KARTCHNER CAVERNS, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - Our state has a well-earned reputation for being hot, dry and sunny. However, one of the most amazing places in Arizona is always 70 degrees, dark, with 99% humidity. We're talking about Kartchner Caverns.
Two men discovered the caverns in 1974. It took them another four years before telling the land owners, the Kartchners.
And it was another six years before the two men and the Kartchners began communicating with the Arizona Park Service.
They wanted to protect the caverns and were hoping to get the area designated as a state park.
The first state park service employee to tour the caverns met the group at a public place and was then blindfolded for the drive to the caverns. It took a total of 25 years from the day the cave was discovered before Kartchner Caverns State Park was open to the public in 1999.
Up until recently, visitors toured the caverns using installed lights that highlighted the stunning formations.
Park Ranger Erika Way said that something was missing in these traditional tours: a bit of darkness, daring and discovery.
That's why Arizona State Parks added a dose of all three with the new helmet and headlamp tour.
With the helmet and headlamp tour, visitors see whatever it is that interests them. The pre-focused lights aren't telling visitors what to look at. Instead, they get to decide for themselves.
During the tour, visitors are guided by a ranger but are now seeing the cave's features much the same way the original discoverers did, one surprising spectacle at a time.