Carlsbad Caverns Essay

3106 words - 13 pages

Carlsbad Caverns
Geology of a National Park

In 1923, The Carlsbad Caverns was acknowledged as a National Monument and it later became a National Park in 1930.[1] The Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a spectacular national park full of fascinating geologic structures, the most renowned of which are the caves. The most visited, and conceivably researched, cave is the Carlsbad Cavern. All of the caves within the National Park contain rare speleothems, which are formations built from calcite (CaCO3) minerals precipitating after water in certain areas of the cave evaporates. The formations can be found within those walls can be stalactites, stalagmites, and many other formations, all of ...view middle of the document...

If you looked at an accurate map of this period, you would uncover that the Guadalupe Mountain range and the location where the Carlsbad Caverns are today, it is emerged under water and a huge tropical reef established around a large lagoon.4 The Great Capitan is the name of this horseshoe shaped reef and is from the Paleozoic area.4 During this period, there were no separate tectonic plates. The planet Earth had just one giant continent and during this time, the tectonic plates had not torn it apart yet. The reef was mostly underground, and to be a little more specific, only the part from Guadalupe to Carlsbad was exposed. During this period, about 95% of the reef was limestone and the remains of primitive sea creatures and sponges made up the other 5% of the reef. 4 As the climate changed over the course of millions of years, the lagoon began to evaporate, creating salt beds and mineral deposits such as Potassium and Sodium Chloride.[5] However, the organic part of the ancient sea creatures went to Texas and formed the oil fields. As the years continued this is when the tectonic plates began to split causing the uplift of mountain areas. It was about 60 million years ago that the Rocky Mountains began to uplift, so I naturally would assume that this is when the Guadalupe’s peak began.[6] To this day, the plates play a role in the elevation of the Guadalupe’s peak causing it to rise approximately 9 feet each year.
Personally, as I stated before I believe that the creation of the Guadalupe’s peak began around the time of the Rocky Mountains, but I also believe that this is when the Carlsbad Caverns started to begin to form underground. However, I could not find any factual evidence to back my hypothesis. However, what I did find was that as time passed, approximately a few million years ago, the uplift caused cracks in the ancient reef and formed cavities.1 This is where history of the Carlsbad Caverns becomes somewhat blurry. Scientists, although are continuously trying to break the code, are unable to develop a sound theory of how the caverns developed after this point. However, the one thing that they all are certain about is that the erosion of a strong force river or flowing water did definitely not form the caves.[7]
This is why the Carlsbad Caverns is considered a solution cavern. The cavern forms by the dissolution of the limestone by slow-moving water below the groundwater table.[8] This is different from a Mammoth Cave, which is considered an erosion cavern.[9] A solution cavern’s process produces irregularly rounded- or scallop-shaped passages. In an example of the Carlsbad Caverns the huge natural chambers once was filled with water before erosion on the surface wore down the landscape surrounding the Guadalupe Mountains, allowing the great underground passages to slowly drain to empty over time.
Erosion caverns on the other hand form by flowing water through cracks and passages at, near, or above the water...

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