Sky Island SPOTlight: Kartchner Caverns State Park

A view of the Big Room in Kartchner Caverns. Permission: Gary Tenen

Kartchner Caverns State Park is a limestone cave that was explored in 1974 and became an official Arizona State Park in 1999. With 2.4 miles of passages, the cave is teeming with life. It is home to a large colony of myotis velifer bats as well as countless microorganisms and macroinvertebrates. Kartchner Caverns State Park is known for their extensive research and conservation of this delicate cave ecosystems. But this state park has more to offer than just the caves! There are miles of trails above the cave that take you through the foothills of the Whetstone Mountains.

Our Work:

While we do love exploring caves, the world above them is more of our wheelhouse at Sky Island Alliance. From 2014 to 2016, SIA volunteers and State Park staff monitored McGrew Spring, a candidate restoration site. In 2018 SIA helped reforest an old alignment of the Foothills Loop trail with native plants and grasses, and also helped to implement some erosion control interventions. Looking forward to 2020, we plan to monitor McGrew Spring again and work with State Park staff to design a restoration project for the spring to maintain water quality and access for wildlife.

How to Visit:

Kartchner Caverns is on the Eastern slopes of the Whetstone Mountains, and the easiest way to get there from Tucson is to take Highway 90 south from Benson. The state park offers cave tours and camping that can be booked online for a fee. There are many  free hiking trails outside of the caves as well. Visit their website for hours of operation to learn more.

To access the park, there is an entrance fees of $7.00 per vehicle, however if you are there for a tour or to camp your fee will be waived!