Posts Tagged ‘Carlsbad Caverns National Monument’

Carlsbad Cavern f autoPS

On The Trail In The Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, mailed in 1947 from Whites City, New Mexico, vintage postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Jim White, the discoverer and explorer of Carlsbad Caverns has his experiences written up in a book of thirty-two pages with 30 illustrations, of which 16 subjects are in beautiful colors, and a wonderful colored cover entitled: Jim White’s Own Story.” Be sure and read these thrilling experiences of a lone cowboy three days under the world in Carlsbad Caverns.”

Before Ione wandered through the Joshua Trees & Desert Sands of California, she went spelunking deep in the underground caves of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. She would have accessed the park’s only entrance road, New Mexico Highway 7, by turning north off of US Hwy 62/180 at Whites City, New Mexico – which is 16 miles southwest of Carlsbad, NM and 150 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas.

The scenic entrance road stretches 7 miles from the park gate at Whites City (formerly the entrance to Walnut Canyon) to the Visitor Center and cavern entrance (which explains why the card is postmarked Whites City). To make it even more confusing, the address for the park’s Visitor Center is 727 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad, NM, even though it’s located 23 miles from the actual town.

Carlsbad Cavern b

Carlsbad Caverns – Jan 23 1947, Whites City, New Mexico, vintage postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Carlsbad, N.M.

Here we are at the Caverns. You can’t imagine what they are. The most desolate country around here. All well. Everything going fine.


Ione would have traveled 1300 miles from Dover, Minnesota to Carlsbad Caverns a year before the new visitor center was built, and one year after Jim White died in Carlsbad, on April 26, 1946 at the age of 63. Did you know April 16th – 24th is National Park week? What is your favorite national park? If you took a visit to Carlsbad Caverns you would find:

  • 117 (known) caves formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone
  • During the Summer, the caves are home to 400,000 Brazilian (more commonly called Mexican) free-tail bats [NOTE: To learn more about bats, visit Bats, Beautiful Bats! a piece about bat evangelist Michelle McCaulley who spreads the truth about the benefits of bats and other wildlife. Michelle runs the Rio Grande Basin Bat Project, which was created by her late father, Jim McCaulley.]
  • Carlsbad Cavern is only one of over 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 250 to 280 million years ago. The limestone rock that holds Carlsbad Cavern is full of ocean fossil plants and animals from a time before the dinosaurs when the southeastern corner of New Mexico was a coastline similar to the Florida Keys.
  • Twelve to fourteen thousand years ago, American Indians lived in the Guadalupe Mountains; some of their cooking ring sites and pictographs have been found within the present day boundaries of the park.

Jim White began to explore the cave as a teenager in 1898, using a handmade wire ladder to descend 60 feet into the cave. As an early visitor to Carlsbad Cavern, you might have entered the cave via an old guano mining bucket. In 1901, Abijah Long, a fertilizer expert, realized that guano could be used as a nitrate rich fertilizer. The following year, Long filed a claim for guano mining inside the caverns, and he offered Jim White work as a foreman. In about 20 years, an estimated 100,000 tons of guano were taken from Carlsbad Caverns at as much as $90 a ton. It wasn’t until years later, January 6th, 1912, that New Mexico officially became a state. If you had visited the park in 1928, you may have bumped into Amelia Earhart who gave underground park tours that year.

Though there are many legends and myths about which immigrants first discovered “The Bat Cave” (Native Americans knew of the caves thousands of years before), Jim White spent much of his life trying to convince others of the need for preservation. In October 1923, President Calvin Coolidge declared Carlsbad Caverns a national monument, and Jim White became cavern guide. In 1924, geologist Willis T. Lee explored the caves with White and wrote an article for National Geographic attracting national attention. On February 9th, 1937, Jim White began selling his book Jim White’s Own Story (ghostwritten by Frank Ernest Nicholson) in the cave, and his wife Fanny continued to sell it until her death in 1964.

-related to posts:  WRITING TOPIC: ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, greetings from artesia haiku, Roswell, NM — Aliens Welcome Here, and for a more modern visit to the caves check out Postcards From Carlsbad Caverns

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It’s warm outside, the kind of day I can imagine getting into a car, our bags packed in the back, and setting out on the road. A bit of a breeze in the air, wind is never fun when you’re driving the highway, but the temperature’s just right.

Jim and I get into air-conditioner fights on the road. He’ll turn the fan on high, and I’ll point all my vents toward him, close the one on the far right, so that even he gets chilled enough to turn the thing down. I can withstand heat in a car, will in the winter sometimes sit in the driveway listening to the radio and absorbing the sun trapped inside.

Last road trip we went on was to Carlsbad, Thanksgiving weekend. We stopped at the UFO Museum in Roswell, walked up and down Main Street, pointed out all the big-headed, big-eyed creatures that adorned almost every storefront, except for the Mexican panadería where we bought pan dulce for the last leg of the trip.

At the bottom of the road winding up to Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, there’s the completely abandoned White City. That was once one giant Roadside Attraction, an Old West movie-set-looking place. It had a saloon made of wooden slats, complete with swinging doors, and a series of white adobe casitas, which is where workers used to live.

White City went on the market last July, I think, and I’m trying to remember if we found out who’d bought the place or whether it was still for sale. It must have been a popular destination decades ago, or so the series of weathered billboards on the highway wanted you to believe. Best food around! Cheap gifts!

I can’t imagine anything thriving there now, especially not a junky souvenir shop. Seems the gift shop and restaurant at the National Monument visitor center satisfy most tourist needs, and once you finish winding through those gentle Guadalupe Mountains and finally hit the bland highway back to Carlsbad, you’re kind of happy to be back in the privacy of your own car.

On the drive back to Albuquerque Jim noticed a piece of art, if you can call it that, parked on the shoulder of the road outside Artesia. There was an old RV, on its roof a male mannequin, falling head over heels as he helped a female mannequin up the RV’s metal ladder. We pulled over, snapped a shot, then sped away before the owners of the house came out to see what we were up to.

It seems people still get into the act of entertaining road weary travelers. Some don’t even try to make a dime from it, although I think the main reason Dad never stopped at Roadside Attractions was because we’d all end up wanting to buy something like tumbled rocks in a little fake suede pouch or Mexican jumping beans. I don’t think we ever stopped at the teepees outside of Holbrook, Arizona, the old Wigwam Motel. They had rattlesnake eggs, you can still turn ’round and see ’em, I remember passing the last sign and feeling like we’d lost our chance forever.

We did stop at Stuckey’s, got a box of peanut brittle with the purchase of a tank of gas. My whole family loved peanut brittle. It was long gone by the time we got to California.


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