Lechuguilla Cave Facts
- To begin with, the gorgeous Lechuguilla Cave ranks as the seventh longest cave known to man. It also ranks as the second deepest known cave located inside the continental United States.
- Yet it remains most famous for its incredible formations, unusual geology, and remarkably pristine condition. Regulations limiting access to the site to approved scientific and exploration teams maintain this condition.
- Strangely enough, the cave actually owes its name to a plant. The extremely rare agave lechuguilla, which grows only in the region surrounding the cave, occurs near the entrance to the Mammoth Cave.
- You will find this incredible cave situated within the boundaries of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Therefore, it enjoys a level of protection that not all such geological wonders can claim.
Lechuguilla Cave Physical Description
The known dimensions of the magnificent Lechuguilla Cave continue to change, as a result of continued exploration. Yet, as of the latest exploration, in 2013, its total length was approximately 138.3 mi (222.6 km). Presently, it has a maximum known depth of 1,604 ft (489 m).
Yet its most renowned features remain the wide variety of geological formations it contains. These include rare lemon-yellow speleothems, 20 ft (6.1 m) long chandeliers composed of pure gypsum, cave pearls, and countless stalagmites and stalactites.
It is worth noting that many of its features were named after items from The Wizard of Oz. These include an enormous room measuring 600 ft (180 m) in length, 150 ft (46 m) wide, and the same in height, named “Munchkinland.”
Lechuguilla Cave Location, Formation, and History
The breathtakingly beautiful Lechuguilla Cave formed in what now constitutes the state of New Mexico, in North America.
Its formation also sets it apart from most other known caves. Unlike the majority of caves this site formed from the bottom up, as a result of the dissolution of the surrounding limestone by naturally occurring sulfuric acid deposits. Yet the true extent and nature of the cave were not realized until 1986.
In addition to its geological beauty, the cave also contains an extremely rare type of bacteria that actually feed on sulfur and iron, called chemolithoautotrophic bacteria. Yet, both the cave and these rare bacteria could be threatened by proposed drilling for oil and gas on adjacent lands.