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Kartchner Caverns

Geological Places

Kartchner Caverns is a remarkable underground geological feature located in Kartchner Caverns State Park, in Cochise County, southeastern Arizona.

It is known for stunning limestone formations, intricate cave systems, and its status as a living cave. It is part of the surrounding Karst landscape.

Limestone Formation

Kartchner Caverns is composed of limestone. This type of rock is particularly susceptible to the formation of intricate cave structures through the dissolution of minerals by acidic groundwater.

Kartchner Caverns was discovered in 1974 by two spelunkers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts. It was significant due to the pristine condition of the cave and its extraordinary formations.

Living Cave

One of the distinctive features of Kartchner Caverns is its status as a “living cave.” This means that the cave is still actively growing and evolving due to ongoing geological processes, such as the deposition of minerals from dripping water. Nearby Colossal Cave, in contrast, is considered a dead cave.

Cave Formations

The cave is adorned with a variety of breathtaking formations, including stalactites (hanging from the ceiling), stalagmites (rising from the floor), helictites (twisted and curving formations), and columns (when stalactites and stalagmites meet).

Kartchner Caverns is particularly known for its “soda straws,” delicate and hollow stalactites that can eventually become stalagmites if their tips touch the ground.

The Big Room is the largest underground chamber in Kartchner Caverns and one of the main highlights of the cave tour. It features an array of impressive formations and spans over 90,000 square feet.

Conservation Efforts

Upon its discovery, the cave’s existence was kept a secret to protect it from potential vandalism. The site was later developed with an emphasis on preserving its pristine condition through careful management and visitor guidelines.

To protect the delicate formations, Kartchner Caverns is managed to maintain stable humidity and temperature levels. This helps preserve the active geological processes within the cave.


Kartchner Caverns offers guided cave tours to the public, allowing visitors to explore the underground wonderland while minimizing potential impact on the delicate environment. The tours provide educational insights into the geology and history of the cave. Tours are of limited availability and reservations are strongly recommended by the Park. Sadly, photography, including video, are not allowed within the cave.