Thursday, October 22, 2009


Drove through the Chihuahuan Desert and arrived in Carlsbad at noon but as we went back an hour (we are now only 1 hour ahead of BC time) we ate a quick lunch and went to the Carlsbad Caverns.
We drove up into the hills of the Guadalupe Mountains and stopped along the road for this pic. The desert looks so beautiful here in the more mountainous area. They had a soaking of rain yesterday (their annual rainfall is only 12"/year) so everything looked quite lush for a desert.
View from the top of the mountain and some yucca plants with 10 ft flower stems.
Many different cacti, this one with pretty yellow flower buds.
250,000 million years ago the Carlsbad caverns were once a reef in what was an inland ocean, then 20 to 30 million years ago, the Guadalupe Mountains were uplifted thousands of feet above sea level, fracturing the ancient reef. Rainwater seeped down into the cracks in the reef, slowly dissolving the limestone and beginning the process that would form large underground chambers. The stalactites, stalagmites and an incredible variety of other formations began more than 500,000 years ago after much of the cavern had been carved out. It happened slowly, drop by drop. The creation of each formation depended on water that dripped or seeped down into the limestone bedrock and into the cave. Where water dripped slowly from the ceiling, soda straws and larger stalactites appeared. Water falling on the floor created stalagmites. Sometimes a stalactite and stalagmite joined, forming a column.
The caverns are unbelieveable (actually I was told that I wore that word out today) and pictures do not show how immense it is. We visited the Big Room today and it is 8.2 acres and takes at several hours to view.
The bumpy formations are called popcorn, formed when water evaporated and left behind a crystal-like structure.
Popcorn stalacities hanging from ceiling.
Mike and me at side of the cavern. I could not take photos of the large area as the flash can not light it up and although there is some lighting of the caverns, they try to keep it to a minimum.
These are called "The Lions Tail" and, indeed, they do look it.
This area of popcorn covered stalagmites is called "Fairyland".
"Chandeliers and Stalagmites". The cavern formations, mostly calcium, are primarily white with hues of yellow from sulphur and red form iron oxide.

"Temple of the Sun"
This is the "Painted Grotto" which has delicate hanging stalactites called "soda straws" which may grow into larger stalactites. However, as they only grow about 1/4" every 70 years, it will take awhile.
Here is a small pool of water and although there are very few of these, you can hear water slowly dripping occasionally, but 95% of the speleothems are dry and inactive.
Called the "Chinese Theatre", it does have an oriental look.

"Draperies" are formed where water ran down a slanted ceiling.
Seeing the caverns is almost overwhelming and we were so lucky to see them when there are few visitors. At peak times they may have 4,000 visitors per day, but right now they average 300. This gave us an exceptional experience of viewing this marvel of nature.

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