Fort Stanton Cave

Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave

Useful Information

Location: Fort Stanton Reservation
Open: Closed at the moment because of WNS.
15-APR to 01-NOV daily after appointment.
Fee: Closed at the moment because of WNS.
Crystal Crawl: Adults USD 30, Children (0-8) not alllowed.
Binoculars: Adults USD 40.
Lake Room: Adults USD 50.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=23,738 m, VR=51 m, T=12 °C.
Guided tours: Crystal Crawl: D=2 h.
Binoculars: D=3 h.
Lake Room: D=4 h.
Address: Roswell Field Office, 2909 W. Second Street, Roswell, NM 88201-2019, Tel: +1-575-627-0272.
Fort Stanton Cave Tour, Stephen, Tel: +1-575-808-1204, John, Tel: +1-575-937-1074. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1855 discovered and first explored by a patrol of the 1st Dragoons from Fort Stanton.
2001 Snowy River discovered.
2007 clear water flowing through Snowy River passage discovered.
2009 Fort Stanton - Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (NCA) established.


Fort Stanton Cave is located at Fort Stanton Reservation, both are named after the historic Fort Stanton which was built in 1855 to protect Anglo-European and Hispanic settlers. It was the home of the "Buffalo Soldiers", a unit of the black soldiers of the 9th Calvary. After the peace in 1896 Fort Stanton was abandoned. President McKinley transformed it only three years later into a tuberculosis hospital of the US Marine. In 1939, as a result of World War II, it was transformed into an internment camp for German and Japanese prisoners of war. In 1953 the Fort and more than 5km² of ground were donated to the New Mexico State Department of Public Welfare. The Fort once again became a hospital, this time specialized on disabled. In the 1990s the hospital was closed and the Fort became a New Mexico State Monument.

On the ground of Fort Stanton State Monument 12 caves are known. These caves are open to the public but only with a cave permit from the BLM Roswell Field Office. They are used by archaeologists and anthropologists from local universities to conduct studies on prehistoric Indian culture. Fort Stanton Cave is the longest cave of the park and also the third longest in New Mexico. It is also used for guided cave trekking tours. All caves in the park are closed at the moment because of White Nose Syndrome (WNS).

The operator, Fort Stanton Cave Tour, offers three different tours. Crystal Crawl is for beginners and children. Binoculars is more difficult as it inlcudes a six meter drop and crawls and tight squeezes. The Lake Room is the longest tour, which includes also crawls and climbs. Please book at least two days in advance. Tours must have at least four participants to take place. Bring four AA batteries, drinking water, hiking boots and old clothes. The rest of the equipment, helmets, headlamps, rubber boots, is provided.

The most famous feature of Fort Stanton Cave is the Snowy River, a passage with a bright white crystal calcite formation covering the bottom. It actually looks like a river of snow, only the snow consists of white crystals. Very slow moving, limestone rich ground water recrystallized the limestone into a white form of calcite. The formation is so impressive because it continually fills a passage of eight kilometers length. It is thought to be the largest calcite formation in the U.S.A., although there is actually no way to measure this. Due to the scientific importance of the Snowy River passage and the extremely fragile formations, this part of the cave is not open to the public. The PLM is planing to create interpretive products to explain the strange formation better to the public. The discovery of the huge new sections caused a sort of name change. The whole cave system is now called Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave in scientific publications, although the shorter old name still sticks.

Fort Stanton Cave was discovered and first explored by a patrol of the 1st Dragoons from Fort Stanton in 1855. The sodiers were eqipped with .44 caliber pistols belted around their waists and musketoons. They also had bulky whale oil lamps, ropes, haversacks, tin canteens. Probably not the best equipment for a cave tour. They had to learn how to patrol a cave, because Fort Stanton has been established to protect regional settlers from Plains Comanche and the nearby Mescalero Apache. The Apaches had a cave somewhere in the Guadalupe-Sacramento-Capitan mountain chain which they hold sacred. At this cave the Mountain Spirits protected some Mescaleros from certain death. The visit to Fort Stanton Cave was actually drill for the time when the sacred cave was found. The military strategy was simply to destroy this cave to demoralize the Apache. So it was logical to do some practicing inside a cave.