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America’s wild spaces - Part 9 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

CARLSBAD CAVERNS is in the state of New Mexico and has an area of 189 sq km.

This is the place to go for spelunking and bat tours, it was created in 1930.

Carlsbad Caverns is a wet spelunking, bat tours wilderness that is hidden deep beneath the desert. It is made up of 119 prehistoric caves and was forged around the Ice Age when sulphuric acid sizzled through the limestone, creating stalactites, stalagmites and seemingly impossible rock formations. It also just happened to create the perfect ecosystem for thousands of cave crickets and 17 species of bat. Plan a visit for dusk to see and feel the bat exodus, as they emerge from their dark hiding place to feed. Three of the caves are open to the public. Slaughter Canyon and Spider Cave are both relatively underdeveloped and not nearly as nightmare-inducing as their names suggest. Visitors can hike along the wet and muddy trails into the caves or take a lift, while the more adventurous can pothole past transparent pools and cave pearls, or rappel through minuscule gaps. Now for those who really fancy a deep thrill, there’s a selection of wild cave tours with no trails or lights.

The park is open year-round. So plan your visit for either desert wildflowers which bloom March to April and October to November or the best bat flights which are in July and August. You can fly into Albuquerque for a driving tour of this diverse state. Head to the Chihuahuan Desert for the world’s largest field of blinding white sand dunes and to supernatural Roswell for a UFO tour. New Mexico is renowned for its clear skies too, so expect really good stargazing.

ISLE ROYALE is in the state of Michigan and has an area of 2314 sq km. with the main isle being 535 sq km making it the fourth largest lake island in the world. It opened in 1940.

This is the place to go for canoeing, camping and wolves. The car-less and virtually untouched wilderness of Isle Royale, which floats in the north-west corner of Lake Superior, is officially the least visited national park of the mainland US states. There are a couple of camp stores and a lodge, but otherwise, this island is given over to forest, inland lakes, bogs and wildlife. Just getting there by boat or seaplane is half the fun. Exploring is best by canoe or kayak, using the basic campsites that you find. The park comprises not just Isle Royale but 450 smaller islands, plus numerous bays and waterways; navigating these reveals secret beaches and coves plus wading moose, otters, ducks and more, it’s not uncommon to hear wolves howl. Those who don’t want to paddle can take guided boat trips from Rock Harbour from June to September. You can head off on a hike as there are short routes, or try the 64 km Greenstone Ridge Trail, which follows the island’s spine.

The park is open Mid-April to the end of October. July and August are the busiest with mosquitoes at the worst June and early July. Fall colours can be impressive. Boats and seaplanes for Isle Royale leave from Houghton and Copper Harbour in Michigan and Grand Portage, Minnesota.

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