New Mexico Caves and Karsts
There is much hidden beneath the surface of New Mexico—an exciting world waiting for exploration. Caves are fascinating features of our landscape, and as much as one-third of New Mexico geology is cave and karst lands.
Most of these areas are composed of soluble rocks, such as limestone or gypsum. Karst terrain can contain surface streams, sinking streams, sinkholes, springs, and caves. Groundwater recharge in these areas is extremely rapid and karst aquifers may be quickly impacted by contaminants and pollutants entering our groundwater supplies. Some of our caves are not in karst lands but are in lava flows. These caves are known as lava tubes.
Cave and karst lands provide specialized habitats and environments. Animal species living in caves have special adaptations that help them survive. Caves can contain sensitive and fragile resources, including geologic features, speleothems (cave formations), biological communities (from bats to specialized micro-organisms), paleontological resources, and cultural resources. Caves also provide opportunities for recreation, education, and scientific research. Many BLM caves are open for public recreation and for scientific research. Some caves require a free entry permit.
Many caves are used by bats. There are 27 bat species that live in New Mexico. Several of these species are extremely sensitive to the presence of humans.
Invertebrates also use caves. Cave invertebrates are often more sensitive than many other cave adapted species. There are more than 130 species of invertebrates found in caves that the BLM manages in New Mexico. Please do not disturb cave creatures.