Longhorn Cavern: My journey to the center of the Earth.

Last week I discovered Longhorn Caverns. Rather, I learned about it, somebody else discovered the cave and hiking trail centuries ago. I also discovered it is an excellent, and cheap, day trip for the active-minded.

I was surprised I hadn’t heard of LC before, because I thought I was familiar with most of the natural attractions around Austin; Hamilton Pool, Enchanted Rock, the Walmart at 35 and Ben White, etc. When I got there I saw not very many college students seemed to have heard of it, because my girlfriend and I were just about the only people there under 30.

Not only were there old people, but there were kids, lots and lots and lots of kids. While waiting in line, I spoke with some parents and asked why they brought their children on a 90 minute tour, which I thought was a bit strenuous for young children. Most parents were weirded out a stranger asked about their kids, I think they have been drinking some of the same stranger danger Kool-Aid they feed their kids.

The parents who didn’t treat me like a serial killer said their kids were on spring break too and they thought it would be a fun family adventure, since there’s nothing kids love more than walking around for 90 minutes learning about the geology and history of a cave.

If you ask me, their being there had less to do with kids having fun and more to do with getting the them good and tired so they don’t bug the parents at night.

I digress, because the tour really was fun. They tours sold-out quickly, so before you make the drive call the office and ask about the wait. We got tickets to the last tour, and easily could have missed that one. After getting tickets we had 2 hours to kill before the tour, so we checked out the hiking trail. At about a mile, the trail is a perfect length. It is also definitely a hike, with different terrains and beautiful scenery, but at a little over a mile it didn’t make us too tired for the cave tour.

After the hike we descended down 55 stairs into the cave for our tour. Most of the tour was about the cave’s history, which is very interesting.

Confederate soldiers made gunpowder in the cave during the Civil War, however the cave’s humidity caused the powder to explode, so they just used it for storage.

Legendary (so I’m told) bank robber Sam Bass hid his loot in the cave, and it was never accounted for after he died. Its not in the cave, I looked everywhere.

Most interestingly, a local man turned the cave into a speak-easy to serve contraband booze during prohibition. This wasn’t just a small, under the radar joint either it was a legit night club* complete with a dance floor, multiple bars, a house band, and even some bleachers for people to pass out on. Men paid about twenty cents for admission, and women got in free. Times sure have changed huh?

During the depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps cleared the area into a tourist-friendly park it is today.

Decades later, President Lyndon Johnson made the cave his designated Texas fallout shelter, in case there was a nuclear attack while he was at his ranch, which is near by.

We learned about this history all while seeing beautiful landscapes within the cave. I apologize for the lack of visual graphics, they do not allow photography inside the cave, and there are not pictures of the park because apparently cameras need batteries these days?

Today the cave is operated by the Texas Parks and Wild Life Department. In addition to tours, people also rent out the cave for weddings and private parties.

So if you’re interested in history or just enjoy walking around, take a day trip to Longhorn Caverns.

*On your way back stop by the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls and order a slice of the coconut cream pie, it is amazing.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Kyle Carpenter on March 28, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    As an avid caver myself, I say kudos for checking this place out. It’s actually not a bad cave, and it’s story makes it interesting. Also kudos for not going to Wonder World, which among Central Texas spelunkers is believed to be so-named because you “wonder why you went” when you’re done.

    If you want a real gem, drive 45 minutes south of Austin and check out Natural Bridge, “Texas’ Largest and Most Spectacular Underground Attraction.” This is the point where I admit that I’ve worked at Natural Bridge for 6 years, including 85 hours during this Spring Break… But nonetheless, I still enjoy going into the cave every day because it’s mystical to me.

    Also, regarding the tours selling out, this may be because you went on Spring Break. I know for Natural Bridge Caverns, we had our three busiest days ever over last week. It is usually the busiest time of the year, as many see it as a family/educational experience while out of school.

    Reply

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