Only a short drive from San Antonio, Texas, you find yourself at the largest caverns in the Texas Hill Country, Natural Bridge Caverns. These caverns have plenty of activities for young and old to enjoy. Natural Bridge is one of Texas’ top attractions, and the U.S. government has determined that the caverns play a role in preserving the cultural history of the United States.
Natural Bridge Caverns is one of San Antonio, Texas’s most well-known and beloved historic sites. You can learn and experience more of the Texas Hill Country through the zip rails or go deep underground to see how the caverns were formed millions of years ago.
About Natural Bridge Caverns Texas
The Natural Bridge Caverns were discovered in 1960 and named for the entrance of the caverns, where a rock forms a natural bridge over the cave’s opening. The caverns are listed as a National Natural Landmark but not a United States National Park since Natural Bridge Caverns are privately owned.
However, the caverns are not the same as when they were first discovered. With all the years of activities and sightseeing, humans did what we tend to do to the area.
What is now known to be one of the largest caverns in the United States has been changed entirely to commercialize it and make it entertaining for the whole family.
Things To Do Above Ground At Natural Bridge Caverns
- Experience the views of the Texas Hill Country at 60 feet high with just a rope keeping you off the ground. The zipline is an adventure that many people come back for.
- On the Twisted Trails Tykes, your kids can have almost the same adventure but much less risky.
- If you want to test your mettle, consider doing the climbing challenge. You will soon come to know your own strength, determination, and strategic skills as you traverse each of the four vertical climbing structures.
- Learn how miners used to mine for precious minerals and gemstones at the Natural Bridge Mining Co. You can experience sifting through a pan for your own treasures to take home as souvenirs.
- Challenge a group of friends to a 5000-square-foot maze. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors will love this adventure as you try to see who finds their way out of this enormous maze first for the bragging rights of calling themselves the victor.
- You can go to many shops for snacks, sweets, and other refreshments. You can even visit Big Daddy’s to enjoy some beer or wine. The Cavern Café offers excellent meals if your appetite calls for something more substantial after all the adrenaline of the day.
Things To Experience Below Ground At Natural Bridge Caverns
As you close in on the cavern’s entrance, you see where the founders got the name Natural Bridge Caverns. As you descend into the caverns, you will stare in amazement at the rock formations formed by a river that passed through the cave system, creating cracks in the limestone that melted to form conduits.
Your tour guide will teach you more about how Texas Hill Country developed below the ground with its granite and limestone hills.
The signs are visible, with the limestone molecules slowly dripping down from the cavern’s roof due to the river flowing through cracks and crevices.
- Something you will notice in abundance throughout the cave is the flowstones. They are deposits of carbonated minerals from water flowing down from the roof and walls of the cave.
- Every step must be precise, or you may have a harsh encounter with a stone or two during all the sharp ascents and descents through the caves.
- You will have to be fit and mentally strong to complete the longest cavern trail, which takes about 19 hours. Being in cramped spaces underground for almost a full day is a great adventure, but it can be too much for some people.
- One of the flowstone formations in the cave is so spectacular that they named it The King’s Throne.
- Some of the other notable formations and rooms in the cave include:
- Grendel’s Canyon
- Pluto’s Anteroom
- The Chandelier (which can be seen in the so-called Castle of the White Giant)
- The Mount of the Landlord, which is also found in the Castle of the White Giant
- The Valley of the Fallen Lords
- The Watchtower
Discover More About The Natural Bridge Caverns
Once you arrive at the Natural Bridge Caverns, you will realize that visiting this National Natural Landmark is not a one-day event. There is so much to experience and even more to learn that a second visit might be on your bucket list before the day is done.
Facts About Natural Bridge Caverns Texas
- Location: The caverns are close to downtown San Antonio, Texas, in the region called the Texas Hill Country, hence the limestone hills and cavern formation. They are located next to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch.
- County: Comal
- Coordinates: 29041’31.16” N 98020’34.26” W
- Zip Code: 78266
- Address: 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, Natural Bridge Caverns, TX 78266
- The average temperature in July is: 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- The average temperature in January is: 63 degrees Fahrenheit
- The temperature in the caverns is: approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit constantly, no matter which season of the year you visit the caves.
The History Of Natural Bridge Caverns
Four college students discovered the Natural Bridge Caverns in 1960. They obtained permission from the land owner, Mrs. Clara Wuest-Heidemann, to explore the area, and then stumbled on the entrance to the cave.
|27 March 1960
|Joe Cantu, Al Brandt, Orion Knox Jr., and Preston Knodell Jr. attended St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and went to the privately-owned cattle ranch to see what the region offered for adventurous young college students. That’s when they discovered the entrance to the caves.
|25 March 1962
|Almost exactly two years after the discovery of the caverns, they wanted to share this discovery with the public and approached the Texas Park System and the National Park Service to find out if they were interested in developing the region into a National Park. Both state organizations decided that they didn’t have the funds.
|The development of the caverns began, and the team that helped to commercialize the caverns were Mrs. Wuest-Heidemann, Mr. Heidemann, Reggie Wuest, Orion Knox, and Jack Burch.
|Mid-1963 to 1964
|The crew continued working hard to install lights and find safe trails through the cave.
|3 July 1964
|The official opening day of Natural Bridge Caverns.
|Natural Bridge Caverns was recognized as a historic site by the state of Texas.
|The caverns were first recognized as a National Natural Landmark.
|New parts of the caves were discovered as time went on, and several more feet were of new and unexplored areas added and surveyed. These lead to the North Cavern and are now known as the Discovery Passages.
|8 May 2019
|More exploration led to the discovery of even more new areas. As the explorers move deeper into the caverns, new trails are added to the Natural Bridge Caverns. The latest discovery was over 1 600 feet of new passages and chambers.
The Archaeology Of Natural Bridge Caverns
As excavation commenced and continued, explorers first discovered grizzly bear jawbones. However, upon closer inspection, they found that this species of grizzly bear has been extinct for more than 8 000 years.
Further exploration, and the commercial development of the caves, led to the discovery of objects like spearheads and arrowheads that date back to 5 000 B.C.
As time progressed, scientists discovered that the caverns were still active and growing with the constant flow of dripping water in the caves.
The growth conditions found in the Natural Bridge Caverns give the rock formations a shiny, wax-like appearance, even though they are formed from the same limestone found all around the Hill Country region.
Natural Bridge Caverns Texas FAQ
Are There Any Bats In The Cave?
There are no colonies of bats in the Natural Bridge Caverns, but an occasional bat can find their way into the caverns, so there’s a good chance you will encounter some.
How Much Do Tickets Cost?
The Natural Bridge Caverns have six different tour packages available, and the pricing can change daily, depending on promotional pricing and how many visitors they get in a day. They recommend that you buy your tickets in advance to ensure the caverns aren’t too crowded, which can save you a bit of money.
What Should You Wear To The Caverns?
No matter what the weather conditions are outside, it does not affect the temperature or humidity underground. The caves have a constant temperature of 70 degrees, but with humidity, that makes it feel closer to 80 degrees. Especially with the continuous walking and climbing, you should ideally wear shorts with a comfortable t-shirt and sneakers since the caves have wet, steep trails.
Can We Eat At The Natural Bridge Caverns?
There is a choice between a café and a general store where you can buy an array of snacks and delectable foods, so you will have no problem finding something to eat at the caverns.
How Much Does Parking Cost At The Caverns?
It is free to park your car in the park. However, if you are driving a bigger vehicle, like a bus, semi-truck, or RV, you will have to park it on the uppermost side of the parking area, which is a bit of a walk from the cave entrance.
- New discoveries at Natural Bridge Caverns: stmarytx.edu
- FAQs about the Caverns: naturalbridgecaverns.com
- Location information about Natural Bridge Caverns: nps.gov
Christian Linden is a seasoned writer and contributor at Texas View, specializing in topics that resonate with the Texan community. With over a decade of experience in journalism, Christian brings a wealth of knowledge in local politics, culture, and lifestyle. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Texas. When he's not writing, Christian enjoys spending weekends traveling across Texas with his family, exploring everything from bustling cities to serene landscapes.