Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   




Underworld Wonders

There’s even more of Texas to love. It’s right under our feet.

Deep beneath the prairies, deserts and forests, we can discover astounding environments waiting to be explored. Invisible to those who walk above, these places may be a winding tunnel, a shelter for millions of bats or an underground river passage. Explored and unexplored, private and public, here are some notable Texas caves.

Bracken Cave

Bracken Cave, on the northern edge of San Antonio, is home to the world’s largest bat colony, more than 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats. Bat pups fill the walls and ceiling in summer, clustering up to 500 per square foot. Bat Conservation International purchased the land in 1992 and continues to preserve the cave’s wildlife today.

Caverns of Sonora

Internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful caves in the world, this commercially operated cave is filled with colorful formations shaped by water drippage over millions of years. When a dog chased a raccoon into an opening on Stanley Mayfield’s ranch in 1900, the cave was discovered. It’s still active; formations continue to grow today.

Fern Cave

Having one of the largest volumes of Texas caves, Val Verde County’s Fern Cave, near the Devils River, spans up to 10 million cubic feet and hosts approximately 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. The Nature Conservancy has done work to protect the cave.

Honey Creek Cave

This cave stretches over 20 miles below Comal and Kendall counties in the Hill Country, making it the longest Texas cave. Though it’s privately owned, the proprietor has allowed cave expeditions over the past 40 years. A journey through the cave requires hourlong swims and cramped crawling with limited airspace. The cave continues to be explored today.

Sorcerer’s Cave

As the deepest cave in Texas, Sorcerer’s Cave plunges approximately 560 feet into the earth in Southwest Texas. Exploring the cave takes the spelunker on a journey of twists and turns, leading to the Sirion River, which flows at the bottom. The eerie feeling in the cave, which inspired its name, has been felt by explorers over the years.

Wonder Cave

This natural cavern in San Marcos is unique not only because it’s the oldest commercially operated cave but also because of its creation. Rather than being molded by erosion, this cave was the result of an earthquake along the Balcones Fault. The cave was discovered in 1896 by Mark Beaver; it is now operated as part of an amusement park.

 Sonja Sommerfeld | TPWD

Some caves are privately owned. For publicly accessible caves, check ahead for COVID-related limits on visitation.



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