The Bat Cave of El Calderone
In New Mexico, United States
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Located in New Mexico’s El Malpais National Monument, off of NM53 on the western boundary of the monument, this geological feature is one several along the El Calderone trail
El Malpais National Monument lies in the high desert lands south of I-40 midway between Gallup and Albuquerque, New Mexico. El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area are always open to visitors except the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook (This area closes at dusk). El Malpais is Spanish for “Badlands” or “Bad Country”.
The El Calderone area of the national monument offers diverse exploring opportunities. A gravel and dirt surface route winds past volcanic features (cinder cones, lava tubes, sinks, and trenches) on an easy to moderate 3 mile loop hike. The Bat Cave is approximately 1 mile from the designated parking area. Do not attempt to enter the bat cave or disturb its resident as they enter or exit. This lava tube’s age is estimated at being 115,000 years old. Sometime during that flow period, the surface of the lava flow cooled and hardened forming an insulating cover. Molten lava continued to flow under it. When the eruption ended, the lava continued out the end of the tube leaving an empty void under the solid surface. Typically, lava tubes are sealed on both ends with rock, but in some places the surface has collapsed creating entrances such as the one seen near the posted coordinates.
There approximately 900 known species of bats, of which ten species have been identified within El Malpais boundaries. The bat cave hosts both migratory species and yearlong residential species of bats. The Mexican free-tailed bat utilizes this cave as a summer home and migrates south in the winter. Year long species include Pallid Bats, Little brown bats, and Townsend’s Big Eared bats which live within the cave yearlong and hibernate in the winter months. In the summer at dusk, a winding tendril circling toward the sky is what the nightly flight of the Mexican free-tailed bat looks like. The flight can last for around 15 minutes. El Malpais bats are all insect eating bats. Some species of bat can consume up to 600 mosquitoes an hour. Bat guano is an excellent fertilizer because of its high nitrates content. A simple Guano mining operation once occurred in this bat cave. Although these species of bats are harmless to humans, a fungus which can grow in their guano can cause serious health problems. As part of the logging requirement, please read the informational sign about bats and the cave at the posted coordinates.
To Log this EarthCache:
• Send me a note stating the name of the fungus in bat guano that makes it dangerous to humans (answer is on the only informational sign)
• From the listed coordinates post a picture of yourself and/or GPS in front of the cave entranced (Do not enter the cave though).
Please begin your e-mail with the name of the earthcache and make sure your log includes the number of people in your group.
The above information was compiled from the following sources: • National Park Service, 2006, El Calderone Area Trail Guide, El Malpais National Monument.
Placement approved by the El Malpais National Monument Staff
(No hints available.)
Last Updated: on 5/20/2017 9:22:19 PM Pacific Daylight Time (4:22 AM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum