An eMagazine about wheelchair-accessible events, sports & locations in Arizona

Kartchner Caverns


Kartchner-header
Kartchner Caverns State Park

[July 2009 note: This entry was the first one ever published at Accessing Arizona (2005). We are doing some house cleaning and have revised it slightly. Unfortunately, there’s some gawd-awful photos at the bottom so be warned.]

Let me start by saying something pretty self-evident, this place rocks! These two caves are so big that its difficult to imagine from the outside. Beyond just being a big cave, the place looks as if someone spent maybe a billion years designing and crafting all the formations. I’m going to offer up a few links for everyone to get more intrigued by whats inside, and focus this entry on the accessibility.

Just to summarize, a few people discovered a hole in the earth about the size of a basketball some 30 years back. They crawled in and discovered the marvel inside. What is almost just as amazing is that they managed to keep it secret long enough to get the state to buy the land and turn it into a state park before all of us screwed it up. The state should get plenty of credit for creating Arizona’s best state park. And when it comes to access, this place, even considering how difficult a task they faced to to turn two caves on the side of a mountain into any type of public attraction is the state’s most accessible park.

Because the inside of a cavern is alive, the park people have to preserve it. This means there is plenty of rules and policies you must follow in order to experience the caves. Such law and order isnt always my thing, but the park has many volunteers who are working hard to get everyone herded up and through one or both of the caves. The parking is plenty accessible and the Discover Center which is where everything starts is also well laid out for wheeling. From here, everyone boards a tram that climbs up the hillside. Once unloaded, you enter a chamber that is sealed behind you before your leader escorts the group through either The Big Room or The Throne Room. Kartchner Caverns could almost be considered a pair of trails. The designers have painstakingly carved an accessible paved trail for everyone. In a few places its a bit steep but even in my Quickie I was able to traverse the paths pretty well.

For anyone, Kartchner Caverns is worth the effort to visit. Its off I-10 an hour south of Tucson and its definitely a half day trip that requires reservations well in advance. A few points; They dont allow cameras inside the caves. As a psuedo-journalist I was given permission to take some shots (Note: my most recent trip to the caverns was 2005, and looking back at these photos I can hardly believe they didnt laugh me out of there). They also dont allow dogs which only makes sense, but given the heat its important that no one even considers leaving fido in the car.

If I had two days to spend anywhere close to southern Arizona, I’d visit the caverns and the Sonoran Desert Museum. And if I had 3 more hours, I’d get over to Sabino Canyon (with my dog).

Learn more at theState Park Web Site and a well designed Explore the Caverns site.

Tram which take you from the Explorer Center to the cave entrance.

The tram takes you from the Explorer Center to the cavern entrance.

The tram ramp is a tad steep but there is volunteers keeping the group herded together and assisting everyone.

The tram ramp is a tad steep but there is volunteers keeping the group herded together and assisting everyone.

This is the entrance to the cavern.  Everyone first enters a chamber that adjusts the temerature before you enter the cavern.

This is the entrance to the cavern. Everyone first enters a chamber that adjusts the temerature before you enter the cavern.

The cavern first starts out like a path into the abyss.  But at least it's the accessible abyss.

The cavern first starts out like a path into the abyss. But at least it's the accessible abyss.

This is one very bad photo, but you get the picture hopefuly. The caverns are seemingly out of a science fiction movie.

This is one very bad photo, but you get the picture hopefully. The caverns are seemingly out of a science fiction movie.


Tagged as: , , , , ,

4 Responses »

  1. I have alway been apprehensive about the assessibility of Kartchner, but hearing it from you, another wheelchair user, I know I can feel comfortable going there. Thanks for paving the way (pun intended)!

    Thanks!

  2. My husband and I were going to go to the Grand Canyon for our honeymoon but we never made it. It has been an ongoing joke “where is the big hole in the ground?” Now I am in a wheelchair Because of Multiple Sclerosis and we still have not found it. But, — maybe now it will even be workable after 39 years —-hopefully we will get their now.

  3. Just ran across this website and thought I’d tell you about my experience at the caverns. My family and I were very lucky to be some of the very first visitors inside. I am a para and was using a quickie at the time. No problems were encountered because of the wheelchair and the staff were all most helpful and friendly. I know that another “room” has been opened since we were there and I can’t wait to go back again!!

  4. We just toured both caves on 4/1/12. They were AMAZING! I was able to walk the paths, but I do have arthritis in my back. Having the handrails there, helped a lot!

Leave a Response


What Acessing Arizona Is All About

Accessing Arizona is primarily designed for people who are looking for wheelchair accessible events, locations and activities. If you have paralysis (paraplegic or quadriplegic), Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Bifida, or if you are an amputee, Accessing Arizona has information about an active lifestyle.
If you are traveling to Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Sedona or the Grand Canyon, the site offers insight about the accessibility. We cover trails, lakes, state parks, national parks and just about anything claiming to be handicapped accessible. The site also covers sports and recreation in Arizona.
From racing to rugby, from basketball to sled hockey, we cover all the local sports teams. Note: All photographs and essays are copyright Accessing Arizona, unless noted otherwise. Individuals may copy photos for their personal use provided the photo includes a text link back to www.accessingarizona.com. For commercial or editorial use, please contact the editor.