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Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad
~ New Mexico USA ~

One of my high school tromping grounds, I often went to Carlsbad for visits to Carlsbad Caverns or Sitting Bull Falls. I probably visited the area as often as a Floridian kid visits Disney World. It is a small city in Eddy County New Mexico that is most famous for its Caverns. In 2010, the Census stated that it had a population of 26,138 residents. It is in the heart of southeastern New Mexico at the intersections of U.S. Routes 62/180 and 285. It is located at the eastern edge of the Guadalupe Mountains, the Lincoln National Forest to its northwest, and has the Pecos River running through it. It is in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert eco-region in the lower Pecos River Valley.

Besides the caverns, Carlsbad is known for its salt mines, potash mining, petroleum, and tourism. It was originally developed based on agriculture, livestock, irrigation water, and healing mineral springs.

Historically Native Americans resided in the area, but were pushed out with immigrants from Engand, Switzerland, France, and Italy. It was formed as a town on September 15, 1888 and a municipal corporation in 1893 after Charles B. Eddy, co-owner of the Eddy-Bissell Livestock Company. There were commercialization of of local mineral springs near the flume that boasted medicinal properties so they named their town after the famous European spa town called Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic).

The re-discovery of Carlsbad Caverns, originally called “The Bat Cave” by cowboys in 1901 led to the establishment of Carlsbad Caverns National Park on May 14, 1930. In 1925 potash was discovered near Carlsbad and the region dominated the Aerican potash market for years. After the potash marked crashed in the 1960’s, residents of the area voted for the establishment of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) where low-level nuclear waste would be stored thousands of feet undergroun in salt beds. It was authorized by Congress in 1979 and construction completed in 1980 and first waste shipment arrived in 1999. Today Carlsbad is experiencing an oil and natural gas boom.

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Sitting Bull Falls (Carlsbad, New Mexico)

Sitting Bull Falls
~ Eddy County Rd 409, Lincoln National Forest, Carlsbad, New Mexico USA ~ https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/lincoln/recarea/?recid=34238 ~

This amazing oasis in the middle of the desert outside of Carlsbad New Mexico is amongst my world’s favorite locations and cooling off zones. I grew up with the Cave and the pools from childhood, hanging out there with friends from high school, partying in the pools above, stealthily camping and cave exploring long before there were required permits and restrictive gates or access. It has changed quite a bit, but very much improved for recreation and protecting the natural resources on location. It is a day-use only site. The site has pavilions, picnic tables, water, and restrooms accessible. There are established hiking trails from the site. It is open from 8:30 am until 6 pm with a $5 per vehicle parking fee.

The site is a astonishing dream-like 150′ waterfall than pours over canyon walls with a stalactite/stalagmite filled cavern behind it, dumping down into crystal clear natural swimming pools beneath. It is one of a series of waterfalls found in this canyon lost within the Lincoln National Forest that are spring fed through a series of streams and pools until reaching its drop-off. Most of the river’s water disappears into cracks, gravel, and bedrock and reappears in springs further down the canyon eventually joining the Pecos Valley underwater aquifer.

The geology of the area is a remnant reef system known as the Capitan Great Barrier Reef dating from the Permian period around 250 million years ago when the region was the edge of an inland sea. The name of the falls has never been proven, but legend has it that the cave behind the falls was used by Sitting Bull to hide. The Apache called the area “gostahanagunti” meaning “hidden gulch”. In 1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed number of stone buildings that are now part of the parking lot and picnic area. THere is a time capsule dated March 24, 1999 embedded into one of the buildings. The park was closed from APril 27, 2011 through April 6, 2012 after wildfires in the are destroyed the area making it unsafe.

There are numerous sacred pools above the falls which are great for swimming in. In order to explore the cave behind the waterfall or any of the other caves in the area, one needs proper equipment and obtain a permit.

The site is easy to get to, though quite a distance from Carlsbad so be ready for some bumpy dirt roads. Take US highway 285 north from Carlsbad, turn west on NM 137 for 20 miles to county road 409, turn right and continue to the site. Another turn-off is right across the highway from the turn-off to Bradford Lake State Park.

Another family’s video of caving in the cave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWWj5Z7iy_I

Rated: 5 of 5 stars. ~ Review by Leaf McGowan/Thomas Baurley, Technogypsie Productions ~

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