Carlsbad Caverns is one of the world’s largest cavern systems with a substantial number of major rooms easily accessible to the general public. Located in a remote corner of New Mexico beneath the Guadalupe Mountains, it is out of the way, but still draws nearly half a million visitors annually. Carlsbad Caverns is located at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is uncertain exactly when humans first discovered Carlsbad Caverns, but the person credited with the first exploration of the cave system is James White. White lived near the caverns as a youth, and he probably entered them for the first time in the 1890s. By the early 20th century the caverns were attracting a large number of visitors, and they were designated a national park in 1930. An elevator to the bottom of the caverns was added in 1932. Major new extenstions of the cave system have been discovered as recently as 2013.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is actually home to over a hundred known separate cavern systems, three of which are open to the public. The main cave visited by tourists is the namesake Carlsbad Cavern, which is entered through its world renowned bat cave (crowds gather here every evening to witness the mass emergence of countless bats into the night sky). There are dozens of major chambers within the system, the largest being the Hall of the Giants (the Big Room) with a floorprint the size of six football fields and a maximum height of over 250 feet.
Carlsbad Caverns is located in an extremely remote area of New Mexico near the border of Texas, so that while it does get a good share of visitors, especially in summer, it is one of the less crowded of the major national parks. In addition to the caves, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is home to many species of desert wildlife, and is especially famous for its diversity of birds. Web: www.nps.gov/cave (official website).
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