Please see our Cave Tours page for information.
Fire restrictions in place: no wood or charcoal fires. No smoking except in an enclosed vehicle - propane is allowed. Cave tours, restrooms and cabins will be closed from September 20-24 for maintenance; only self-contained RVs allowed.

Kartchner Caverns Writing Contest

The Special Summer Writing Contest opens May 15! 

Sharpen your pencils, underground explorers! Kartchner Caverns wants to hear YOUR story, from the stalagmites to the stalactites!

The dark silence and dripping formations of caves have captured the imaginations of writers, poets, and even scientists throughout the centuries. Finding its way into many stories and folktales, the cave has served as a place of mystery, fear, wonder, or refuge for any character who dared venture inside. Now, the legacy of caves in literature continues with you.

Summer 2021 Prompt

To celebrate the return of the Rotunda/Throne Room Tour, the Summer 2021 Writing Contest will feature the king of our cave, Kubla Khan!

Write a short story or poem that features Kartchner Cavern’s signature formation, the column Kubla Khan. The work may explore any theme the author wishes so long as Kubla Khan plays an important part in the piece. 


  • 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)
  • 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 July 15, 2021.

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 Zia
(520) 586-4117


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.