By the Numbers: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
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.
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?
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.
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.
Park acreage, about 73 square miles. Nearly 71% of the park (33,125 acres) is federally designated wilderness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About how long it takes most visitors to complete the mile-long, self-guided tour of the Big Room.
Year round temperature of Carlsbad Cavern. Most visitors need a light jacket or long-sleeved shirt to remain comfortable at that temperature.
Days the park is closed each year. Carlsbad is open to the public throughout the year except on Christmas Day.
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.