Ultimate Guide to Natural Bridge Caverns, Texas (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
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Natural Bridge Caverns is probably the most popular natural attraction in Texas. The breathtaking caves are only 30 minutes away from downtown San Antonio and are Texas’s most extensive cave system. It is the largest show cavern in Texas, formed over thousands of years.
The underground cavern tours are the main highlight here as people get a chance to look at the caverns through these tours closely. It is a state historical landmark known for its astounding beauty and should be visited whenever you are in the state.
History of Natural Bridge Caverns
In the March of 1960, four students of St Mary’s University – Orion Knox Jr, Preston Knodell, Joe Cantu, and Al Brandt – got the desired permission to explore an area now famous Natural Bridge Caverns. The four students discovered the caverns on 27th March, and on their 4th trip to the caverns, they explored a shade over a mile of passages. Further explorations revealed an additional 2 miles of passages which are now known as the North Cavern. The excavation of the entrance trail revealed the discovery of a human tooth and arrowhead that dates to 5000 BC. It is believed that early people used the uppermost parts of the cavern.
After the discovery, one of the students, Orion Knox Jr, assisted the landowner in making plans to develop the caverns as she wanted the world to see the caverns under the property. Orion approached both National Park Service and Texas Park System, but neither could help them as they did not have the required funds to meet the demands of such an endeavor.
The landowner herself decided to fund the development, and she was being assisted by Orion, who dropped out of school for the cause. The developmental work began in 1963, and work on the lights and trails continued till July 03, 1964. The cavern has been opened to visitors ever since and is operated by family members. In 1971, the Natural Bridge Caverns got registered as a US National Natural Landmark.
Geological Cave Formations
During the Caverns tour, the guide will take you to 180 ft below the surface and through different sections of the caverns, where you will get a chance to view the unusual rock formations such as stalactites, soda straws, flowstones, chandeliers, and stalagmites. The unique part is that these formations are constantly evolving and changing, and even photos taken weeks apart could be different.
The porous nature of the limestone allows the rainwater to travel downwards through the various layers of rock. Here it dissolves calcite, a weak mineral that helps form the speleothems at the Natural Bridge Caverns. After it exits the limestone, the water enters the caverns where it flows and drips consistently, causing the geological formations to retain waxy luster.
There was never an active bat colony, and only one or two bats would wander into the caverns occasionally. However, recent evidence shows that bats reside in Natural Bridge Caverns, and there are roosting areas and a collection of bat guano.
Are Natural Bridge Caverns Haunted?
Natural Bridge Caverns are not haunted by any means, and it is the most popular underground tourist attraction in Texas.
How Big are Natural Bridge Caverns?
The length of the cavern is 3/4th mile and descends 180 ft below the surface.
Natural Bridge Caverns Tours
The first-timers should always opt for the Discovery Tour. The visitors would be asked to follow a guide 180 ft below the surface through rooms filled with flowstones, soda straws, and other interesting geological formations. There are many things to see here, so do take photos of what you like to create beautiful memories.
Are you looking for a detailed tour of the caverns? You should go for the Hidden Passages Tour. It is a 70-minute excursion that would take you to the colossal chambers furnished with cave ribbons and unusually long soda straw stalactites. The guide would turn off all the lights to allow the visitors to experience the caverns in their natural state.
The Adventure Tour is more comprehensive which spreads over three hours. In this tour, you get a chance to walk through the undeveloped portions of the cavern system. You need to follow the light on your headlamp as you hike, climb, slide, and repel through the narrow sections of the cave. The tour will let you feel like the explorers who had discovered the caverns in the early 1960s. Whatever tour you choose, you will pass under the beautiful limestone bridge (60 ft) from where the Natural Bridge Caverns got its name.
Tour Prices and Discounts
The tickets prices at the Natural Bridge Caverns are:
- Adults USD 29.50
- Children USD 19
Hidden Passages Tour
- Adults USD 29.50
- Children USD 19
- USD 399 for 2 a minimum of 2 persons
The prices of different surface attractions are –
- Twisted Trails Ropes Course USD 24.99
- Twisted Tykes USD 7.99
- Clip and Climb Course USD 10
- Amaze’ Ranch Roundup USD 9.99
- Discovery Village Mining Company USD 8.99 to USD 29.99
Is Natural Bridge Caverns Cold?
The cavern tours are always available irrespective of the weather. However, some of the surface attractions can be dependent on the weather. The cavern experiences a temperature of 70 degrees F throughout the year with a relative humidity of 99%. The real – feel inside the caverns would be 80 degrees F. The majority of the visitors would be comfortable in shorts and a T-shirt while inside the cavern.
What to Wear?
Light outdoor clothing with comfortable walking shoes is highly recommended for your trip to the caverns. However, the Twisted Trails activities would require closed-heel shoes.
Natural Bridge Caverns Hours
The caverns are open from 9 am to 4 pm but is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
What to Do at Natural Bridge Caverns (Beside Tours)
Natural Bridge Caverns is a fun place in San Antonio that is perfect for all ages. There is much to see underground, but there are even better things to see and do on the surface. The adults will enjoy it, and the kids will love it.
It is the largest outdoor sky trail and sky rails course where you get to test your strength and balance in more than 50 obstacles. It has four levels of rope ladders, weave walks, double beams, and lily pads. The 60 ft tall course has one straight and seven curved ziplines covering 685 feet.
You will feel that you are on a heart-pounding roller coaster ride when you ride them. The younger kids would love the Twisted Trails Tykes course because it has many confidence-building challenges.
Natural Bridge Mining Company
If you have kids in your group, come to Natural Bridge Mining Company to uncover fossils and gems like emeralds and amethyst. Just take a bag of mining rough in the tray and dip it into the water from a wooden water tower. When you bring the tray out, you will be delighted by what you unravel.
Amaze n’ Ranch Roundup
It is a 5000 sq ft outdoor maze that has three towers and a bridge to help you through the maze.
Big Daddy’s Sweets
When you feel a bit hungry, you can come here to treat yourself to cold beer, wine, hand-dipped ice cream, and a range of tasty treats.
Cavern Café is another place where you can fill up your tummy with mouthwatering pizzas, chicken strips, and hot dogs.
A visit to Natural Bridge Caverns would be incomplete without shopping for souvenirs. It has the best collection of rocks and minerals in Texas, along with a healthy collection of fossils, shirts, and collective minerals.
Best Time to Visit
They can be visited any time, although many visitors prefer to come here in summer.
How to Get to Natural Bridge Caverns
The caverns are around 25 miles northeast of downtown San Antonio. The area is not serviced by public transport, so you need a car or a cab to reach the destination. When you are on I-35, head North and exit # 175, take a left turn on Natural Bridge Caverns Road, and the location would be at a distance of eight miles on your left.
Most of the best hotels in San Antonio are around 7 miles away. La Quinta Inn & Suites and Candlewood Suites are some of the best options. Many campgrounds are nearby, such as Stone Creek RV Park and Landa RV & Campground.
Visiting Natural Bridge Caverns
Do you need more information before visiting? Call (210) 651-6101 or email Natural Bridge Caverns for an information packet.
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