Kartchner Caverns is one of the most protected caves in the USA. As a result, it’s still beautiful and growing. The caverns were discovered in 1974 by two cavers named Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts. They kept it a secret until 1978 when they found out the property was owned by James and Lois Kartchner and told them about their discovery. The public didn’t find out about the caverns until 1988 when the land was purchased by Arizona State Parks.
As the caverns were developed, many precautions were taken to preserve the natural environment of the caves. Multiple air-lock doors were built into the entrances to keep the humidity in and the dry desert air out.
Because no photography is allowed inside the cave, I don’t have any of my own photos to show you, but the following video gives you a good idea of what it’s like inside:
There are two tours for the caverns. The Rotunda/Throne Room Tour is available year-round and the Big Room Tour is only available October 15th to April 15th. They both last about 1 1/2 hours and are equally enjoyable.
There are a limited number of tickets available on any given day, so reservations are highly recommended. You can make reservations by calling (520) 586-4100. Another benefit of making reservations is that you don’t have to pay the $5.00 park entrance fee.
Kartchner Caverns are located about 50 miles southeast of Tucson, AZ. From Tucson, take the I-10 East to State Hwy 90 South. There are plenty of signs to lead the way.
If you are camping, there is a campground at the park. If not, you can stay in the nearby town of Benson or in Tucson. If you stay in one of the hotels near the airport, which is east of town, it will put you closer to the caverns.
For food, there is the Bat Cave Cafe which is nothing fancy but if you’re a pizza lover, I highly recommend the Southern Arizona pizza. Otherwise, there are fast-food restaurants out by I-10.
Kartchner Caverns is not high on the adventure scale but you will see beautiful formations and learn a lot about caves and caverns. TheDiscovery Center at the entrance provides many interesting exhibits and information about the caverns. Don’t miss the 86,000 year oldground sloth!