Longhorn Caverns State Park

What we did – the Wild Cave Tour

Team Adventures with BeeGee, specifically Jarrett, Linda, and David, did the Wild Cave Tour organized on January 4, 2020. 

You can watch a video of our adventures in our YouTube page:

This caving tour costs $59.40 (including taxes) per person. The tour group was a small group of eight people. If you’re a little claustrophobic, this could feel like too many people at times, given the cramped spaces everyone had to travel through. The caves are filled with varying types of dirt and debris, from dry loose dirt to slippery clay-like dirt. We had to crawl on our bellies, use our upper bodies to carry ourselves, and at times push or pull each other forward. 

Linda and David had to do all this while dealing with their claustrophobia, so at times, it was not the most pleasing experience. However, the tour guide did a good job of taking a few breaks whenever the group came across larger, cooler chambers. This gave everyone who was dealing with claustrophobia a few minutes to collect themselves and gather up the strength before moving forward.

Impressions

We liked the tour because it was a great introduction to caving with realistic expectations and outcomes. It was also not very physically challenging, although being fit did help with moving along and more easily within the caves. 

Mentally, the Wild Cave Tour was a little challenging for us beginners, David and Linda. Even though the Wild Cave Tour is limited to eight people, you are all cramped into small tight spaces, which adds to the feeling of claustrophobia. A few breathing exercises helped, and it was also a source of relief to know that there were a few spots in between the tours through which we could exit if we needed to. 

Overall, Team Adventures with BeeGee highly recommends the Wild Cave Tour for those new to caving and those in Texas itching for a place to explore underground. 

What is Longhorn Cavern State Park? 

It is a network of caves or “chambers” underneath the Texas Hill Country, home to beautiful quartz and various native animals. Longhorn Cavern State Park is located in southern Burnet County, north of Burnet, Texas. It is about an hour north of Austin, further north of Inks Lake State Park. 

Longhorn Cavern State Park does not initially stand out from the nearby terrain. What distinguishes it is its entrances to a complex network of caves created by water. Specifically, Texas Parks and Wildlife explains that the caves were created by an ancient sea that was in the center of Texas 500 million years ago and the Llano Uplift, which is when the land converged to form the small central-Texas mountains and fractures between them. The water from the sea and rain carved into the limestone and dissolved it. Thus, caves and their connecting tunnels were born. 

An entrance to an underwater lake. We had to crawl through a really tight spot to get this view.

Throughout most of its human history, most of the caves were covered by silt, debris, and guano from the Eastern Pipistrelle bats that hibernate in the caves during the winter.

The Eastern Pipistrelle bats, possibly the cutest little bats ever. It was so hard not to wake them, but don’t do it! They need to hibernate to survive!

In 1934, after the state purchased the land on which the caves are located, the Civilian Conservation Corps began the task of clearing the connections between the caves to allow civilians access to the site beneath the earth. 

Historic Visitors

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, the entrance chambers to the caves served as a refuge for pre-historic peoples hiding from the elements. Anglo settlers mined bat guano from these entry chambers during the Civil War. 

During the days of the Wild West, legends arose that Sam Bass hid $2 million in the cave and that the Texas Rangers rescued people kidnapped by the Comanche. In the 1920s one of the chambers nearest to an outside entrance served as a speakeasy. 

Old documents and a bottle found in the cave.

The 1930s saw the development of the rest of the caves for visitors to actually see their network for the first time. During the 1960s, the caves were even prepared to work as bomb shelters for President Johnson. 

Today, visitors can see the majesty of the caves by either taking a walking tour through the major chambers or booking one of the limited cave tours offered on the weekends or upon request.

What to Wear on a Tour at Longhorn Caverns State Park

Head Protection: We were not about to go crazy buying special equipment for an experience Linda and David might end up not liking, so all three of us wore bicycle helmets. 

Lights: We all wore headlights normally use for running.

Clothing: We all wore long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants. Although you might be tempted to use a light jacket at the beginning of the tour, we guarantee you will get warm during your tour, so just wear light clothing that covers your arms and legs. 

Knee-Pads: Jarrett had styrofoam-like knee pads, Linda had some softer knee pads that had two attachments to the knees, and David wore volleyball knee pads. Given the scratches on Linda’s legs at the end of the tour, we’d advise you to go with either the styrofoam or volleyball knee pads if you can. If you are a beginner, you do not have to spend a lot of money on these. Just go to your local hardware store and you will find plenty of options. 

Shoes: David wore tennis shoes and was fine. Linda wore her  Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid Mesh Hiking Shoes hiking boots with ankle-support, which helped her maintain traction in a few slippery spots. Jarrett wore similar hiking shoes, though he wore the tennis shoe version of the Altras. 

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