MY FAMILY AND I WERE SPECIAL GUESTS AT LONGHORN CAVERN STATE PARK BUT ALL OPINIONS ARE OUR OWN.
Every time I saw pictures of Longhorn Cavern, I felt like I would be walking on the underground river with imaginary water surrounding me when I go there. The cave looks beautifully sculpted, as if flowing smoothly to the mysterious end.
After a long year of waiting, we finally made it to Longhorn Cavern SP on Labor Day. We arrived slightly after the 10.30 a.m. tour left, so we used our time to visit the original administration building built by the Civilian Conversation Corps Company in 1937 and did some shopping at the souvenir shop.
Our cave Walking Tour began at 11.00 a.m., led by a retired geologist, Mr. Al ‘Jarreau’. I looked around and realized we were a big group. There were at least 20 people in the group. Hmm… Mr. Jarreau said, if we came last week, there were only 4 people. Lucky them! But we came on Labor Day, so I couldn’t expect small number of tourists there.
Before we walked to the cave entrance, he warned us that we would walk through a passage with height less than 5 feet called Lumbago Alley, where we had to bent down and walked for a few yards. So, people with back problem must think again before we continued the tour. Well, seems that nobody had a problem.
Longhorn Cavern Walking Tour
My feeling was right. Longhorn Cavern called a flow cave, because over many years running water that penetrated the limestone bedrock formed the cave. That’s why it’s much more sculpted and has a very long fairly level.
Our first stop was not far from the entrance where we saw one of the cave’s resident: Eastern Pipistrelle, the tri-color bat. They are very small, with size just a bit bigger than an adult thumb. We’re not allowed to take picture with flashlight since it would wake them up from their sleep. They looked cute though. “Mommy, can I have a bat for a pet?” whispered my son. Oh, no. Bats are not pets.
Then we continued and stopped at the Crystal City, where glittering calcite crystals line both sides of the wall. There are two passages that we could walk through to see these glittering calcite.
Next, we met Rocky Rockweiller, also known as the Queen’s Watchdog. He is the cave’s pet dog. Geologist estimate Rocky is 2 million years old and is naturally formed by erosion. The CCC guys found him further inside but put him on this place. Back in the 1950s, people who visited the cave used to sit on him. But today it’s prohibited.
In addition to that, we saw three other main rooms in this cave: the Indian Council Room, the Underground Ballroom, and the Hall of Gems which is easily becoming visitors’ favorite with wall to wall glittering calcite, with size as big as an adult’s head.
This 90 minutes walking tour took us to 135 feet deep into the earth. I have a minor claustrophobia, but it didn’t bother me at all. The air was moving, lights illuminating different points of interesting rock formation, making inside the cave is not totally dark.
At one point deep in the cave, the tour guide turned off the light to give us the feeling of total dark when the CCC guys walked into this cave. Then he turned on his flashlight and pointed to a wall to give us idea how “bright” was the cave when they worked with only lantern as the source of light, digging and removing more than 2.5 million cubic yards of debris and guano from the cave. But don’t worry. The guide told us what he’s going to do, so the ones whose afraid of the dark could prepare themselves.
With the temperature inside at 68 degrees year-round, this cave is a great retreat from the Texas summer heat and winter cold. But you need to watch your step because lots of slippery spots.
Longhorn Cavern: History and Legend
- Comanche tribes used to conduct meetings at the Indian Council Room and trapped horses in the cavern.
- Confederate soldiers used the endless supply of guano to make gun powder and stored them here.
- During Prohibition in 1920s, the cavern turned to a night club.
- During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created a program called the Civilian Conservation Corps. Thanks to the men who cleared out the cavern with shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows, we now can visit the cavern and enjoy it in comfort.
- The outlaws sometimes lived here and legend has it that Sam Bass, the Texas infamous outlaw, hid $2 million in the cave. The money has yet to be discovered.
Longhorn Cavern Basic Information
- No entrance fee to Longhorn Cavern State Park. Everyone can use the picnic facilities, picnic pavilion, visit the historic building, and hike the trails for free.
- Access to the underground portions of the park by paid guided tour only.
- There are 3 guided tours: Walking Tour, Wild Cave Tour, and Photography Tour.
- Entrance fees for Walking Tour are as follows:
Adults (18+) …………………………………. $16
Military (with ID)/Seniors (60+) ……. $15
Teens (13-17) ……………………………….. $15
Kids (2-12)……………………………………… $12
Children under age 2 …………………….. FREE
- Hours of Operation:
Weekdays: 9 am to 5 pm
Cavern Walking Tours are every hour from 11 am to 3 pm*
Weekends: 9 am to 6 pm
Cavern Walking Tours are every hour from 10 am to 4 pm*
*Tour times are subject to change
- Receive Special Group Rate for a group of 20 or more people.
- Snack bar next to Tickets & Information booth.
- There’s a Gift Shop, too.
- Texas State Park passholders receive 10% discount on tours, merchandise, and food. However, discounts do not apply to group rates or sale items.
- For all park information click here or call 512-715-9000.
Location: 6211 Park Road 4 S, Burnet, TX 78611.
Tips for Visitors:
- Wear comfortable, closed-toes, rubber-soled shoes.
- No online reservation for individual or group of less than 20 people for Walking Tour. Tickets are available at the front desk based on first-come first-served.
- No facilities inside the cave, so be sure to use the restroom or fill up a water bottle before the tour start.
- Go during low season for a small group of people in the Walking Tour.
- Gratuities are not included in your ticket price, so don’t forget to tip the tour guide to show your appreciation since they worked hard to give you a fun experience.
LONGHORN CAVERN STATE PARK HISTORIC BUILDING
As I mentioned above, we visited the original administration building built by the CCC in1937, located right next to the new one. We were just impressed with their work. Here are pictures from the historic building.
As usual, we always reminded our son about what is CCC, created by F.D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. I think it’s important for him to know that part of the history of the country.
The CCC men also built the picnic area, the Officers Quarters, and the Watch Tower.
We enjoyed our visit there much, walking on the underground river. My son wishes to do the Wild Cave Tour once he’s 11 and I wish to do the Photography Tour because I didn’t make good pictures in this trip, while my husband would like to do the tour one more time with only 5 people the most in the group. So, it’s more personal and you can actually listen to all information clearly, stay longer at every point, and have a deeper Q & A with the tour guide.
Have you been to Longhorn Cavern State Park? What is your favorite thing there? If you haven’t been there, mark your calendar for the best time to go to Longhorn Cavern State Park.