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How Accessible Is Accessible: Lehman caves

Photography By Denise Vasquez ©2023

Imagine being able to experience the underground world that began developing over 500 million years ago! While doing research for my recent travels up North, I read about the longest cave system in the state of Nevada called Lehman Caves.

It looked so spectacular, I wanted to experience it for myself, but I had so many questions about Accessibility! Did they offer accessible tours and if so, How Accessible Is Accessible?

I am so happy to report the park staff at the Lehman Cave information center were very friendly, informative and happy to answer all of my questions!

Photography By Denise Vasquez ©2021

If you’re like me, love traveling, learning, and exploring, this place is a must, and I’m not the only one who feels this way! Did you know they have been doing tours in the cave since 1885? Tours to the cave are seasonal and do sell out regularly, but the good news is I was able to use my ACCESS PASS (If you don’t know about the Access Pass, click HERE to read about it) to get 50% discount, and I was able to go on a tour that was sold out. Be aware that Access Pass and Senior Pass holders are entitled to a 50% discount on cave tour tickets for the cardholder only. Also, always check with the park because tour scheduling is affected by staffing.

Photography By Denise Vasquez ©2023

The cave is a home to bats, so they have a mandatory White Nose Syndrome Screening in order to contribute to the bat population safety. The screening is pretty quick and don’t worry, I saw two bats during the tour, and they were so tiny, sleeping and far away from me, that if the volunteer behind me didn’t point them out, I would never have seen them!

Photography By Denise Vasquez ©2023

They went over a list of rules and as soon as the mention of regular crouching being required to navigate smaller passages on the tour route, I let them know that I would only be doing the accessible part of the tour, which is only in the first room in the cave. I had to leave my backpack and camera bags in the car, which is something I never do, but no bags are allowed in the cave. This rule includes backpacks, camera bags, purses, fanny packs, phone hip holsters, or back mounted baby carriers. Front mounted baby carriers are allowed and available in small numbers for loan at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center.

They noticed my Telephoto Zoom lens on one of my cameras, and informed me big lenses were not allowed in the cave, so luckily I had smaller lenses for both my cameras. My man Randy carried one of my cameras, and I carried the other. I also had to leave my water bottle and snacks in the car because no foods, liquids, water, chewing gum, tobacco products, vapes, or other contaminants are allowed inside the cave environment. The temperature in the cave is around 52ºF (11ºC), so I was so glad I wore a light jacket! Claustrophobia can easily set in while exploring, due to the tight spaces, but don’t worry! You have the option of leaving if you or any members of your group feel uneasy, just let a park staff member know. And the most important rule of course is no touching! It really is common sense, but they obviously have it listed as a rule for good reasons!

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

The Tour is rated “easy to moderate”, but when it’s rated like this I have to ask easy to moderate for whom? We are all unique and everyone has different abilities. So when I report what I discover, I have to make it clear that I am writing from my perspective, from my personal abilities and my personal experience on the tour. My disabilities include CRPS, Chronic Pain, and an Achilles Tendon Injury, so upon entering the cave I found myself holding onto the handrail (shown in above photo) with my right hand, and onto my boyfriend who was in front of me with my left hand as we ventured down a narrow deep dark slope. I stayed in the back of the group with only the volunteer behind me so I could be mindful of my body and my steps while going slow and taking my time. The slope was a little steep for me & I was walking. I tried to imagine how I would’ve felt going down this slope using my wheelchair, and my boyfriend who’s pushed me around in my wheelchair, many times and in many situations like this one over the years, we both agreed that the slope would be a little steep for a wheelchair as well. I feel it’s also important to mention that because we were in a cave, the ground was wet, which could be a little slippery in some areas. I was wearing my Waterproof Columbia hiking boots, which I have to say helped me feel grounded while getting to the bottom of the slope into the first room where I remained for the rest of the accessible part of the tour.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

Upon entering the Gothic Palace, I was totally mesmerized by the geological wonder that surrounded me. The park ranger led us back in time, and did a great job telling us about the history, and how water created the development of the magnificent caves. From sediments settling at the bottom of a warm shallow sea, to shifting of rock layers that pressed and heated the limestone forming marble, to the rain and snow melting down into the caves while dripping for centuries creating cave formations, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and also talked about the stregnth of the helictites that appear to defy gravity the way they hang.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

After the ranger’s wonderful show and tell in the Gothic Palace, another staff member came to meet with Randy & I while the rest of the group made their way into the next room. I photographed some of the formations in the room that stood out to me and then we slowly made our way back from which we came, up the steep slope.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023


*They have Accessible Parking in front of The Lehman Caves Visitor Center and from the parking lot

*There is an ADA wheelchair-accessible ramp up to the entrance of the The Visitor Center which has button-activated automatic doors.

*They also have an ADA accessible ungendered restroom, with button-activated automatic door at the front of the Visitor Center (CLICK HERE to See the reel @DisabledPhotographerProject on Instagram)

*Their exhibits are made to be reachable from a wheelchair and have tactile elements.

*They have some benches in front of and behind the Visitor Center

*Entrance Tunnels to Lehman Caves are historic and on their website they say are not accessible. As I mentioned above Wheelchairs may fit, but steep grades are present and make the journey strenuous. If you are using a wheelchair, check with a ranger to see if entering the cave is recommended. If staffing allows, rangers may let you preview the entrance route prior to your tour. Ranger staff are unable to assist with propelling wheelchairs. Be prepared to access the cave under your/your groups own power.

*If you don’t want to venture inside the cave, below the Lehman Caves Visitor Center is the Historic Orchard boardwalk. This area has a bench and interpretive signs about the historic orchard from the early days of the cave's development.

This photo experience is part of my Disabled Photographer Project & “How Accessible Is Accessible” ongoing series that began over 3 years ago.

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