The stalagmites, as you may remember from your geology classes from eons ago, are the kinds of drip stones that grow from the floor on up. Stalactites on the other hand are the drip stones that actually grow from the ceiling down. Confused about all the “mites” and “tites”? Simply remember that stalagmites “mite” reach the ceiling of the cave in time, while stalactites are holding “tite” to the ceiling. Unless you encounter one of the many opportunities to actually touch the various stalagmites and stalactites, resist the urge to put your finger on them! Many of them are still growing, and your touch could actually put an end to a century long process.
You know that there is also something else you may encounter while caving in Carlsbad Caverns? It is true! This national park is home for more than one million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats! They are a small species – only about four inches long – yet what makes their sight so spectacular is the fact that they always live together in gigantic numbers. Thus, if you enter a cave and suddenly encounter a rather vicious smell, you will know that it is probably a roost for many of the bats, and you might want to think twice about entering the cave any further – the smell will not get any better, and the floor will soon become a shifting mess of bat droppings that may actually be three to five feet deep! Yuck! Of course, if you happen to be caving in Carlsbad Caverns right around dusk, you will be treated to the most awesome sight of a million bats leaving their roosts and joining together to eat insects and other vermin.
Caving in Carlsbad Caverns can be a lot of fun, but you want to make sure you follow the rules:
1.Observe the rules. In other words, do not enter caves that are closed to the public, even if all that stands between you and the unknown is a thin rope. There are reasons why many caves are closed, sometimes for preservations, other times for your own safety. Observe the rules, and live to tell your friends about the park!
2.Do not touch anything unless it is specifically posted that you are permitted to do so.
3.Know the park hours. Usually you will be able to enter as early as 8:30 in the morning and stay as late as 3:30 in the afternoon. In the summer the hours are slightly longer.
4.You may purchase tickets to a ranger led tour, or you may decide to go ahead and take a self guided tour.
5.Please note that you will not be able to bring your baby’s stroller into the caves, so you will need to bring or rent a baby back-pack. Wheelchairs, on the other hand, are permitted in certain areas that are considered accessible and safe.
Do not forget to bring a light jacket. Remember that you will be in a dark and damp cave, and even if it is nice and warm outside, there is precious little of that sunlight that reaches down there.