Just one hour southeast of Tucson, Kartchner Caverns lies hidden under the Earth’s crust. Kartchner Caverns has been voted the best cave in the United States by USA Reader’s Choice! It is a unique wet, living cave. Water is still making its slow journey into the cave from the surface above and the diverse features of the cave are still growing and evolving as they have for millennia!
Until February 1978, the cave was unknown to modern man. At that time two young, amateur cavers named Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts were exploring the limestone foothills of the Whetstone Mountains. They climbed into a sinkhole and felt warm, moist air flowing out of a narrow crack at the bottom. They entered and after hours of crawling emerged into a pristine cavern! Tenen and Tufts found many unusual minerals and striking formations. Some of these formations are one-of-a-kind in all the world. Some have been continuously growing for tens of thousands of years.
At the State Park, Tour guides reveal the underground topography of the caverns in an intimate 1.5 or 1.75 hour tour that features the original discoverers’ trail, 45,000 year old bat guano, unique and impressive formations, ongoing scientific research, and more. Tour groups are and the number of tours are kept small because the cave’s living health is a delicate balance. About 60% of the caverns are not regularly explored. Year-round the cave has an average temperature of 72 degrees and 99% humidity. The striking difference between the caves high humidity and the dry desert climate above is what makes this cave highly sensitive. Therefore, staff tightly controls the additional air exchange between the below ground and above ground ecosystems created by our entrance and exit from the cave.The Throne/Rotunda underground portion of the cave is open to the public of all ages year-round. The Big Room underground portion of the State Park is closed from April 15 through October 15 because it is a nursery roost for cave bats. When the Big Room is open for tours children under 7 are not allowed. Check out the Saturday Headlamp & Helmet tours and the Moonlight Hikes for more fun ways to connect with this natural wonder. It is best to make reservations ahead of time either by phone at (520) 586-2283 or on the State Park website.
Kartchner Caverns State Park offers an extensive Discovery Center with museum exhibits, regional displays, theater, education about the caverns and the landscape, and a gift shop. Camping, hiking, picnicking, a deli, an amphitheater, and a hummingbird garden make this a great place to spent the day! To find out more visit their fun website. If you choose the Inns at El Rancho Merlita as your home away from home for your Southern Arizona adventures we will take care of you. The Inns are located on the east side of Tucson, making it even easier to get to Kartchner Caverns and many of the wild wonders of the Sonoran Desert. Hope to meet you soon!
The ERM Family