Lechuguilla Cave Facts
- First of all, the gorgeous Lechuguilla Cave currently ranks as the seventh longest cave known to man. Furthermore, it also ranks as the second deepest known cave located in its immediate region. That fact alone makes it stand out from the myriad other caves around the world.
- Yet it remains most famous for a variety of other reasons, as well. These include its incredible formations, unusual geology, and remarkably pristine condition. In addition, specific regulations limiting access to the site to approved scientific and exploration teams maintain this condition.
- Strangely enough, however, the remarkable cave actually owes its name to a local plant. That holds true due to the fact that the extremely rare agave lechuguilla grows only in the region surrounding the cave. In fact, the rare species occurs quite near the entrance to the mammoth cave.
- Finally, 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. The truly astonishing site has, however, served as the setting for several documentaries.
Lechuguilla Cave Physical Description
The known dimensions of the magnificent Lechuguilla Cave continue to change. This change occurs 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 the magnificent cave contains. These include rare lemon-yellow speleothems measuring as much as 20 ft (6.1 m) long. It also includes chandeliers composed of pure gypsum, cave pearls, and countless stalagmites and stalactites.
It also bears mentioning 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. This remarkable feature, the discoverer named Munchkinland, after the fictional land in the book and movie.
Lechuguilla Cave Location, Formation, and History
The breathtakingly beautiful Lechuguilla Cave formed in what now constitutes the state of New Mexico, in the United States. The surrounding area consists mainly of the rugged Guadalupe Mountains. This section of North America also boasts numerous other marvels of geology.
Its formation also sets it apart from most other known caves. That’s because, unlike the majority of caves, this site formed from the bottom up. This happened 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.