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Confused About What To Call Carlsbad Cavern?

Updated on January 3, 2012
Entrance to Carlsbad Cavern in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Entrance to Carlsbad Cavern in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Many people are confused about the name of this famous cave and its surrounding land in the Southeastern comer of New Mexico. Previously known as the Bat Cave, the Big Cave, and Carlsbad Cave National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park which was designated in 1930 is the current handle.

The name of the small town of Carlsbad has its roots beginning in1370 AD. Karlov IV of Bohemia while hunting one day with his dogs discovered a thermal spring which was soon named "Karlsbad, "meaning, "Karl's bath." Water from the spring gained popularity as it proved effective as a curative for illnesses of the digestive system. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this spa was visited by royalty from many regions of Europe as its popularity peaked and reputation spread.

In 1888, the town of Eddy was named after a financier who had a great deal of economical and political power in the area. A study of a spring in the town of Eddy found many similarities to the spring in Karlsbad. To draw people to the town of Eddy as suggested by another financier Robert Tansill who overpowered Charles Eddy, the name was ineffectively changed to Carlsbad in 1899. When a huge cave nearby Carlsbad was rediscovered in later times and popularity of the cave increased, it was named after Carlsbad in another attempt by town's people to encourage visitation. The rest is history.

Although people have been visiting this cave since the turn of the century, there is still some confusion about what to call it. When writing or talking about only the cave, many people refer to the park as the cave when in fact the park encompasses more than 40,000 acres. Also, people make the mistake of calling the cave itself "Carlsbad Caverns" suggesting that the cave consists of many caves. To call the cave or the park "Carlsbad Caverns" is grammatically incorrect but generally accepted.

The appellation of the big hole in the ground which contains the Main Corridor, the Big Room, and many other cave rooms and passages currently totaling around 30 miles and unknown to connect to any other caves is Carlsbad Cavern. When talking about the land area of the park and its many caves which tend to be the main attractions of the park, the name should be used as Carlsbad Caverns National Park with the plural "caverns" referring to the numerous caves in the park. In other words, the cave is Carlsbad Cavern. The park is Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

In addition, the word "cavern" is often mispronounced. The last syllable should sound like the word "um" not like the word “wren." And by the way, the difference between a cave and a cavern are the letters "R" and "N." Typically the word "cavern" is used for larger caves but the words are synonymous. Perhaps this is why Carlsbad Cave National Monument was changed to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Hopefully this clears up some confusion and misunderstanding but is not set in stone because words just like the caves have been known to change.


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