Posts Tagged ‘national parks’

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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Carlsbad Caverns (one) — “the postcard experiment,” inside the Caverns on November 29, images and photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Dear Mom,

You wouldn’t believe the Caverns. They are so cool. I haven’t been here since a Fifth Grade field trip with Alvarado Elementary. Remember?

Dad dropped me off at the school parking lot at 3:30 in the morning. It was dark. They served us McIlheney Dairy milk (probably unpasturized in those days) and store-bought donuts. Gross. Last thing you’d want in your stomach before a four-hour bus ride.

But the Caverns themselves are everything I remember and more. Wish you were here.

Love from me

Dear Mom,

Carlsbad Caverns is called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” And it is. We walked all day long, took a guided tour of an area called King’s Palace and then we did two self-guided tours. 

This formation was called something like Walrus Tooth, except that wasn’t it. I should have taken notes. As it was, it was hard to take photos. They fall way short of the real beauty and magic. (Although, I have to say, in the Visitors Center there is a display of Cavern photos by Ansel Adams that are just stunning.)

Hope Sony is being a good girl.

Love you,

Dear Mom,

I just found out that you and Dad have never been to Carlsbad Caverns. I can’t believe it! You’ve got to see it. Dad almost made me cry on the cell phone when he said it’s probably too late for him. Not so, I told him. We can rent a wheelchair. I saw several people in wheelchairs down there.

There’s a 750-foot elevator that takes you down in less than two minutes, or you can walk all the way down via the original entrance. We did both, and I preferred walking (I got a little creeped out by the elevator at first, but by the third ride I was old hat). We’ll definitely take the elevator with Dad.

They say January is the best time to come. We can visit Aunt Erma and Uncle Henry in Lincoln, just like we did this trip. Hopefully there won’t be snow.

All for now. We love you.


Dear Mom,

Next time we come to Carlsbad Caverns, we’ll stay in Roswell. It’s a lot cuter than the town of Carlsbad. Plus, Carlsbad kind of stinks. All that natural gas and oil. (Not in the Caverns, but above ground. I guess that’s part of the geology that went into forming these caves.)

Did you know that a guy named Jim White “discovered” the Caverns in about 1901? He was 16 or 17 years old, riding the Chihuahuan Desert on his horse, when he noticed a huge black flume coming from a hole in the ground. Turned out to be millions of bats.

He came back, made a ladder out of fencing wire and branches, and went down more than 200 feet to explore on his own. He almost lost his mind, which I can understand. (They did a black-out on the guided tour, and whew, talk about dark.)

It took him over 20 years to get other folks to come take a look. You know what finally did it? He invited a photographer down and, well, the rest is history.

Give Sony a kiss for me.


Dear Mom,

I took lots of pictures of the whole trip, which I’ll show you when I get back. The Caverns were my favorite part, but we also rode an old paddle boat down the Pecos River at night. (I didn’t know it flowed all the way down here.)

People who live on the riverbank set up holiday lights and fancy displays; it’s called “Christmas on the Pecos.” (Although, we went late, the 8:15 tour, and it was so cold on the boat, we couldn’t feel our toes. Jim and I called it “Torture on the Pecos,” but just as an insider joke. We really did love it.)

Thanks for taking care of Sony. I’m sure she’s enjoying it. We’ll be in late to pick her up. More then.


-related to post: The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge)

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