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Limestone underworld awaits explorers

link U.S. Air Force photo: Senior Airman Alexxis Pons Abascal

The Green Lake Room is one of the many scenic chambers within the honeycomb of caves that comprise Carlsbad Caverns at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. While many of these rooms include stalagmites and stalactites, the Green Lake Room also boasts a green-hued pool of water located in the corner of its uppermost floor.

27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

With so many things to do in New Mexico, it’s often difficult to decide where to begin a trip. From the other worldly UFO Festival in Roswell, to the high-soaring Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, residents and travelers alike are never short of things to enjoy in the “Land of Enchantment.”

For the Air Commandos at the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, traveling to many of these hotspots is made extremely easy with the help of the Outdoor Recreation crew — this month’s destination was none other than the jaw-dropping Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Nestled in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico, our excursion began with a self-guided decent into the “Big Room,” a natural limestone chamber nearly 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet at its highest peak, making it the fifth largest underground chamber in North America and twenty-eighth in the world.

Next stop was the “King’s Palace,” where we descended 80 feet on a paved trail. That particular room was the first of four in a wing known as the “scenic rooms,” that received its name for the large castle-like formation in the center.

Archeologists and geologists estimate the cavern itself as more than 250 million years old; the surrounding areas served as a coastline for an inland sea then. The marine life present at that time left remains that eventually formed a reef. Organisms and sediment left behind in that reef, over millions of years, would form and sculpt the Guadalupe Mountain region that we know today.

Carlsbad Caverns sees, on average, more than 407,000 visitors annually; with grandeur and splendor that cannot be adequately explained through photographs or words, it’s easy to see why. The peak of tourism typically ranges from Memorial Day weekend to the Fourth of July.

One of the more spectacular events that the park hosts would be the viewing of a live bat flight at sunset in a stone amphitheater.

According to officials, optimal viewing normally occurs between July and August with the arrival of the bat “pups” in addition to the normal migration patterns of the mammals.

Personally, I wouldn’t forgive myself for not visiting this amazing underground treasure during my assignment at Cannon.

For more information on this destination or upcoming events, contact ODR at 575-784-2773 or visit the 27th Special Operations Wing Force Support Squadron website at

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