Back in the ’80’s I went into the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, and it’s been something I’ve never forgotten. And so being back down in the areas of these magnificent caves I wanted the kids to be able to see some of the wonders underground.
Gaelyn already shared about the bats of Kartchner, and Maret discussed an overview of her own perspective. I wanted to share a few of the things that stood out to me.
Too much to blog about, here’s just a couple.
Kartchner Caverns are a fairly new discovery in the world of caving, and they have an interesting story. Not below ground really, they are hidden in a hillside where the temperature stays constant in the high 70F’s with 99% humidity.
Passing as if thru chambers we receive a light mist to help stray hairs and fibres stick to us or fall to the ground rather than float through the hair, disturbing the microscopic flora already growing here.
Found by 2 cavers it was kept mostly a secret until the land could be protected as a park to avoid vandalism and exploitation. After 14 years it was secured, and careful scientific discoveries, investigations and excavations started to keep this precious environment as near natural as possible while allowing the public to venture in during specific times of the year.
Kartchner Caverns most exciting new secret was the discovery of fossil remains which had originally believed to have belonged to a bison. But in 1995 a team of Northern Arizona University scientists studied the site and discovered that it was the remains of a Shasta Ground Sloth (Nothrotheriops shastensis), a 2 meter (6-7 ft) long creature previously thought to have inhabited more northerly regions. Scientific testing proved the fossils to be 80,000 years old!
For this sloth to have lived in the Kartchner area would mean that the environment must have been completely different than what we find around theTucson-area today. The climate would have been milder with less temperature extremes. The plant-eating sloth would have fed on fibrous vegetarian in wooded upland areas and savannahs. It may have been grassland valleys and oak woodlands.
Another interesting question about this sloth and where it was located is…how did it get into the cave and why did it die here? There must have been other cave entrances that are now obscured or collapsed, and the sloth surely couldn’t have made its way that far back into the cave through the present natural entrance which is the size of a grapefruit!
VIEW FROM OUR KITCHEN:
@ Snyder Hill, BLM land west of Tucson, AZ