KARTCHNER CAVERNS, Ariz. - If you have ever met a caver, they will probably tell you that if you can fit an arm and shoulder through the opening of the cave, the rest of your body is going to follow it! Luckily for the Good Morning Tucson crew, two Arizona men took care of that task at Kartchner Caverns before they had to.
In 1974, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts were exploring the limestone hills at the base of the Whetstone Mountains when they found an opening.
"They squeezed themselves through a hole, and about 400 feet of passageways later, they found themselves in the big room. They realized they were in a space that no human being had ever been in before," says Jennifer Van Horn, Park Ranger and Discovery Center Supervisor.
Kartchner Caverns has been open to the public since 1999, but for years the discovery of the cave was kept a total secret between family.
"Luckily Mr. Kartchner was a former superintendent of schools, science teacher, and bus driver. So he agreed...we need to protect this," says Van Horn.
And protecting that cave is a something the rangers at Kartchner Caverns State Park are still doing today.
"We want to educate people, but at the same time, we want to make sure that when they go out into the world and into other caves they have the memory of cave stewardship," says Van Horn.
When you're in charge of keeping a wonder of nature like this in its natural state, research plays a big role.
"What is the cave supposed to be like? What is it's normal environment like? So if that starts to change, we can determine if it's human caused, or is it a natural change that's happening," says Van Horn.
The caverns are also home to more than those mysterious stalactites and stalagmites we all love to see.
"We have more than 99 species of invertebrates found here in the cave; 16 of those are brand new to science. They have only been found here," says Van Horn.
But those who are lucky enough to call this their day job aren't done with their discoveries.
"We're always learning and I think that's something that as cave resource stewards we should be doing. Always learning and always making sure that we are protecting this resource," says Van Horn.
So whether you are a cave newbie or a novice, Kartchner Caverns has something for everyone. And that's why we made it our first stop as we continue Chartering Southern Arizona.