Lechuguilla Cave

Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico, USA) is one of the most beautiful caves on Earth. Since its discovery in 1986, more than 240 kilometers of cave has been explored, making it one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. Owing to its geologic setting and unusual process of formation, the cave contains a remarkable diversity of rare minerals and formations, which have helped change our understanding of how caves form and the microbial life they can contain. As an important conservation measure, access to Lechuguilla Cave is highly restricted to meticulously planned and NPS-approved exploration/science expeditions.

3D Model

3D model of Lechuguilla Cave

3D map of Lechuguilla Cave

Fact Sheet

The following Lechuguilla Cave fact sheet is taken from our book Lechuguilla Cave: Discoveries in a Hidden Splendor and contains information on the cave’s general setting, speleometry, geology and speleogenesis, cave minerals and speleothems, and cave meteorology. The fact sheet will be regularly updated; if you have additional facts in mind that you think should be included in this list, please send me a message by e-mail or by using the contact form.


Cave name: Lechuguilla Cave
Other name (no longer in use): Misery Hole
Location: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico, USA
Nearest city: Carlsbad, Eddy County, New Mexico, USA
Date of discovery: Unknown; entrance to the cave known for a long time
Historical map: December 1952 (Colorado Grotto cavers)
Date of breakthrough: May 25, 1986 (Colorado Grotto cavers and others)
Number of cavers involved in exploration: 781
Most active explorers (by surveyed length): Bosted P* (27,334 m), Davis DG* (26,024 m), Lyles JTM* (19,953 m), Kambesis P (19,952 m), Jones DM (19,193 m), Barton HA* (18,417 m), Vesely C (18,020 m), DeLano R (14,496 m), Armstrong A* (13,947 m), Chailloux D* (13,259 m), Hunter JF* (12,639 m), Glaser R (12,099 m), Miller R (10,962 m), Allison S* (10,797 m), Seiser PE* (10,599 m), Sims S (10,326 m), Petrie G (10,267 m), Burger PA* (10,141 m), Kluever D (9,943 m), Bridges RA (9,825 m), Borer CH* (9,699 m), Wisshak M* (9,568 m), Andrich M (9,515 m), Maynard S (9,460 m), Bristol DC* (9,450 m), Fortini AJ* (9,121 m), Cortright B* (9,076 m), Moss L (8,394 m), Loftin V (8,280 m), Sundquist R (8,097 m); * contributor to the book
Number of cartographers presently active: 12
Number of surveys carried out: 3,382
Number of known entrances: 1
Entrance elevation at datum: 1,414 m
Number of camps: 4
Largest camp: Deep Seas Camp (space for 12 people)
Most remote camp: Far East Camp (ca. 9 h from the entrance)
Length of ropes rigged: 8,327 m
Cave management: United States National Park Service, Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Conservation status: National Park (since 1930), Wilderness Area (since 1978), Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act (1993), UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1995)
Access: Restricted to carefully planned and NPS-approved exploration/science expeditions


Total surveyed length: 244,790 m
Total surveyed area: 3,763,024 m2
Total surveyed volume: 62,037,861 m3
Maximum vertical range: 484 m
Maximum E-W extent:
3,348 m
Maximum N-S extent: 1,481 m
Number of survey stations: 40,695
Number of survey loops: 3,594
Deepest point: Lake of the White Roses (-477 m below datum)
Highest point: Wooden Lettuce (+7 m above datum)
Most remote place by distance: Survey station N97, The Promised Land, Western Branch (5,202 m; ca. 10 h from the entrance)
Most remote place by travel time: Survey station MOE35F, Coral Sea, Eastern Branch (4,655 m; ca. 12 h from the entrance)
Largest room: Hard Daze Night Hall (ca. 150 m long, 100 m wide, 20 m high)
Largest borehole passage: Munchkinland, Oz (ca. 250 m long, 50 m wide, 25 m high)
Longest borehole passage: Western + Far Western Borehole (2,300 m travel distance)
Tallest dome climbed: Kansas Twister (163 m)
Longest established free-hanging rappel: Mother of Pearl Dome (82 m)
Largest water body by surface area: Lake Castrovalva
Largest water body by volume: Stud Lake
Deepest lake (via diving): Lake of the White Roses (-28 m)

Geology and Speleogenesis

Host strata: Capitan Limestone / Seven Rivers Formation / Yates Formation, Capitan Reef Complex, Capitanian Stage, Guadalupian Epoch, Permian Period
Age of host strata: Ca. 265 to 259 million years
Host rock: Forereef, reef, and backreef carbonate rocks; partial siliciclastic cap rock
Main driver of cave formation: Hypogene sulfuric acid speleogenesis
Main phase of speleogenesis of Lechuguilla Cave: Late Miocene to early Pliocene (ca. 6 to 5 million years)
Main phase of speleogenesis in Guadalupe Mountains: Middle Miocene to early Pliocene (ca. 12 to 4 million years)

Cave Minerals and Speleothems

Carbonate cave minerals: Calcite, dolomite, aragonite, huntite, magnesite, hydromagnesite, ankerite, witherite
Sulphate cave minerals: Gypsum, alunite, natroalunite, celestine, barite
Silicate cave minerals: Quartz, dickite, endellite, illite, montmorillonite, polygorskite
Phosphate cave minerals: Fluorapatite
Halide cave minerals: Fluorite
Oxide cave minerals: Hematite
Uranylvanadate cave minerals: Tyuyamunite
Elemental cave minerals: Sulfur
Longest gypsum chandelier: Ca. 6 m (Chandelier Ballroom)
Longest gypsum flower: 95 cm (Southern Climes)
Longest gypsum needle: 79 cm (Southern Climes)
Longest gypsum hair: Ca. 6 m (Darktown)
Longest calcite soda straw: 5.5 m (Zion)
Longest common-ion-effect stalactite: Ca. 2 m (Gripping Hand, Blanca Navidad)
Tallest snake dancer helictite: Ca. 1 m (YO Acres)
Tallest calcite column/stalagmite: 24 m (Zion)
Flowstone cascade with greatest vertical extent: 200 m (Never Never Land to Dead Sea )


Type of cave meteorology: Barometric (the cave as a whole) and large thermal convection loop systems (local)
Highest measured wind speed: 80 km/h (old entrance culvert)
Highest estimated wind speed: 130 to 160 km/h (old entrance culvert on Dec 17, 1998)
Temperature: 17.3 °C (near entrance) to 20.4 °C (near deepest point)
Average humidity (beyond entrance zone): 99.9 %

(all data as of July 2022)