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The Park contains cultural resources that represent long and varied human use starting in prehistoric times and illustrating many adaptations to the Chihuahua desert environment. The Park has two important districts on the National Register of Historic Places—the Cavern Historic District and the Rattlesnake Springs Historic District. The Park Museum, including the park archives, includes approximately one million cultural artifacts being preserved and guarded. Carlsbad Cavern includes 300 limestone caves in a skeleton reef created by an inland sea about 265 million years ago. Twelve-to-fourteen thousand years ago, American Indians existed in the Guadalupe Mountains. Some of their food ring sites and pictographs have been found inside the present-day borders of the Park. By the 1500s, Spanish explorers were passing within present-day west Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Spain claimed the southwest until 1821, when Mexico rebelled and proclaimed independence. Mexico, fighting the westward expansionist (US) in the late 1840s, lost the southwest to the US. In 1850, New Mexico Territory was formed, and for the next 30 years, the cultural balance between American Indians and the US government was maintained. Eddy, New Mexico, the future Carlsbad, was founded in 1888, and New Mexico became a state in 1912.

The fantastic caverns of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico rest in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains in the southeastern edge of the country. This sizeable underground operation was formed over 4 million years ago and consists of hundreds of limestone caverns within the National Park. These caves earn international significance due to their size, origin, and importance in decorative rock formations. Carlsbad Caverns is one of the best-preserved and most convenient cave complexes in the world available for scientific study and public access. The caves began in the 20th century after a cowboy named James Larkin White became the first American to explore the cave. White announced the cavern and promoted both its growth as a tourist site and preservation as a park. White guided companies through the cavern’ chambers on the primitive tracks he built using ropes, ladders, and kerosene lanterns.

After creating Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the cave’s natural entrance was still too steep to descend safely. During the park’s early years, companies were dropped into the cavern by mining buckets and a hoist. In 1925, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce created a wooden stairway over the lip of the natural approach, providing a much safer point of entry into the cave. The buildings of the Caverns Historic District were constructed around this time. Companies to the Park today can tour these Pueblo Revival Style and New Mexican Territory Style homes that date back to the early 1920s and 1942. They are located at the natural entrance to Carlsbad Caverns.

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