What was originally known as the “Secret Cave” was discovered by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts in November 1974 when exploring the limestone hills at the eastern base of Arizona’s Whetstone Mountains. They were looking “for a cave no one had ever found” and found it.
The two kept the cave a secret until February 1978 when they told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, about their awesome discovery. But it wasn’t until years later, after making sure that the cave was properly protected and preserved that the caverns–named after the Kartchners–opened to the public as an Arizona State Park in 1999.
Kartchner is not just a cave, but a 28-room, 2.5-mile long cave system. The Examiner.com wrote about the caverns in 2010,
The immaculate cave decorations within Kartchner Caverns are some of the finest that you will see anywhere in the United States – and possibly worldwide. Over countless millennia water saturated with calcium carbonate and a variety of minerals has – drip by drip and inch by inch – steadily created a glorious array of speleothems which will delight both the spelunker and sightseer alike. The cavern ceiling is adorned with forests of Stalactites glistening like icicles on a frosty winter morning, reefs of delicate helictites with small white polyps are clustered in the caves nooks and crannies, a gleaming white calcite shield shaped like an angel’s wing is affixed to the wall like an ancient heraldic emblem whilst slender Soda Straws – fashioned like fine glass filaments – hang from the ceiling.
Guided tours are offered and camping is available at the state park and in nearby Benson. Go online to learn more about Kartchner Caverns SP or for a Calendar of Events. Watch the video below for a virtual tour of the caverns.
The caverns are 12 miles south of Benson in southeastern Arizona.