By the Numbers: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Temple of the Sun in the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns. NPS photo.

New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns National Park preserves over one hundred separate caves. Here are some other numbers that take the measure of this remarkable park.

250+ million years

Age of the Capitan Reef Complex, the limestone and dolomitic rock formation in which the park's caverns were formed. The mammoth Capitan Reef, which formed the Guadalupe Mountains astride the New Mexico-Texas border, is one of the best-preserved Permian-age fossil reefs exposed anywhere in the world.

$1.55 million

Price brought by the privately-owned White City and 366 surrounding acres when the entire parcel was sold at auction in 2008. How often do you see a park's gateway town sold to the highest bidder?

432,639

Recreational visits in 2009, reflecting an 8% increase over the preceding year. The park's attendance, which peaked at 876,500 in 1976, last topped the half-million mark in 1999. In addition to the park homepage listed above, this Traveler's Checklist has helpful tips for Carlsbad Caverns visitors.

nearly 400,000

Summer roosting population of migratory Brazilian free-tailed bats (aka Mexican free-tailed bats) roosting in Carlsbad Cavern. Each summer evening the bats exit Carlsbad Cavern's natural entrance to forage for insects, delighting the Bat Flight spectators who gather there. The best bat flights occur in July and August when lots of young-of-the-year and migrants are on hand.

357,480 square feet

Area of the largest room in Carlsbad Cavern, the aptly-named Big Room. (This is equivalent to 8.2 acres, or about 6.2 football fields.) The Big Room is as much as 4,000 feet long and has a maximum floor to ceiling height of 350 feet.

46,766

Park acreage, about 73 square miles. Nearly 71% of the park (33,125 acres) is federally designated wilderness.

1,640 feet

Known depth of the park's Lechuguilla Cave, the deepest limestone cave in the United States. With a length of more than 126 miles, Lechuguilla is also the fifth-longest cave ever discovered.

754 feet

Vertical distance the elevator system must transport visitors and cargo to and from the Underground Lunchroom in the main cavern's Big Room. The four elevators, which are accessed in the Visitor Center, include a primary set of two that transport 16 passengers each and a secondary set of two that carry 8 passengers each. Due to a renovation project, only the secondary set is operating at present.

357

Bird species identified in the park, which has been designated an Audubon Important Birding Area (IBA). Not surprisingly, the park's bird population includes one of the world's largest cave swallow colonies.

117+

Limestone caves in the park. Exploration is still underway, and given the rate of past discoveries it's very highly likely that new ones will expand the current tally of 117.

90 minutes

About how long it takes most visitors to complete the mile-long, self-guided tour of the Big Room.

56°F

Year round temperature of Carlsbad Cavern. Most visitors need a light jacket or long-sleeved shirt to remain comfortable at that temperature.

1

Days the park is closed each year. Carlsbad is open to the public throughout the year except on Christmas Day.

0

Lodging units, developed campgrounds, and overnight parking spaces in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. If you want to stay overnight in the park, you'll need to obtain a backcountry camping permit and remain in the designated area.

Comments

And we, in southeastern New Mexico are very proud of "our" Caverns! Thank you for the great article! Everytime we go to the Caverns we see something new because there is NO WAY you can really see it all in one trip. And don't forget the surrounding area! The Guads are gorgeous and so much area to explore, then on the north side of Carlsbad is the Living Desert...another beautiful area. Don't think of coming just for a day cause you'll miss SO much!

I have to comment on the 'best' bat flight being in July and August .... I was there and went to the evening bat program in October and found it amazing! I am someone who had an admitted prejudice against bats PRIOR to the program and following the program I am transformed. I now recognize bats at home when I see them and tell anyone who'll listen what great neighbors bats are. I thought the number of bats that left the caves in October was huge and awe-inspiring. I can only imagine seeing them in the 'best' flights in July and August. I highly recommend this ranger program!