|NPS Photo/Gavin Newman|
Lechuguilla Cave is the deepest in the continental United States (1,604 feet or 489 meters),But it is most famous for its unusual geology, rare formations, and pristine condition.
The cave is named for Agave lechuguilla, a species of plant found near its entrance. Lechuguilla is in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. Access to the cave is limited to approved scientific researchers, survey and exploration teams, and National Park Service management-related trips.
|Nigel Ball in the Chandelier Ballroom in Lechuguilla Cave Carlsbad Boneyard|
Scientific exploration has been conducted. For the first time, a Guadalupe Mountains cave extends deep enough that scientists may study five separate geologic formations from the inside. The profusion of gypsum and sulfur lends support to speleogenesis by sulfuric acid dissolution. The sulfuric acid is believed to be derived from hydrogen sulfide that migrated from nearby oil deposits. Therefore this cavern formed from the bottom up, in contrast to the normal top-down carbonic acid dissolution mechanism of cave formation.
Other studies indicate that some microbes may have medicinal qualities that are beneficial to humans.
Lechuguilla Cave lies beneath a park wilderness area. The cave's passages may extend out of the park into adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. A major threat to the cave is proposed gas and oil drilling on BLM land. Any leakage of gas or fluids into the cave's passages could kill cave life or cause explosions.
|Annick by slenite crystals in the Chandelier Maze of Lechguilla Cave. Credit: CavePics|
|Annick in Hoodoo Hall, Lechguilla Cave. Credit: CavePics|
|Cave pearls in the Pearlsian Gulf, Lechguilla Cave. Credit: CavePics|
|Aragonite bush in Land of the Lost, Lechguilla Cave. Credit: CavePics|
|The Pearlsian Gulf, Lechguilla Cave. Credit: CavePics|
|Cave pearls in the Pearlsian Gulf, Lechguilla Cave. Credit CavePics|
Lechuguilla: Jewel of the Underground - Michael Taylor
Lechuguilla - National Speleological Society
Deep Secrets: The Discovery and Exploration of Lechuguilla Cave - Stephen Reames, Lawrence Fish, Paul Burger, Patricia Kambesis (Also available in hardback)