Caving for the first time may have adventurers praying to their saint of choice (that would be Barbara, FYI, patron saint of miners), but guides on a new tour at Texas' Natural Bridge Caverns are ready to shepherd newbies from a more earthly perspective.
The new St. Mary’s Adventure Tour is an expansion of the offerings at the iconic Texas attraction and perfect for people who have never tried their hand at caving. It also offers access to parts of the caverns never before seen by guests.
“This wild area in our cavern has always been one of our favorites,” says Natural Bridge Caverns president Brad Wuest in a press release. “The challenge has been that experiencing it also requires some specialized equipment and training. Now … we have the equipment and rigging in place to make the experience accessible to guests who are ready for adventure.”
The existing expedition, called the Discovery Adventure Tour, is more of a challenge, with “muddy and tight crawl ways” (stomach churn) that take two-and-a-half to three hours to explore. The St. Mary’s tour is more upright, with no crawling and a little more climbing, for an hour less of total exploring. The company says both are good for beginners, who will wear protective equipment that can be hooked up to safety lines anchored to the rock.
Sections of the new tour have never been seen by modern guests of Natural Bridge Caverns, but this cave isn’t newly explored. The team estimates, from evidence in this area of the cave, that explorers have been visiting as early as the 1950s. Visitors can see crystals, curtains of sediment called flowstone, and spiderwebby “boxwork” from ancient water erosion.
“Experiencing these passages just expands your appreciation for the astonishing wonder of the natural world,” says vice president and expedition team member Travis Wuest. “Our hope is these experiences will inspire our guests to learn about and then advocate for protection and responsible stewardship of these delicate environments.”
Super enthusiastic cavers are invited to join the St. Mary’s tour in the morning, break for lunch, and continue on to the Discovery tour. Yours truly at CultureMap will cheer you on from the sidelines. (Do caves have sidelines?)
For more information and links to book both above and below-ground tours, visit naturalbridgecaverns.com.