Adventure tourism is a type of niche tourism involving exploration or travel to remote areas, where the traveller should expect the unexpected. Adventure tourism is rapidly growing in popularity as tourists seek unusual holidays, different from the typical beach vacation. Adventure tourism typically involves travelling into remote, inaccessible and possibly hostile areas. It may include the performance of acts that require significant effort and grit and may also involve some degree of risk.
The Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad National Park, Colorado, surpasses the more famous Carlsbad Cavern itself in size and, perhaps, natural beauty, but few have seen the wonders of this under-unexplored cavern, or discovered the secrets and mysteries it may hide, for the cave is closed to all but scientific researchers.
According to a National Parks Service web site, Lechuguilla Cave was known until 1986 as only a small, insignificant historic site in the park’s backcountry. Small
amounts of bat guano were mined from the entrance passage for a year under a mining claim filed in 1914. The historic cave contained a 90-foot entrance pit which led to 400 feet of dry dead-end passages.
Or so thought geologists who have been studying the unique subterranean structure of the Guadalupe Mountains of Texas and New Mexico for decades. But in the mid 1950s cavers heard wind roaring up from the rubble-choked floor of the cave. Although there was no obvious route, different people concluded that cave passages lay below the rubble. A group of Colorado cavers gained permission from the National Park Service and began digging in 1984. The breakthrough, into large walking passages, occurred on May 26, 1986.
What was once thought of as a mere geologic anomaly in the cavern rich region quickly became one of the world’s most exciting cave explorations into one of the finest known caves on the planet.
In all, over 100 miles of passages have been explored in recent years and the depth of the cave has been tracked to 1,567 feet below the surface, ranking Lechuguilla as the fifth longest cave
in the world (third longest in the United States) and the deepest limestone cave in the USA.
Cavers and geologists from around the world have flocked to the site to examine rare arrays of speleothems, some of which had never been seen anywhere in the world, including a 20-foot gypsum chandelier, 20-foot gypsum hairs and beards, 15-foot soda straws, hydromagnesite balloons, cave pearls, subaqueous helictites, u-loops and j-loops.
Lechuguilla Cave lies beneath the national park wilderness area. But researchers theorize that the cave’s passages may extend out of the park into adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
Access to the cave is limited to approved scientific researchers, survey and exploration teams, and NPS management-related trips. But serious spelunkers can check with the National Park Service to see if they or their group can be included in special trips into the cavern.
Otherwise, adventure activists will have to settle for backcountry hiking and camping in the park’s wilderness area and be satisfied simply roosting on top of what may well be the world’s largest cavern system.
Answer the questions.
What is adventure tourism? Why is adventure tourism rapidly growing? What does adventure tourism include? Why is Lechuguilla Cave so interesting and notable? What was known about Lechuguilla Cave before 1986? What did the historic cave contain? What happened in the cave in 1950s? What did the researchers think of that? What did the scientists began doing?
What happened in May 1986? What was thought of the cave before 1986 and what is thought of the cave now? How big and deep is the cave? Why did cavers and geologists all over the world flock to the cave? What is interesting about the speleothems of the cave? What is the size of the cave, scientists think? Who can access the cave? What can adventure activists do to see the cave?
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