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The two RV Gypsies
explored Carlsbad Cavern in New Mexico
May 12, 2015

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a United States National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico and contains one of the few protected portions of the northern Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem. The park entrance is located on US Highway 62/180, approximately 18 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico.

The park has two entries on the National Register of Historic Places: The Caverns Historic District and the Rattlesnake Springs Historic District. Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.

The primary attraction of the park is the show cave in Carlsbad Cavern. Visitors to the cave can hike in on their own via the natural entrance or take an elevator from the visitor center. Carlsbad Cavern includes a large cave chamber, the Big Room, a natural limestone chamber that is almost 3,800 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at the highest point. It is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world. The largest chamber in the world is the Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia. The two RV Gypsies explored the Big Room.

the road to Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Karen Duquette at Carlsbad Caverns National Park entrance

The two RV Gypsies chose to explore the Big Room, the less strenuous part of the cave, which is a self-guided tour. They descended 754 feet in just over one minute in an elevator. Then the two RV Gypsies took a short walk along a wide passage that led to the main cave area - the Big Room, where most of the largest formations were found. The cave climate was cool, about 56 degrees F.

Note: Anyone under 16 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older.

The 1.25 mile path followed a roughly circular (anti-clockwise) route down one side of the chambers and back along the other, and the cave was so large that the two parts of the trail were generally out of sight of each other.

entering Carlsbad Cavern
Karen Duquette entering Carlsbad Cavern

Stalactites, Stalagmites and Columns

stalactites, stalagmites, and columns
Karen Duquette inside near a column in Carlsbad Cavern
a formation inside Carlsbad Cavern
inside Carlsbad Cavern inside Carlsbad Cavern
inside Carlsbad Cavern inside Carlsbad Cavern
Lee Duquette inside Carlsbad Cavern inside Carlsbad Cavern

The Big Room is the largest known natural limestone chamber in the Western Hemisphere. Floor space in the Big Room is more than 600,000 square feet, an area comparable to 14 football fields. Dramatic stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and other speleothems can be seen from a variety of angles. It took the two RV Gypsies about an hour or so to walk around the big room on the loop trail that is 1-1/4 miles long.

sign about The Big Room The Big Room

Stalactites, stalagmites and other cave deposits made chiefly of calcite are called decorations or speleothems. Speleothems form when groundwater containing calcium bicarbonate solutions seeps into the cave. When the solution becomes exposed to cave air, carbon dioxide gas is released and calcite is deposited.

sign about Cavern Development sign about Speleothems

Below: The two RV Gypsies in Carlsbad Cavern. Karen is near a stalactite and a stalagmite that are almost touching. Eventually, they will touch and form a column. Columns are formed by the unions of stalagmites and stalactites. As compound cave formations, they include among their ranks the tallest free-standing speleothems in the world.

Karen Duquette and speleothems Lee Duquette and speleothems
speleothems in Carlsbad Cavern Lee Duquette checking out the formations

A tall, fat, column

Lions Tail: Stalactite and popcorn

A tall, fat, column Lions Tail: Stalactite and popcorn
a fat column

Below: Inside the Big Room, there is an area called The Hall of Giants. It consists of three famous massive speleothems, which are the largest in the cave, the Twin Domes and the Giant Dome. These giants began as small deposits on the cavern floor. Gradual accumulation of calcite from dripping water caused them to grow in height and girth. Giant Dome was once a stalagmite like the Twin Domes, but it has grown high enough to touch the ceiling, so it has become a column.

sign about the Hall of Giants Hall of Giants
Hall of Giants Hall of Giants

Below: Soda Straws; thin, hollow stalactites formed by dripping water, and a thin column.

soda straws and a thin column soda straws and a thin column

Fabulous formations / decorations.

Faboulous formations and decorations. Faboulous formations and decorations.

Stalactites hang like daggers throughout the Big Room in Carlsbad Cavern. A stalactite is a type of formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, hot springs, or man-made structures such as bridges and mines. Any material which is soluble, can be deposited as a colloid, or is in suspension, or is capable of being melted, may form a stalactite. Stalactites may be composed of amberat, lava, minerals, mud, peat, pitch, sand, and sinter.

stalactites, stalagmites and columns stalactites, stalagmites and columns
inside Carlsbad Cavern Karen Duquette taking photos
Carlsbad Cavern formations

A stalagmite is a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings. Stalagmites may be composed of amberat, lava, minerals, mud, peat, pitch, sand, and sinter.

Fairland sign popcorn-covered stalagmites
Temple of the Sun sign colums, stalagmites and stalactites

Below: A big column, too big to fit in one picture.

a tall, fat column a tall, fat column
look below

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