Top 10 Amazing Lechuguilla Cave Facts

The United States is home to some of the most incredible caves in the world. This includes some of the longest and deepest caves on the planet as well.

One of these caves is part of a National Park in New Mexico but is unfortunately not yet open for visitors, and there’s a particular reason for that.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Lechuguilla Cave, a natural wonder that is featured in the top 10 list of longest caves in the world.

1. It’s located in the utmost southeastern part of New Mexico

Lechuguilla Cave is an enormous cave located in Eddy County, New Mexico. This is in the utmost southeastern part of the state, not too far from the New-Mexico-Texas border.

The closest city in the area is Carlsbad, a place considered to be the gateway to the vast cave complexes that make up the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

These caves are situated within a mountain range called the Guadalupe Mountains. This range features the highest peak in Texas called Guadalupe peak at 2,667 meters (8,751 feet) above sea level.

While Carlsbad Cavern is a popular tourist attraction inside the National Park, Lechuguilla Cave is still only reserved for special scientific teams.

Lechuguilla Cave entrance
Entering the cave is quite complicated / JYB Devot / Wiki Commons

2. It’s the 8th longest cave in the world and second-deepest in the US

Lechuguilla Cave has a total mapped length of 242 kilometers (150.4 miles). This incredible length makes it the 8th-longest cave in the world at the moment and the 4th longest in the United States.

It’s also very deep with a maximum depth of 489 meters (1,604 feet), the second-deepest in the United States.

The longest cave in the world can also be found in the United States. It’s called Mammoth Cave and is located in Brownsville, Kentucky.

An incredible 675.9 kilometers (420 miles) of Mammoth Cave has been mapped since its discovery in 1791, an astonishing number.

Lechuguilla Cave length
Inside the cave / JYB Devot / Wiki Commons

3. The cave was deemed nothing more than a dead-end until the 1980s

It’s pretty certain that Lechuguilla Cave hasn’t revealed all of its secrets yet. The cave is likely much longer than the length that has been mapped as of today.

Before the year 1986, the immense cave we know today was nothing more than:

  • An entrance pit called “Mistery Hole” with a depth of 27 meters (90 feet).
  • A series of dead-end passages with a length of 122 meters (400 feet).

Roaring winds coming from the rubble at the bottom of Misery Hole led people to believe that there must be passages below it.

Cavers from the Colorado Grotto started digging away in 1984 and uncovered one of the largest cave complexes in the United States 2 years later. The discovery of the entrance happened on May 26, 1986.

Lechuguilla Cave features
Amazing features inside the cave / Wiki Commons

4. Large parts of the cave were uncovered after a discovery in 2012

When cavers from Colorado crawled into a small corridor for 120 meters (410 feet) in 2012, they found the entrance to several new passageways inside the cave.

This ne section was named “Oz,” a reference to the film “The Wizard of Oz.” Most of the uncovered features of this discovery were named in honor of this film as well.

The most astounding discovery was a huge hall with a length of approximately 180 meters (600 feet) and a maximum width of 46 meters (150 feet).

This enormous space has a maximum height of 46 meters (150 feet) as well and was dubbed “Munchkinland.”

Lechuguilla Cave pool
A pool inside the cave / Dave Bunnell / Wiki Commons

5. The cave features a wide variety of rare geological formations

Just like most caves in the world, Lechuguilla Cave features a large number of speleothems. These geological features come in all shapes and sizes:

  • Lemon-yellow sulfur deposits.
  • Gypsum chandeliers, hairs, and beards with a height of up to 6.1 meters (20 feet).
  • Soda straws with a length of up to 4.6 meters (15 feet).
  • Hydromagnesite balloons, cave pearls, subaqueous helictites, rusticles, U-loops, and J-loops.

Because large parts of the cave have only been discovered in the previous decades, its amazing features are as pristine as they can be.

Yes, this is truly a cavers paradise!

Lechuguilla cave
Soda straws inside the cave / Wiki Commons

More interesting facts about Lechuguilla Cave

6. The entrance pit known as Misery Hole was temporarily used as a mine for bat guano. The excrement of bats can be turned into manure that can be used as fertilizer due to their high content of nitrogen.

The mining permit of this remarkable business was issued in the year 1914, but operations were seized after just a couple of years.

7. With a depth of 489 meters (1,604 feet), it was the deepest cave in the continental United States when it was discovered.

Lechuguilla Cave depth
A team exploring the cave / JYB Devot / Wiki Commons

It held this record until the discovery of Tears of the Turtle Cave in 2014. This is a cave in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in western Montana with a depth of 568.1 meters (1,863.8 feet).

8. The cave features the largest known gypsum stalactites in the world. These incredible natural wonders are located in the so-called “Chandelier Ballroom.”

Chandelier Ballroom Leguichuilla Cave
The view inside the Chandelier Ballroom / Dave Bunnell / Wiki Commons

9. The name of the cave is a reference to the amazing canyon in which its entrance is located. This canyon was in turn named for the “Agave lechuguilla,” a plant species that abundantly grows here.

Agave lechuguilla
Agave lechuguilla / Stan Shebs / Wiki Commons

10. Just because you can’t visit Lechuguilla Cave unless you’re part of a specialized scientific team doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy amazing caves in the area.

Carlsbad Caverns features a “Big Room” that is bigger than any room that has been discovered yet inside its bigger neighbor.

Carlsbad's Big Room
Part of Carlsbad Cavern’s Big Room / Stephen Friedt / Wiki Commons