Arizona has many parks and monuments. Head south from SaddleBrooke, AZ, to visit Kartchner Caverns in Benson, AZ. Making the trip in the summer, when the temperatures are high, is a wise choice. You can enjoy temperatures around 70 degrees while touring the cave features.
Travelawaits ranked Kartchner Caverns in the national top ten list for caves.
Kartchner Caverns was discovered in 1974, by local cavers. They kept it a secret for two years and then told the property owners, the Kartchner family. The cave was kept secret until 1985, when meetings, tours, and groups explored making it a State Park. Unprotected caves can be seriously damaged by unregulated use, so they knew the cave had to be protected.
It took many years and confidential coordination before the park opened the lower caverns in 2003. The State Park website has a detailed explanation of what it took to make the acquisition and transfer to the State Parks. The Nature Conservancy was an important partner.
The cave has 2.4 miles of passage. One of the key features is in the “Throne Room”. That is where you can see the tallest column in Arizona. The 58-foot-tall formation is called the Kubla Khan.
Kartchner Caverns has been designated an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, so the stargazing there is truly spectacular. The Tucson metro area, including the SaddleBrooke retirement area, honor Dark Sky guidelines. Stargazing and beautiful night skies are important to the area. Many observatories are located in the Tucson area.
So how many caves are there?
According to the US Geological Survey, there are approximately 17,000 caves in the United States. Caverns are found throughout the United States, except in Rhode Island and Louisiana.
Another lesser-known cave in Arizona is one of the nation’s ten longest caves. Grand Canyon’s Double Bopper Cave- Reaches 40 Miles Long
In the fall of 2018, two expedition teams returned to Double Bopper Cave in Grand Canyon National Park. They continued the survey and exploration of the extensive system. Through their efforts, the cave is now 40.6 miles long and has climbed into the top ten longest caves in the United States.
The newest discoveries include many mummified mammals, an entire wall of gypsum hair, and more iron foam and gypsum flowers than anyone could imagine. Survey teams documented incredible boreholes and unique formations in the caves while avoiding bark scorpions and flash floods on the surface. There is a webinar by Beth Cortright on youtube that highlights the October 2018 expedition and provides an update on the Double Bopper Cave system.