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Carlsbad, New Mexico Carlsbad, New Mexico Carlsbad, New Mexico Carlsbad, New Mexico Carlsbad, New Mexico Carlsbad, New Mexico
Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad Cavern's Human History

Old horse carriage.

Prehistory - The earliest explorers of the cavern were indigenous peoples, and there are pictographs and mescal pits at the cave entrance. They didn't explore very far, due to the huge drop off immediately past the opening of the cave.

1883 - The first Anglo to see Carlsbad Cavern is unknown, but in this year a 12 year old boy was lowered into the cave by his father .

1898 - Jim White first entered the caverns. White was a cowboy who turned cave explorer. He spent his lifetime promoting and preserving the Carlsbad Caverns for future generations.

Jeffrey viewing cave formation.

1903 - A claim was filed for the cave's bat guano which made an excellent fertilizer due to its high nitrate content. This guano was mined for 20 years and sent to Southern California by rail car to help in the planting of giant citrus groves. This mining ended due to the high cost of shipping and due to the fact that the fertilizer was so nitrate rich that it was similar to dynamite and would often spontaneously combust! Jim White worked for this mining company allowing him to explore the cave further during his breaks and after work.

1922 - The federal government sent a mineral examiner, Robert Holley, to investigate White's reports which were believed to be greatly exaggerated. Holley reported back that the cavern was magnificent beyond his ability to describe it.

Exploring lower cavern.

1923 to 1927 - W.F. McIlvain serves as first custodian (superintendent), overseeing first trails, stairs, lights. He works with Jim White and the Chamber of Commerce, while making only $12/year!

1930 - President Herbert Hoover declared it a National Park. The first visitors to the caverns were lowered in a large bucket!

1995 - Carlsbad Caverns are declared a World Heritage Site.

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