Chillin’ with the Bats in New Mexico

Travelled by Talon Windwalker on 23 May 2012 | 1 Comments

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Talon Windwalker is the single adoptive parent of a special needs child. ...Find out more!

Chillin’ with the Bats in New Mexico

Originally discovered in desert wilderness by a curious 16-year-old boy in 1898, Carlsbad Caverns has become one of the most famous cave systems in the world.  People come from all over the world to view the caverns as well as to experience the bat flight program where you can witness hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tail bats leave the caves for their nightly forays in search of insects.  

Like another planet

The bats that live within the caverns are actually the source of their discovery.  Jim White, the young man who first entered the caves, was on his family’s ranch when he spotted a large column of black smoke that behaved oddly.  He went to investigate and discovered that what he had seen earlier was actually bats leaving the caves.  Witnessing their mass as they depart and fly out over the desert is an incredible sight.  During the flight program some education is provided as well as some important warnings:  No photos, turn off cell phones, be quiet.  The best viewing times are in July and August.  There is often a device near the seating area so that you can hear the sounds of the echolocation used by the small winged mammals.

The caverns are obviously as impressive as well, often resembling an alien landscape.  Admission is extremely reasonable ($6 USD for people 16 and older for self-guided tours; prices vary for guided tours) and there are free days 5 times a year. Check out pricing details here

Descent near bat cave entrance

Visitors have a couple of choices for entering the caverns:  Elevators can take you down, or you can enter near the bat cave on foot.  Don’t worry, the sections where the bats sleep are closed off to visitors, so you don’t have to worry about an unplanned encounter.  If you choose to enter the cave through this entrance, you will see many signs warning you of the extreme nature of the hike.   I went with my 9-year-old, and I honestly don’t understand the warnings.  There are a couple of steep descents, but they really were not that steep.  However, if you have mobility, joint, or cardiorespiratory issues, it’s best to stick with the elevators.

Alien landscapes

There is a food court, bathrooms, and small gift shop located by the elevators in the caverns.  It’s a cool experience to sit and eat a cheeseburger while you’re so far underground.  Prices are fairly reasonable as well.  If you entered through the mouth of the cave, you’ll want to bring your own water as the food court and water fountain is located toward the end of the tour.

Lodging is available within the town outside the park, but cheap campsites can also be found in nearby towns.  If you are planning on camping, just remember you are in the middle of the desert; in the summer it can be blistering hot, and in the winter it can be freezing.  When visiting the area, one day is satisfactory for planning purposes.

Visiting the caverns is an exciting experience for people of all ages.  They are absolutely fascinating, and it’s a great educational experience as well.

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