Park Ranch Gypsum Caves

A Visit to Two Gypsum Caves in the Gypsum Plain of New Mexico, South of Carlsbad

In Three Parts, Each With Multiple Pages

PART 1:   Introduction

Page 1-2:  A look around before heading into the caves

So here is the place where the caves are: see the buildings on the ridge straight west of where we are (follow what looks like a cleared line to the top)?  Under those buildings are the world famous Carlsbad Caverns!

The depression in front of us in the above photos is a karst feature. It is like a channel cut by water, but it doesn't flow to a river or into a lake, instead it flows into a cave.  It is "internally drained."

Since these types of caves are formed by water action, with a bit of help from water's best friend hydrogen sulfide gas, there is great danger being in one of these caves when it rains.  Hence the warning to that effect.  The sign even gives the BLM's (old) address, but the correct phone number in Carlsbad.  The new address is 620 E Greene  Street.

Note that these caves have a name according to the sign:  The Parks Ranch Cave System.

Before we go under, let's do a little walkabout to get a look at the lay of the land.

Just a tad to the southwest I spotted some serious vegetation and what looked like a stream channel or small canyon:

But it ended right here.  So this required some investigation, and the cause of the abrupt end of this little canyon at its deepest end is?  You guessed it!  A cave where the water-flow can continue on down:

This is not the cave we are going to visit, but we will take a quick peek inside:

Can't you just picture the water roaring in?  And now let's walk upstream through this small canyon and see what there is.  First, some serious erosion through the sand that has likely been blown in: it is not gypsum sand:

A little further up is a nice shady spot under a tree that has been using by animals (maybe the cows that graze this ranch land?):

This type of deep-cut erosion through sand continues for quite a while:

Then it all ends.  But let's walk back to where we are going to enter the caves.  Our guide here is the same Oba Vincent whose online guide I recommended at the start of this series of pages.  His wife, daughter and son also acted as my guides, taking turns watching out for the slow one with the irritating flash camera.  I appreciate/d all of them.

PART 1:   Introduction

Page 1-1:  General introduction to the Gypsum Plain and its karst features

Page 1-2:  A look around before heading into the caves  YOU ARE HERE

Part 2:      Cave A

Page 2-1:  Moving into the cave NEXT

Page 2-2:  Deeper into the cave

Page 2-3:  A good place to stop and return

Part 3:      Cave B

Page 3-1:  Looking around before entering the cave and coming to a good place to turn around

Page 3-2:  Interesting rock fabrics along the way

Page 3-3:  Merging with other underground streams before the exit

The Vincent Online-Guide to Spelunking Opportunities near Carlsbad

Another set of Gypsum-Plain pages: The Black River

Carlsbad Caverns:  Photos or a Movie (page has links to four movies, one is about Carlsbad Caverns, and has instructions for use)

What made this place the way it is today?  Looking back at the Permian.

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