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Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad, New Mexico

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Given long periods of time and an unending measure of patience, Mother Nature can certainly work her wonders. From carving out the Grand Canyon, to pushing up the Rocky Mountains, to extending and retracting glaciers across the face of our planet, not surprisingly, she also has a talent and time-tested skill for working her magic in underground places.

Let's have some fun and play Mother Nature, shall we? Take a 250 million year old reef of limestone, some acidic rain, a couple million years, then place it all in southeastern New Mexico. What do you get? Give up? You get Carlsbad Caverns National Park!

Possessing more than 100 known cave systems, Carlsbad Caverns is chocked-full of interesting natural formations called speleothems, or, in layman's terms, cave decorations. Structures with the names of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, dams, pools, and much, much more, adorn Carlsbad, making it a very odd place indeed.

It's hard to believe that such a variety of formations owe their creation to nature. For those uneducated and inexperienced with the enchantment of cave decorations, if given the opportunity to guess their origin, how many would choose the hand of man over that of nature's? Even to those who know full-well their origin, the formations appear to be unreal, perhaps better suited as artificial props on the set of a Hollywood horror film rather than hidden deep underground in dark, secret places.

What I find most fascinating about these cave decorations, as well as the caverns they occupy, is each and every structure and space owes its creation to the action of slow, dripping water. How could something as tame and benign as dripping water create such a magnificent place? Perhaps Carlsbad Caverns is one of the oddest wonders Mother Nature has manifest and unto us all she has so thoughtfully graced.

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