Carlsbad Caverns - Guadalupe Mountains Association - CCGMA


Audio Tour
Park Info























  Beneath the surface of the Chihuahuan desert lies a world void of light, far different from the arid landscape above, ethereal in its beauty. Caves are one of the most remarkable geologic features that nature has to offer, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park is one of the best examples.

In the summer evenings, thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats billow out of the gaping entrance to Carlsbad Caverns. From a distance, this nightly exodus appears like a plume of smoke rising up from the desert floor. It was this very spectacle that lured a young cowboy named Jim White to the entrance of Carlsbad Caverns in the early 1900s. Upon his discovery Jim was enchanted, and would later return to explore the chasms below. The magnificent beauty that he found pervaded his every thought, and Jim would not rest until everyone had a chance to see his cave.
Risking his life and braving a world where the only light was his rudimentary homemade kerosene lantern (Jim didn't have the luxury of electric lighting and paved trails), the young cowboy began exploring the dark chambers below. White knew the wonders he saw could not be kept to himself, but with only a fourth-grade education, he found it difficult to tell others about the cave and its celestial beauty. Finally, Jim convinced a young photographer to come and explore the cave with him. Ray V. Davis had no idea what he was in for, nor the majestic wonder that would bring him back time and again. With no skill at cave photography, Ray embarked on a task that no one else before him had tried. After many failed attempts, (dark exposures, magnesium powder smoke inhalation, and physical exhaustion from carrying the 75-100 pounds of equipment) Davis finally achieved some success with his photographs.
With the help of Ray Davis' photos, Jim finally began to draw attention to his cave. Many tours later, word began to spread, and soon the General Land Office sent a surveyor by the name of Robert Holley to see about the possibility of making Carlsbad Cave a National Monument. The year was 1923, and Mr. Holley thought his job of surveying the cave would be short one. One month later he had this to report. "I enter upon this task with a feeling of temerity, as I am wholly conscious of the feebleness of my efforts to convey in words the deep conflicting emotions, the feelings of fear and awe, and the desire for an inspired understanding of the Divine Creator's work which presents to the human eye such a complex aggregate of natural wonders in such a limited space." Soon afterwards, on October 25, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge signed the proclamation for monument status. Seven years later on May 14, 1930, Congress designated Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Today visitors come from around the world to see what Jim White could not convey in words. Electrical lighting, paved trails, and elevators make the trip much easier. Interpretive programs, tours, and educational material help visitors obtain a perspective of the geology, biology, and history of the cave. In the summer evenings, the Mexican free-tail bats still make their spectacular show at the natural entrance, and one can see what brought the young cowboy named Jim to explore this magnificent underground world.

Contact information for Carlsbad Caverns is:



  Contact Us About Us Find Us