Lechuguilla caves: Truly matchless!

North America | | January 21, 2011 at 3:38 am




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Welcome to the third longest as well as most beautiful limestone grotto in America! Regarded also as the deepest one in the continent as well fifth longest on Earth, the Lechuguilla caves are among those eerie 80 grottos of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. The cave is named so because of the ‘Agave Lechuguilla’ that belongs the Family Agavaceae and is seen growing at the entrance of the cave. All those who have visited the Lechuguilla caves including me consider them to be the most superb cave complex on the planet.

Formations

Although being among the largest cave complexes of the world with some 200 km of passages known until today, Lechuguilla is more known for its amazing formations like the extensive stretches of shimmering aragonite crystals, strikingly flowstone, amazing gypsum flowers emerging from the walls, and the largest gypsum crystals of the world formed in the marvelous Chandelier Ballroom. Lechuguilla Caves offer not only an excessive size, but also stuns the cavers via its great quantities of gypsum as well as lemon-yellow sulfur, astounding series of rare speleothems, soaring gypsum hairs and beards, high gypsum chandeliers, soda straws, cave pearls, hydromagnesite balloons, subaqueous helictites, u-loops, j-loops, and rusticles.

Experience within

After descending a sheer rope, ladder, canal, and drain, one can manage to be inside the cave. Within, it is very cool at 68°F/20°C as compared to the roasting 105°F/41°C temperatures outside. Your more steps heading further will bring you almost 100% humidity ensuring a lot of sweat and absence of breeze. As you reach down the depths of Lechuguilla, quietness has its own way to come to you when you stop for the required break making you hear your own heart beats, breathing, and the flow of blood. And yes, it is really too dark within and your helmet light is surely at your rescue.

One of the main attractions here are the Chandelier Ballroom that is so called for the fantastically sparkling white gypsum crystals that droop from the ceiling, which are called alabaster (outstanding shade of white). As gypsum is soft, these chandeliers can be ruined easily via just a single touch. The National Park Service knows about this irresistible impulse to handle and feel these crystals. So, it has banned tourist entry in these caves. You will admire this if you think of the scene where thousands of visitors gather here and touched or robbed these gypsum pieces. What will remain then?

Other incredible attraction in the cave is Pearlsian Gulf – a room that is named so because of the ‘cave pearls’ submerged into the water in the pools here. The reason they are known as cave pearls is that they are formed in a similar manner in which the oysters make pearls. That is why, the cave peals certainly look like real pearls. As water trickled from the ceiling spattering into puddle, calcium deposits liquefied gradually to form small rock fragments. As time passed, the mount up calcium layers formed these smooth pearls. It is really very miraculous as to how mineral-rich water from the deep cave’s ceiling from several unbelievably various crystal forms. All thanks goes to the conditions of the cave deep down, which has facilitated the formations of these crystal wonders not to be seen or formed anywhere else on the planet. After some four hours, we finally saw the blue sky after coming back through the same route that led us into the cave.

Is visit possible?

Besides its other formations, the cave is the only home of the speleothems and troglobionts that are found nowhere else on the planet. It is precisely due to this that it is very difficult to explore the Lechuguilla caves. Further, the caves are very fragile such as a bit change in humidity can bring devastation on a large scale. Therefore, the cave system is a preserved site to protect its delicate and native crystal formations that are not seen before. So, currently, the cave system is only opened for the sanctioned scientific missions, only 10 per year for security reasons. For an entry, special permits are mandatory along with a great experience in caving as a mere entry here can be dangerous.

Carry…

Back-up batteries in case the helmet light goes off, lamps, bulbs, first aid box, and many fluids.

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1 Comment

  1. I haven’t checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it friend :)

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