Kartchner Caverns

Kartchner Caverns
Inside Kartchner Caverns
October 27, 1999 -- NPR's Howard Berkes visits one of the world's least known but most extraordinary caves. Kartchner Caverns near Tucson, Arizona, was discovered 25 years ago and kept secret for 14 years. Its formations are glistening, colorful and still growing. That's rare in desert caves.

Kartchner's discoverers worried that fame would attract a stream of visitors who might damage the cave. But the cavers eventually decided the secret wouldn't hold and convinced the state of Arizona to buy the cave, develop it and protect it. That may seem like a contradiction, but Arizona State Parks has spent $28 million seeking a delicate balance between exploitation and preservation.

Discovery
At the point of discovery:
(from left: discoverers Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen; reporter Howard Berkes; (below) producer Cindy Carpien)
Next month, Kartchner Caverns State Park opens to the public as Arizona's newest tourist attraction. Howard Berkes' reports on Morning Edition detail the dramatic discovery, the unprecedented protection effort and concerns that thousands of visitors will trigger permanent damage.

audioThe Discovery of Kartchner Caverns -- The story of the two cavers who discovered Kartchner Caverns in 1974, kept their find secret for 14 years and then sought the cave's protection and development.

Kartchner Caverns
Inside Kartchner Caverns
audioProtecting and Exploiting Kartchner Caverns -- The wonders of Kartchner Caverns and the 28-million-dollar effort to develop the cave without destroying it.

audio The Kartchner Economic Boom -- Benson, Arizona, the gateway to Kartchner Caverns, struggles to find the balance between the promise of growth and the preservation of local culture and scenery.

NPR's series on Kartchner Caverns was produced by Cindy Carpien at member station KNAU in Flagstaff, Arizona.