BENSON — The public is invited to an all-day event Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Kartchner Caverns State Park.
Considered the San Pedro Valley and the region’s “Crown Jewel,” the caverns were discovered in 1974 by Gary Tennen and Randy Tufts, who then kept them a secret for more than 10 years.
In November 1999, Kartchner Caverns State Park officially opened to the public, offering tours through caves beneath the Whetstone Mountains, camping, and education.
Saturday’s extravaganza boasts a host of family-friendly activities, state parks officials said. The celebration will feature family-friendly activities throughout the day, to include solar viewing from the Huachuca Astronomy Society, who will be there until 9 p.m.,reptiles, geology activities for kids, and State Parks mascot Rocky Ringtail. Kids can also join the Jr. Ranger program and learn about the other state parks or learn more about what it takes to preserve a special cave like Kartchner Caverns.
Trails through the caves were developed and built by hand, using no heavy equipment, to preserve the caves and limit disruption to the environment. The trails are wheelchair accessible, and the caverns are in nearly the same condition today as it was when it was discovered.
“Arizona State Parks and Trails has worked to protect and conserve the caves for 20 years, all while keeping them accessible to visitors,” said Executive Director Bob Broscheid. “With help from our community partners, we’re able to showcase this incredible attraction to more than 125,000 people per year.”
A guided hike will be offered at 1 p.m. on the Ocotillo Trail. Rangers will showcase how to use the iNaturalist app to record nature observations on the park. The hike will begin at the group ramada.