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Tucson, AZ 85704

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Kartchner Caverns State Park

Kartchner Caverns is a stunning, limestone "living" wet cave in southeastern Arizona boasting many world-class features that have been protected since the cave was discovered in 1974. Inside the cave you will walk along a 1.2 mile "barrier free" trail viewing multi-hued stalactites and stalagmites. Dainty white helectites, translucent orange "bacon" and shields of white calcite adorn the walls along the trail. Many of the minerals found in the cave are not found in any other cave in the world. Among the cave's most interesting features is a "soda straw" stalactite measuring one-quarter of an inch wide and 21 feet long, making it the second-longest stalactite in the world. Visitors to the cave will also have the opportunity to explore the Discovery Center featuring world-class exhibits, regional displays and educational information about the caverns and the surrounding landscape, making this one of Tucson's most popular tours.

The tour begins on an electric tram that runs from the Discovery Center to the entrance of the cave, not far from the sinkhole where Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen first entered the cave in 1974. Tufts and Tenen, then students at the University of Arizona, first wriggled into the pristine cavern in 1974. They mapped miles of passageways and two massive rooms, each the size of an opera house and filled with the kinds of natural treasures, called "speleothems," that set cave lovers' hearts aflutter. Tufts and Tenen understood the fragility of the cave; its balance could easily be disturbed. If the desert air were allowed in, the cave would dry up. They knew that human intrusion would likely sound the cave's death knell and that it was only a matter of time before other spelunkers would come upon it. "Finding that cave was like having a child," Tufts says. "We felt responsible for it. We made a sort of promise to the cave, that it could trust human beings."

Now visitors enter through a 420-foot-long, man-made tunnel sealed by a series of airtight doors designed to preserve the cave's interior climate: temperatures in the high 60s and relative humidity from 97.5 percent to 100 percent.

Beyond the final airlock is the Rotunda Room, a 200-foot-long, 120-foot-wide cavern with an arched ceiling about 45 feet high. The lighting is dim, but to the right, a beautiful butterscotch-colored drapery flows off the side wall, ending in a frozen puddle of calcite on the cave floor.

The opening of Kartchner Caverns State Park, boasts some of the largest and most beautiful caverns in the country. Although it may seem heretical to leave the warm Arizona sunshine for a cold, damp hole in the ground, a journey toward the center of the earth in Kartchner Cavern will reward you with a glimpse of an underground wonderland. Just remember you'll need to make a tour reservation well in advance. More than 200,000 visitors pass through each year. Kartchner Caverns State Park is 40 miles east of Tucson off I-10.

Driving directions to the caverns are travel 9 miles south of Interstate-10 in Benson, Arizona. Take Exit 302 (State Highway 90), the Sierra Vista/Fort Huachuca exit.

For more information: 520-586-2283 or

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5845 N Calle Tiburon
Tucson, AZ 85704
Tucson Real Estate