Kartchner Caverns State Park - Park is Open
State Forester Issues Stage II Fire Restrictions
The Arizona State Forester has issued the following Fire Restrictions for all Arizona State Parks:
- Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove including
fires in developed campgrounds or improved sites is prohibited. Exemptions include persons using
a device solely fueled by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and off. Such devices
can only be used in an area that is barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable
materials within 3 feet of the device.
- Smoking is prohibited unless it is within an enclosed vehicle or building.
- Discharging a firearm except while engaged in a lawful hunt pursuant to state, federal, or tribal
laws and regulations is prohibited. The exemption to this is that the discharging of firearms is
allowed on agency designated shooting ranges.
- The discharging or using of any kind of fireworks and incendiary devices is prohibited.
- The following mechanical and industrial activities are prohibited:
o Operating any internal combustion engine.
o Welding, or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame.
o Using an explosive.
Fire restrictions remain in effect at this park until further notice. Read Complete Release
To make Cave Tour Reservations and Book Tickets: Reserve online (24-hours) or call (520) 586-2283. You can call 7 days a week, from 8 am to 5 pm MST. Please review the Cave Tour Info before placing your reservation. To make same day Cave Tour reservations (based on availability) please call (520) 586-2283. Please arrive AT LEAST 1 hour prior to your scheduled tour time. Late arrival may result in the forfeiture of your reserved tour time.
Summer Hours (June 1 – Sept. 30):
Gate Hours 7 am – 10 pm, Park Hours 8 am – 5 pm, Discovery Center Hours 9 am – 5 pm.
On-Site Volunteers Needed
Escape the Phoenix heat! Summer on-site park volunteer opportunities are available. Bring your RV and live at the park while volunteering at an amazing resource! Learn more.
Summer Special: Free Campsite with Purchase of 2 Adult Cave Tour Tickets at Kartchner Caverns SP!
Enjoy a cave tour and camp one night free! Free campsite must be used on same visit. Valid June 1 - Sept. 30, 2013. May NOT be redeemed online. No other discounts accepted. Must mention promotion at time of booking. To reserve call (520) 586-2283 and ask for the Summer Special Promotion!
June 22: Moonlight Hike
6:30–8:30 pm. Foothills Loop trail. Meet at the Discovery Center. Join us for a unique ranger-led hike on the Foothills Loop during the full moon. Wear suitable clothing and shoes and bring water, a flashlight, and insect spray. Trail is moderately difficult and 2.5 miles long. Please RSVP with your contact info and number of people in your group to: reservations(at)azstateparks.gov. $6 per vehicle entrance fee applies.
Watch wrap-up video from Sept. 15, 2012 Star Night Event at Kartchner Caverns SP in Benson, Arizona. See infrared nighttime shots of public getting to look through volunteer astronomers' telescopes. See above ground activities, like the Discovery Center, the Bat Cave Cafe, and the electric tram ride to the cavern entrance. See an excerpt from Guest Speaker Jeremy Moss's presentation. Plus meet some of the astronomers and learn about their telescopes! Watch video now.
Listen to NPR Story about Kartchner Caverns
You may also read a story by Mark Duggan and see exclusive photos by visiting Arizona Public Media website.
Introductory Park Video
About the Park
Starting October 15, the Big Room re-opens for tours. Book now and experience nearly 1 hour underground. Children age 6 and under are not allowed on this tour. The Kartchner Cavern story is about amazing discoveries past, present and future. Marvel at the many strange and colorful formations. Learn about the cave fauna, both living and ancient. Read Cave Tour Information.
Experience a stunning limestone cave in Southeastern Arizona that boasts world-class features. This “live” cave, discovered in 1974, is host to a wide variety of unique minerals and formations. Water percolates from the surface and calcite formations continue to grow, including stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground. Tour guides will unveil this fascinating underground landscape during a memorable 1½ hour tour.
The Discovery Center features museums exhibits, a large gift shop, regional displays, theater, and educational information about the caverns and the surrounding landscape. There are also campgrounds, hiking trails, lockers, shaded picnic areas, a deli, an amphitheater, and a hummingbird garden.
It wasn't until February 1978 that Tenen and Tufts told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, about their amazing discovery. During the four years of secret exploration, the discoverers realized that the cave's extraordinary variety of colors and formations must be preserved.
The cave's existence became public knowledge in 1988 when its purchase was approved as an Arizona State Park. Extraordinary precautions have been taken during its development to conserve the cave's near-pristine condition.
“I have been to over a half dozen developed caves and a couple undeveloped. This is by far the best preserved one.” —desertratduane, Jan. 20, 2013. Read Other Visitor Reviews.
“Wonderful experience. My wife loves caves and she said it's a BEST! I love all the state has done and is doing to preserve the caves. This alone is a good experience. And the Throne Room is a magnificent experience!” —yestat, Jan. 11, 2013. Read Other Visitor Reviews.
“Gorgeous, Pristine Caverns with Excellent Guides”
“The formations in this cave are really remarkable. The trail through the cave is well-maintained, not slippery, and not arduous. The guides are volunteers, and ours was exceedingly knowledgeable. Overall, one of the best cave tours I've ever had.” —bkt48, Jan. 10, 2013. Read Other Visitor Reviews.
This bell canopy is one of many fascinating features on the Rotunda-Throne Room tour at Kartchner Caverns State Park. It is formed by water flowing over a bump on the wall, then dripping to create this beautiful formation.
In November 1974 two young cavers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, were exploring the limestone hills at the base of the Whetstone Mountains. In the bottom of a sinkhole they found a narrow crack leading into the hillside. Warm, moist air flowed out, signaling the existence of a cave. After several hours of crawling, they entered a pristine cavern.
The formations that decorate caves are called “speleothems.” Usually formations are composed of layers of calcite called travertine deposited by water. The form a speleothem takes is determined by whether the water drips, flows, seeps, condenses, or pools.
Kartchner Caverns is home to:
- one of the world's longest soda straw stalactites: 21 feet 3 inches (Throne Room)
- the tallest and most massive column in Arizona, Kubla Khan: 58 feet tall (Throne Room)
- the world's most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk (Big Room)
- the first reported occurrence of “turnip” shields (Big Room)
- the first cave occurrence of “birdsnest” needle quartz formations
- many other unusual formations such as shields, totems, helictites, and rimstone dams.
Please Remember: Many of the formations you will see have been continuously growing for tens of thousands of years. The formations grow very slowly and are extremely fragile. When visiting remember that formations damaged even by accident will stop growing. To avoid damage to the cave and injury to yourself please refrain from touching any of the formations.
Both cave tours are closed September 16-20, 2013 due to cave maintenance; no cave tours on December 25.
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