Lechuguilla Cave info

Welcome to the information site about Lechuguilla Cave (New Mexico, USA) and the brand new coffee-table book featuring this extraordinary wonder of the underground.

» If you are curious about the latest Lechuguilla Cave news, please see below

» If you want to learn more about the cave and its metrics, please consult the fact sheet

» If you want to delve deeper into the wonders of Lechuguilla Cave, check out the new illustrated book

» If you like to enjoy a little portfolio of Lechuguilla Cave photos, please see here

» If you are interested in the wealth of literature on this cave, visit the bibliography

» If you'd like your own copy of the new book, you are welcome to visit the speleo-photo editions webshop

» If you like to get in touch, please contact us

The extraordinary gypsum crystal aggregates up to 6 meters long (a caver for scale in the background) suspended from the ceiling of the the famous 'Chandelier Ballroom' of Lechuguilla Cave

The extraordinary gypsum crystals in the famous 'Chandelier Ballroom' of Lechuguilla Cave

Lechuguilla Cave News

caver in the background looking at a pair of green barite stalactites ornamented with clear calcite crystals

Mineralogical expedition II

May 2024

This year’s mineralogical expedition into Lechuguilla Cave was again devoted to the cave’s fascinating blue celestine and green barite speleothems. The team, comprised of Aria Mildice, Derek Bristol, Shawn Thomas, Steve Eginoire, and expedition leader Max Wisshak, spent six days underground for investigating and sampling several additional sites and for recovering monitoring stations with autonomous data loggers, evaporation experiments, and drip-water catchments, installed the year before at selected sites of active mineral growth. Several new occurrences of barite were discovered during the expedition, including a spectacular cluster of nearly a dozen green barite stalactites ornamented with clear calcite crystals – the best ones so far recorded from the cave.

Book Awards

October 2023

This year our new book Lechuguilla Cave: Discoveries in a Hidden Splendor has received a number of book award nominations in various categories and has ended up winning in the Cover Design category at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. We are especially proud of our recent finalist nomination at for year's BANFF Mountain Film and Book Festival!

sky-blue celestine cave mineral growing in Lechuguilla Cave

Mineralogical expedition I

May 2023

Sky-blue celestine and barite cave minerals were the focus of a recent scientific expedition into Lechuguilla Cave. The team, including Aria Mildice, Derek Bristol, Ben Smith, Rainer Straub, and expedition leader Max Wisshak, revisited most of the known occurrences (and some spectacular new ones) of these fascinating minerals in all three branches of the cave for a detailed documentation and for sampling. Back in the lab, we’ll carry out various mineralogical and microbiological analyses, as well as geochemical fingerprinting, to better understand how these rare cave minerals form and what palaeo-environmental information they may reveal.

The week-long underground camp, the first after a three-year C19-hiatus, was kindly made possible by a major rope-replacement effort led by the Park’s cave specialist Erin Lynch and supported by many volunteer cavers (thank you all!), so we had the pleasure of rappelling hundreds of meters of shiny new rope and passing numerous shiny new rebelays!

Carlsbad Caverns Centennial logo

Carlsbad Caverns Centennial

May 2023

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where Lechuguilla Cave is located. Centennial events and activities will occur throughout 2023 and will be announced on the park’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter channels.

Special Guest Speaker Presentations on Lechuguilla Cave include former cave specialist Ronal C. Kerbo (Friday, May 26, 6:30 PM at the National Cave and Karst Research Institute in Carlsbad), and Ronal C. Kerbo together with cave geomicrobiologist Hazel Barton (Saturday, May 27, 5:30 PM at the Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitor Center).

3D mockup of the coffee-table book Lechuguilla Cave: Discoveries in a Hidden Splendor

New book released!

October 2022

We made it: production has been successfully completed and Lechuguilla Cave: Discoveries in a Hidden Splendor is now officially released :-)

What a milestone, at least for us – the editors and the whole team of writers and photographers dedicated to this passion project. A million thanks to everyone in this team – each one of you made the difference!

We are most grateful also to Jon Jarvis (18th Director of the National Park Service, 2009 to 2017) who wrote the opening statement, Rod Horrocks (Chief of Natural & Cultural Resources at Carlsbad Caverns National Park) for donating a foreword, Peter Bosted (Lechuguilla Cave Explorer involved in 50 expeditions, 1988 to 2017) for writing another great foreword, and Dale Pate (Cave Specialist at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, 1991 to 2012) for his concluding remarks.

More about the new book here ...

Double-page of new Lechuguilla book featuring a photo of the famous Chandelier Ballroom

New book in print and ready for preorder

August 2022

Finally, more than 30 years after the groundbreaking Lechuguilla Cave: Jewel of the Underground, we are pleased to announce the production of a brand new coffee-table book showcasing this remarkable place – Lechuguilla Cave: Discoveries in a Hidden Splendor. Told by the explorers themselves and shown through their stunning photographs, the book reveals the challenging exploration of more than 240 kilometers of passages and highlights recent discoveries in terms of beauty, scale, and science. The 240-page book, printed in first-class quality, was edited by Max Wisshak and Hazel Barton, relying on a great team of authors and photographers from among the most active explorers of the cave. It is published by the speleo-photo editions and available directly through this website.

Curious to learn more about the new book? Please see here ...

Lechuguilla-Cave.info goes live

August 2022

Here it is, the new website that provides information on Lechuguilla Cave and on the new coffee-table book featuring this remarkable cave - Lechuguilla Cave: Discoveries in a Hidden Splendor.

If you'd like to update this site with Lechuguilla news or have additional relevant information that should be covered on this website, please send me a message by e-mail or by using the contact form.

Exploration shut down

March 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all exploration and research activities in Lechuguilla Cave are unfortunately suspended for the time being :-(

150-Miles symposium

November 2020

Celebrating the literal milestone of 150 miles of surveyed passageways in Lechuguilla Cave, an online symposium took place in November 2020, organized by Hazel Barton and team. All of the talks were recorded and can be viewed at the NSS YouTube channel:

Last expedition for a while

February 2020

The latest expedition (and last for a while) was led by Hazel Barton and took a team including Derek Bristol, Beth Cortright, Stephen Eginoire, James Hunter, Aria Mildice, and Max Wisshak into the Southwestern Branch of the cave. The team spent a week at the Big Sky Camp, with several goals, including two climbs and some scientific objectives, and made substantive efforts to completing the Voids map. The overall survey footage obtained was 7,059 ft and included 2,372 ft of new passages.

blue barite pool crystals growing in Lechuguilla Cave

New study on enigmatic barite speleothems

January 2020

A new scientific study reveals two kinds of rare barite speleothems discovered in Lechuguilla Cave: bluish tabular crystals in a shallow pool and actively dripping greenish stalactites, which today form at surprisingly low temperatures in the non-hydrothermal and vadose environment of the cave. Based on mineralogical, geochemical, and geomicrobiological analyses, the possible modes of barite precipitation in this unusual setting are discussed.

  • Wisshak M, Barton HA, Bender K & DuChene HR (2020): Active growth of non-hydrothermal subaqueous and subaerial barite (BaSO4) speleothems in Lechuguilla Cave (New Mexico, USA). International Journal of Speleology, 49: 11–26. https://doi.org/10.5038/1827-806X.49.1.2280

Lechuguilla Cave surpasses 150 miles

October 2019

The October expedition led a 6-person team, including Beth Cortright, Hazel Barton, Shawn Thomas, James Hunter, Andy Armstrong, and expedition leader Max Wisshak, for 8 days into the Western Branch of the cave. Based at Deep Seas Camp, the team surveyed a total of 6,910 ft, including 4,344 ft of new survey (including a major new passage named Barite Boulevard), in an effort to further explore and mop up the Nearwest area. Thereby, the total length of surveyed passageways of the cave passed the symbolic 150 miles mark (ca. 241 km)! With this length, Lechuguilla Cave currently ranks 8th on the list of the world's longest caves.

  • Wisshak M (2020): Lech: 150. Descent, 277: 40–42.
  • Wisshak M (2020): 150 Miles in Lechuguilla Cave. NSS News, November: 21–23.