm so clumsy, but Mike loves them. You got some spectacular shots! I'll bet it was a nice cool break from the heat down there.

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  10. Wowser! Yes, this is definitely a "must see". Pictures are great but I can only imagine what it looks like in person!

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  11. I have found all of the National Parks I've visited to be fabulous dispite the paltry funds they are given to run and maintain them. I sure wish I could vote more of my tax dollars go to them and less to a lot of other things that are way over funded in my opinion. The parks are among the things in my country of which I am the most proud. Thanks so much for this great tour both above and below ground.

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  12. Great pictures. Glad you enjoyed the caverns it is a great place to beat the heat.

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