Monday, November 5, 2018

Day 52 - Benson, AZ - TT

Kartchner Caverns is about ten miles south of Benson and is the town's premier attraction. It is also listed as Arizona's best attraction by USA Today for whatever that’s worth. They had two different tours available. The Rotunda/Throne Room or the Big Room. Both tours are guided, partly to control the number of people in the cave at any time and to help ensure that nothing is touched. It was warm and humid inside of the cave and no cameras including cell phone cameras were permitted. So no pictures from inside the cave. I included their promotional video at the bottom of this post.

The entire path of the tour is wheelchair accessible which means that it is paved and no stairs or steep grades. The paved walkway is designed to be washed down every evening after the tours and as you walk in, there is a fine mist to help any lint stay stuck to your clothes. The walkway is bordered by a short wall so the wash water is contained to the pathway. Since this is a horizontal cave, the temperature is about the same as the year-around average temperature of Benson or in the mid-70s. The humidity inside of the cave is 99%.

They did have rock drills on display outside of the visitors center including the chainsaw. We had tried using a rock drill to collect samples but since I worked for a remote sensing group, all they were concerned with was the surface. A hammer was more efficient for sample collection. The tour was about 1½ hours long and it was worth it. The cave is still in pristine condition as it is a relatively recent discovery. I believe that it was initially discovered in 1974 and the cave site was sold to the state in 1988. One of the conditions of sale is that the original property owners name, Kartchner, needed to remain attached to the site.

Since there are no pictures of the cave, here is a picture of a painting behind the front desk at the visitors center showing Kubla Kahn, the name given to this column inside of the throne room. The column is almost sixty feet high. If you ever find yourself in Benson, I would recommend this attraction.

Not much else for the rest of the day. Clear and 76°F. Another “pool” afternoon. No pool/palm tree pictures or any mention of a gentle breeze in this post. I could get used to this...


6 comments:

  1. Very interesting, Richard. In most cases newly discovered caves are exploited, vandalised and stripped of its gems before turned into a natural monument. In this case officials seem to have done the right steps for the conservation of the underground environment.

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    1. It seems like they are trying to maintain the cave as pristine as possible. There are multiple air locks throughout the cave to minimize airflow and loss of humidity from the people-sized tunnels they put in. The original opening into the cave was a 6” diameter opening at the bottom of a sink hole. It was enlarged by the founders but it is back to its original size. The only traffic through the hole are bats. One of the original founders, who was a grad student at the time, still visits around once a month. They joked that they let him in for free...

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  2. Interesting indeed....all those controls to keep it pristine.

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    1. I guess a cave is a pretty fragile environment. I guess even more so in an arid environment such as here. Though the annual precipitation in Benson is higher than Fairbanks.

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  3. "I could get used to this..." it appears you already have.

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