As the Summer temps begin to climb Texans generally begin to head for the lakes, rivers, creeks and Gulf shores of Texas. But there is another way of getting cool in the Lone Star State -- spelunking, or just casual cave adventuring.
Texas is blessed with some of the nations most interesting "show" caves and thousands of "wild" caves throughout the state.
Because of the varying geographical regions and features of Texas, you could literally tour the entire state by jumping from cave to cave.
,In fact the Edwards Plateau is one of the largest yet understudied Karst regions in the nation, and there are over 130 caves that have been discovered within this area with many more yet to be fully explored.
For those unfamliar with geological terminology, Karst refers to a type of terrain usually formed on carbonate rock (limestone and dolomite), where groundwater has solutionally- enlarged openings to form a subsurface drainage system, creating large cave areas in the process. In short, beautiful sub-tropical caves with large and interesting rooms, most with flowing water somewhere within the cavern.
For casual cave explorers and families and seniors, touring Texas'best "show" caves is a good option for cool summertime fun. There are seven outstanding "show" caves to choose from and visiting one or several of these caves is a great addition to your summer vacation travel plans.
The Magnificent Seven
This is the largest commercial cave in Texas and is still growing. Open year round with many special events held throughout the year like their unique Christmas Caroling in the Caverns program. However, Summer is the most popular time to visit the caverns. Natural Bridge Caverns is located between San Antonio and New Braunfels 8 miles west of I-35. The general tour is about 1 1/2 hours long and there is even a "wild" caving opportunity for those on the more adventurous side.
You may never want to leave this cave with it's perfect year round temperature of 68 degrees and beautiful 100 ft. water fall. The Caverns are located just outside of San Antonio near Boerne Texas off of I-10. The cave has a beautiful and romantic tale associated with it, the makings of a hollywood movie, read all about it and put the cave on your must see list.
This is one of the few river formed caverns within the state and has an interesting history dating back to the Comanche Indians and to its use during the civil war. Apparently, it was a Confederate stronghold where gunpowder was manufactured in secret during the Civil War. Today it is one of the most visited caverns in the state and is a part of the state park system. Located in Burnet County, Texas, just six miles west of U.S. Hwy. 281,on Park Road 4.
Wonder World Park is a Texas State Historical Site and the only earthquake formed cave in the nation. The tour begins with the Balcones fault line cave. The Balcones fault line is still an active fault line though most visitors to the Lone Star state would not think of Texas when they think of earthquakes. Like no other cave, the unique descent through the middle of an ancient earthquake, is an awesome adventure. The park has several other attractions for family activities like a wildlife park, anti-gravity house, observation tower and fun shopping experience the Mexico World Market. The park is located in the San Marcos, Texas city limits - one mile off I-35.
In 1963 during the construction of Texas first highway a construction crew discovered this enormous cavern system located directly below the highway. There are areas of the cave that are still being discovered today. The rooms in this cave more than any other in Texas have a surreal other worldly feel to them and remind you of what a glorious and rich geological history Texas has. The caverns are located 20 miles north of Austin off of I-35, they offer general tours as well as two "wild" cave tours for adventure travelers.
The Caverns of Sonora are listed as a Natural/National Landmark and is one of the most actively growing caves in the world with more than 90% of its geological features still forming. Professionally explored in the 1950's, 7 miles of passage was discovered and today only 2 miles of the trail are open to the public. The Caverns of Sonora are located just 8 miles west of Sonora Texas off of I-10.
Some say this is the most beautiful cave in Texas is located just 12 miles outside of Boerne, Texas. This cave is also still growing and offers an easy tour of 6 beautiful rooms with beautiful and delicate formations highlighted by colorful lighting...the temp...a cool 66 degrees year round!
If you have an interest in spelunking in Texas there are plenty of "grotto"(caving clubs) to join. While you may have an adventurous spirit please be aware that spelunking is a dangerous sport, unfortunately since 1960, twenty people have lost their lives in caving incidents in Texas. So take the time to get trained and involved with a group and never go caving alone. The grottos of the Texas Speleological Association (TSA) have training programs to teach newcomers how to cave safely within the state.
So whether your the adventurous type or just seeking out a new way to stay cool in the Lone Star State...go underground...keep it cool with caving!