Going Down Under, so to speak.
Spelunking, anyone?? Having been in other caves in Oregon – like the lava tube near Bend, and the Oregon Caves – Carlsbad was very impressive, comparatively.
The first thing I noticed was that we were not required to take in any type of hand held lights, lanterns or head lamps. The Cavern is extremely vast – at least the public access part. There is a paved path with handrails throughout the journey, and they had a Hollywood lighting expert place lights in such a manner as to both help light the pathways – all with indirect lighting, as well as illuminate the “decorations” as they are called.
So, although the self guided public access area includes over 2 miles of pathway (a ranger guided tour includes an additional mile), there is sufficient lighting to get you through.
Visitors are warned, however, that the path takes you down 800 feet into the cavern, so it is still a bit of a hike to get there. And this happens fairly quickly, as you can see from the photos. Because of the nature of this descent, the park service requires that people take an elevator back up.
Speaking of photos, since the cave was lit just enough to see the path and a few features, I could not get a photo that showed the expansiveness of the cavern. The average ceiling height – only in my estimation – was somewhere in the 75-100 foot range. The greatest vertical distance between the cavern floor and ceiling is 370 feet, which occurs at Bottomless Pit – so named because early explorers could not see the bottom, due to inadequate lighting. And for what it’s worth, my photos do not do justice to what one really sees. So if you’re okay with being in a cave, it’s worth the trip.
Unfortunately, the Mexican free-tailed bats were not here yet, so I could not witness the great evening bat flight out of the cave. According to the info station, they don’t show up until April.
The Caverns area actually located near Whites City, NM, which is about 15 miles south of Carlsbad.
Some of the photos are unlabeled for your viewing pleasure.