Near the Texas border in New Mexico lies the most amazing cave we have ever seen. Carlsbad Caverns is one of the deepest, largest, and most ornate caverns ever found. We began our visit with a self-guided, mile-long tour down the natural entrance. We were immediately taken-in by the immense size and beauty of the cave’s opening. As we descended into the cave, the smell of bat guano was overpowering, but thankfully the smell subsided further-in, and the wonders of the cave took over.
Nearing the end of this tour, at an amazing 750ft below ground, lies a small information center and cafe. There, we met up with our hobbit-sized tour-guide for a 90-minute walk that descended another 500 ft to the most ornate portions of the cave: the King’s Palace, Queen’s Chamber, and Papoose Room. These chambers are something everyone must see for themselves; words and photos can do them no justice.
After our guided tour, we had just enough time for a walk around the “Big Room”, a natural limestone chamber which is almost 4,000 ft long, 625 ft wide, and 350 ft high, making it one of the largest in the world. The chamber is decorated with large columns and other surprises around every corner.
After spending 4 hours underground, we took an elevator back to the world above, and anxiously awaited the grand finale of our day: the flight of ~300,000 Mexican Free-tailed Bats that make Carlsbad Caverns their home. We were fortunate enough that they had not headed off to their Winter home yet, as they do this time of year. We gathered in the amphitheater situated at the cave’s opening around 5:30pm as a ranger educated us about the bats we were about to see. Just after 6:00, Lisa was the first of the group to notice the bats starting to spiral out of the cave at the rate of about 5,000 bats per minute, some of them flying right over our heads! This process seemed unending as we watched the bats continue to fly out for what seemed like an hour. Sadly, for the health of the bats, we were not able to take pictures of their ascent, but we did snap one of some bats still overhead as we walked to the parking lot. What an amazing experience, making Carlsbad Caverns one of our favorite National Parks, and a day we will not soon forget!