KARTCHNER CAVERNS STATE PARK
Experience a stunning limestone cave in Southeastern Arizona that boasts world-class features. This ?live? cave, discovered in 1974, is host to a wide variety of unique minerals and formations. Water percolates from the surface and calcite formations continue to grow, including stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground. Tour guides will unveil this fascinating underground landscape during a memorable 1? hour tour.
The Discovery Center features museums exhibits, a large gift shop, regional displays, theater, and educational information about the caverns and the surrounding landscape. There are also campgrounds, hiking trails, lockers, shaded picnic areas, a deli, an amphitheater, and a hummingbird garden.
Rainwater, made slightly acidic by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and soil, penetrated cracks in the down-dropped limestone block and slowly dissolved passages in it. Later, lowering groundwater levels left behind vast, air-filled rooms.
Kartchner Caverns' wide variety of decorations, called ?speleothems,? began forming drop by drop over the next 200,000 years.
Water seeping from the surface dissolves minerals on its trip through the limestone. Once it reaches the cave, the trapped carbon dioxide escapes from the water. No longer able to hold the dissolved calcite, the drop deposits its tiny mineral load. Over time, these minerals have created the beautiful speleothems and variety of colors found in the cave. Kartchner Caverns is a ?living? cave; the formations are still growing!
During the summer months, the cave's Big Room serves as a nursery roost for over 1,000 female cave myotis bats. The pregnant females return to Kartchner Caverns around the end of April, where they give birth to a single pup in late June. The babies remain in the roost each evening while their mothers forage for insects in the surrounding countryside. During the summer the colony consumes about half a ton of insects, consisting of moths, flying ants, beetles, mosquitoes and termites. Mothers and their offspring will leave mid-September, to begin their migration for their winter hibernation roost. These bats provide the only link between the ecosystem of the cave and the surface.
It wasn't until February 1978 that Tenen and Tufts told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, about their amazing discovery. During the four years of secret exploration, the discoverers realized that the cave's extraordinary variety of colors and formations must be preserved.
The cave's existence became public knowledge in 1988 when its purchase was approved as an Arizona State Park. Extraordinary precautions have been taken during its development to conserve the cave's near-pristine condition.
The Discovery Center is located on the northeast end of the main parking lot. Visitors should arrive one hour prior to tour time in order to obtain tickets and experience Discovery Center activities. The facility consists of the front desk, a theater presentation, museum, gift shop, an amphitheater and food concession. At the Front Desk, customers may get park information, pick up reservation tickets or purchase walk up tickets. Only 100 walk-up tickets (5 per tour) are available for the Rotunda/Throne Room tour each day, reservations are recommended.
In the Tenen?Tufts Theater, a video presentation (15 minutes long) plays twice an hour. The program highlights the discovery aspect of the cave. The Museum contains exhibits on cave formations, cave life, hydrology and history. The Gift Shop offers a wide array of cave related and southwestern themed souvenirs, gifts and practical items to meet the needs of travelers. The amphitheater may host a variety of interpretive programs, weddings or other special events.
A two loop Campground is located off of the main road past the Discovery Center on the southwest end of the park. Campers must arrive prior to 6 pm before the park closes. Camping fees are payable with cash, Visa or Mastercard at the Contact Station or in cash at the self pay station located at the Campground entrance. Fees must be paid daily or in advance and there is a 14 day stay limit. All permits are sold on a ?first come, first served? basis, reserving sites is not permitted. Access cards are available for paid campers that will allow after hours access. Cards must be requested at the Contact Station from 7 am ? 4 pm. Request an access card when purchasing camp permit.
All sites are developed as electric hook up sites. NO sites have been developed or designated for basic ?dry camping?. Non-electrical and tent campers are welcome use these sites but the full fee will be required. A paid camping permit entitles the holder to use of the shower/restroom, water, electrical and dump station facilities. All sites have a table, hose bib and power post. Each site has a 20 amp and a 110 electrical outlet, some pull through sites have 50 amp service. Sites vary in length from 35? in the shortest, ?back in? sites to 60? in the pull through sites, all sites are single width. Sites have ample room on the side areas for pull out units.
There are four host sites, three handicapped designated sites (one is a pull through site), twelve pull through sites and forty three other sites of varying sizes. Handicapped designated sites have paved access to the site and adjacent restroom, a paved pad and wheelchair accessible table. Waste bins and shower/restroom facilities are located on the upper west end of each Campground. Restroom buildings have bottled water vending machines and dishwashing sinks located on the rear east side.