Natural Bridge Caverns Explorers Access Unseen Passages
The Texas Hill Country’s natural beauty emanates from spring-fed streams that carve through the soft limestone, creating caves and sinkholes and honeycombed pathways back down to the aquifer. Karst is the name for this magical intertwining of surface water and ground water. Two million residents rely on the karst aquifers as their sole water supply.
To celebrate the International Year of Caves and Karst, Natural Bridge Caverns (north of San Antonio) has been hosting events and releasing monthly educational videos about how to protect caves and karst. They’ll cap it off with Christmas at the Caverns in December.
CEO and third-generation cave custodian Brad Wuest says that millions of visitors to Natural Bridge Caverns are often learning about caves and karst for the first time. While today’s visitors can enjoy the still-growing stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones, chandeliers and soda straws, tomorrow’s guests may see even more as exploration continues.
“It’s amazing to think that Natural Bridge Caverns was discovered in the 1960s and we still have not found the end of the cavern system,” Wuest says.
The original explorers’ progress was halted at the massive Dome Pit, a room 60 feet wide and 120 feet tall. The room was considered impossible to cross, though cavers longingly gazed upon a passageway visible on the other side. In May 2019, an expert dome climber, the late Lee White, scaled the wall to the other side and established a way up for others.
“That passage has led to more passages that have led to spectacular chambers,” Wuest says. “So far, there’s no end in sight.”
The payoff for cavers’ exhaustive explorations — sometimes lasting nearly 24 hours — is to see ancient bat roosts (7,500 years old) and pristine caverns no human has witnessed.
“It’s just an incredible, humbling experience,” he says.
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Rushton Skinner Bennett Lee
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