The lower loop campground restroom will be closed starting at 2 p.m. April 23 until further notice.


Please excuse our mess. We are working hard to make future improvements to the Kartchner Caverns campground. Several areas are under construction and there may be construction noises as early as 7:00 a.m.


Please see our Cave Tours page for information on how to prepare for your visit. 

Kartchner Caverns Writing Contest

The Fall 2022 Submissions Are Now Closed

Attention, Underground Explorers! It's time to sharpen your pencils, warm up those keyboards and unleash your creative imagination! Kartchner Caverns wants to read YOUR story or poem from the stalagmites to the stalactites!

The dark hollow silence and the dripping, flowing, pooling, seeping and condensing formations of caves have inspired and captured the imaginations of writers, poets, and even scientists from around the world throughout the centuries. Finding its way into many stories and folktales, caves have served as a place of mystery, solace, fear, wonder, and even refuge for any character who dared set foot inside. Now, the legacy of caves in literature continues with you.

Fall 2022 Prompt

Write a short story or poem in which a cave(s) plays a prominent role in the work. The nature of the role is up to the author, but its prominence must be obvious. If the surface setting of Kartchner Caverns State Park inspires you more, then you are welcome to have the desert grassland habitat play the prominent role instead but must include the cave or caverns in some aspect.


  • Any genre is welcome EXCEPT for historical fiction based on the discovery story. That story has already been written, and no fictional representation of any of the people involved will be published without their permission.
  • One entry per author (i.e. either one poem or one story, not one of each)
  • Poems should have a minimum of 25 words (with the exception of haiku) with a maximum of 250 words.
  • Short stories should be a minimum of 400 to a maximum of 800 words.
  • Serious themes or ideas may be explored, but entries must remain family friendly (i.e. PG). Any entry not deemed suitable to showcase in our Discovery Center will not be considered.
  • Deadline to submit is November 30, 2022.
  • All submissions must be in .docx format. Handwritten submissions, or even submissions in another digital format such as .pdf, will not be accepted.

After You’ve Submitted:

  • A panel of rangers and volunteers will read all the entries and are responsible for deciding the winners of the contest.
  • The number of winners will also be decided by the panel based on factors such as number and variety of entries.
  • Winners will receive three cave tour tickets and have their work showcased both online and as a physical copy in our Discovery Center!


Please direct questions, comments, or concerns to our contact ranger:

Ranger Susan Chappel
(520) 586-4117

Fall 2022 Winners

Poetry Winners

1st Place: Kartchner Caverns by Alexis S. (7th grade)

Read Alexis S. poem.

2nd Place: Mystery History of the Cave by A. Poole (Adult Teacher)

Read A. Poole's poem.

Short Stories

1st Place: Adventures of Prince Papi by Miah A. (8th Grade)

Read Miah's story.

2nd Place: Sunlight Caverns by Sequoia A. (8th Grade)

Read Sequoia's story.

Honorable Mentions for aspiring young writers:

Cave Story by Joshua J. (2nd grade)

Cave Story by Luka A. (2nd grade)

Spring 2022 Winners

Poetry Winners

Kartchner Caverns Sonnet by Jillian B.

I am a student in Phoenix, Arizona. I visited Kartchner Caverns in 3rd grade and it was an amazing experience to see the hand of time and the forces of nature present throughout the cavern.

Read Jillian's poem.

Brighter than a Star by Manya T.

My name is Manya T., I am 13 years old, and I go to Great Hearts Academy. My hobbies include singing, playing piano, cooking and baking, and writing and reading. I love writing and I have been doing it since I was 5. I love to singing and I have been singing for a very long time. I help my parents out in the kitchen every now and then, and I recently started learning piano.

Read Manya's poem.

Short Stories Winners

Clean Your Cave by Travis C.

I am a 9th grader from Tucson. I spend my free time gaming and volunteering as a Trail Steward at Arthur Pack Regional Park. I hope to become an aerospace engineer.

Read Travis' story.

Sloth by Dawson Hollingsworth

I am a biology graduate student.

Read Dawson's story.

Fall 2021 Winners

Poetry Winners

Dripping by Kole S. 

Kole is a 5th grade student and aspiring poet.

Read Kole's poem.

Kartchner Cavern by Dixie G.

Triumphant Learning Center; 8th grade.

Read Dixie's poem.

Untitled Poem by Karma J.

Triumphant Learning Center; 6th grade.

Read Karma's poem.

When Water Hits Limestone by Kent O.

I'm Kent. I'm 10. I love space, fishing, swim team, classical music and travel.

Read Kent's poem.

Kartchner by Marie Kateri Anderson

A retired UofA Wildcat, who travels with her husband, Lee, and enjoys playing with words.

Read Marie's poem.

The Poem of the Cave by Ed O.

I'm Ed. I'm 8. I love building things, exploring nature and riding my bike. I'm very hard working and determined.

Read Ed's poem.

Play Winner

Untitled Play by Courtney L. 

I am a ten year old girl, and I am a descendant of James Kartchner. I wrote a short story instead of a play because I want to be an actress when I am older. I hope you enjoyed my play.

Read Courtney's play.

Short Stories Winners

The Discovery of the Last Ground Sloth by Doron M. 

I am nine years old and was born in Los Angeles, CA, then I moved to New Jersey and now I live in Tucson. I like turtles, caves and swimming.

Read Doron's story.

What Happens When Kubla Khan Gets Removed by Laila T. 

I am 10 in 4th grade. In my free time I ride horses, and play softball. My favorite food is sushi, and I love all animals.

Read Laila's story.

The Story of Anit Arac Cave by E. Arias 

Pima Butte Elementary School; 5th grade.

Read E. Arias' story.

Untitled Short Story by De'Anthony C.

Pima Butte Elementary School; 4th grade.

Read De'Anthony's story.


Summer 2021 Winners

Poetry Winner

When you Wish Upon a Stalactite by Jennifer Priest Mitchell

Jennifer Priest Mitchell is a native of Ohio who now lives in Arizona's Valley of the Sun. She enjoys writing, as well as baking and hiking. Her favorite inspirations are her husband, son, daughter and three busy dogs. Jennifer's "day job" is working as a Coordinator at Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix.

Read Jennifer's poem.

Short Story Winner

Star of The Caverns by Kaylan Deering 

I am a 13 year old homeschool student. I love writing, drawing, and learning. I live on a small farm and love to watch the goats antics. I am the oldest of 4 siblings who love the outdoors. I hope to grow in writing and enjoy creating stories.

Read Kaylan's story.

Spring 2021 Winners

Poetry Winners

Cave of Contrition by Rebekah Roberts Cothran, Gallatin, Tenn.

I have worked as a probation officer in a rural county close to Nashville, TN for the last 7 years. Prior to that, I worked as a victim advocate for a domestic violence shelter, a caterer, and a faux finish artist. My passions are the natural world, books and cooking. Visiting our nation's parks is an obsession, and I am perpetually planning my next trip. Creative writing has been an outlet for me since the 4th grade, and nothing has inspired my writing more than my experiences in the outdoors. I consider those experiences to be incredible blessings.

Read Rebekah's poem.

I AM ALIVE! by Ken Hartz, Green Valley, Ariz.

A retired public school educator, he lived and volunteered winters at KCSP from 2001 to 2013. His duties ranged from Campground Host, to Front Desk, to Day Captain, and to on park EMT. He thoroughly enjoyed the interactions among the public, staff, volunteers, and the cave itself.

Read Ken's poem.

Abandoned Kingdom by Marjani Taylor, Phoenix, Ariz.

Marjani Taylor is a graduate of Stanford University where she earned a B.A. in African and African American Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. Over the years, she has called both the desert of Arizona and the volcanoes and glaciers of Iceland her home. After playing four years of professional soccer in Iceland, she returned home to Arizona where she now works as a writer. Her poem is inspired by the quiet majesty of the Throne Room at Kartchner Caverns.

Read Marjani's poem.

Short Story Winners

Samantha and Jasper by Rachel Culp, Chino Valley, Ariz.

I have lived in Chino Valley, AZ for ten years. I plan to make Arizona my home for the remainder of this life. Although, I have written stories for over twenty five years. I have just recently chosen to start sharing my writing with the public. I hope my imaginative stories will entertain readers of all ages.

Read Rachel's story.

Fall 2020 Winners

Poetry Winners

How Thoughts Caverns Form by Nicholas Sollitto, Asheville, N.C.

Nicholas Sollitto is a creator, writer, and biologist whose blood is accompanied by black murky water, lily reeds, and river rocks. His writing is a direct product of time spent under the watch of grand evergreens, on the swift current of back-country rivers, and conversing with the ebb and flow of isolated beaches. The work of his that is included here peels back the deciduous bark that protects his being.

Read Nicholas's poem.

Climbing by Mel Bynum, Tombstone, Ariz.

Mel Bynum is a 2004 Graduate of Kent State University, a wife, and mother to two adult sons.

Read Mel's poem.

Short Story Winners

A Paradise in A Cave by Claire Martin, Queen Creek, Ariz.

My name is Claire Martin and I am 11 years old. I wrote this story because I think it will inspire young kids to dream big and imagine. I can imagine this as a picture book with a cartoon character and a whole bunch of stalagmites and stalactites. I live in Queen Creek, AZ with my mom, dad, two sisters, and dog, I've grown up with lots of love in my household. Everybody deserves this love and can get it in their dreams.

Read Claire's story.

Sisters Under the Skin by E.C. Stever, Salmon, Idaho

Eric Stever writes Science Fiction and Fantasy, and lives along the River of No Return in Idaho. His work has been published in many speculative fiction magazines, and his first novel was nominated for Idaho's Book of the Year. He got the idea for this caving short story after a very muddy cave trip in Central Nevada where he found three different cowboy boots stuck in the mud.

Content warning: language, disturbing imagery 

Read Eric's story.

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