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Primitive Campground at Fort Stanton Cave, Lincoln NM

Dawn at Fort Stanton Cave, December 19, 2009
Dawn at Fort Stanton Cave, December 19, 2009

This little, 3 site, primitive campground is at the entrance to the Fort Stanton Cave in the new Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area off US 380 west of Lincoln NM. This Conservation Area was established in 2009 to protect and conserve the unique and nationally important subterranean cave resources of the Fort Stanton - Snowy River cave system. Snowy River is a significant passage within Fort Stanton Cave. This campground primarily serves those who have been issued a permit to enter the cave.

Fort Stanton Cave entrance, December 18, 2009
Fort Stanton Cave entrance, December 18, 2009

With 14-3/4 miles of mapped passages, Fort Stanton Cave is the third largest cave in New Mexico. The cave is open for recreational caving under permit from April 15 to November 1.

Snowy River Passage in Fort Stanton Cave

To quote the Bureau of Land Management

Very slow moving ground water dissolved the grayish-brown limestone in which the cave is formed and recrystallized that limestone into a white-colored mineral called calcite. Through numerous infillings of ground water saturated with calcite, followed by draining and drying, repeated coats of calcite were laid on the bottom of the cave through the entire five miles of Snowy River passage that has been surveyed to date. This unique white crystalline deposit glistens like snow and may be the largest calcite formation in America. Several endemic microorganisms have been discovered in this new section of the cave. In this sunless environment, species living here do not get their energy from the sun. Instead, they chemically break down rock. In the process, they create chemical byproducts that could have pharmaceutical uses. There are also several species that have formed symbiotic relationships with each other.

Continuing exploration and scientific research will help us better understand the formation of caves in this area, improve our understanding of groundwater hydrology of the region, and increase our knowledge of the biology of the cave. In the years to come, many new biological discoveries are anticipated.

Due to the scientific importance of the cave, the Snowy River passage is not open to the public. BLM is planning interpretive products in the future so the public can enjoy and better understand this unique resource.

Read Snowy River Passage for more info.

Primitive Campground at Fort Stanton Cave, Lincoln NM

Nights I've camped here

Proficiency in Knowledge of the World

There are all degrees of proficiency in knowledge of the world. It is sufficient, to our present purpose, to indicate three. One class lives to the utility of the symbol; esteeming health and wealth a final good. Another class live above this mark to the beauty of the symbol; as the poet, and artist, and the naturalist, and man of science. A third class live above the beauty of the symbol to the beauty of the thing signified; these are the wise men. The first class have common sense; the second, taste; and the third, spiritual perception. Once in a long time, a man traverses the whole scale, and sees and enjoys the symbol solidly; then also has a clear eye for its beauty, and lastly, while he pitches his tent on this sacred volcanic isle of nature, does not offer to build houses and barns thereon, reverencing the splendor of the God which he sees bursting through each chink and cranny.

Essay VII, Prudence Ralph Waldo Emerson