The vibrant area that we now call Austin was submerged underwater millions of years ago. Ancient coral and mollusks became limestone bedrock, creating passages and forming beautiful caves. Today these caves attract adventurers daring to explore their mysteries. Emerging from a tight passageway and stepping into a world of stalactite and stalagmite crystal cathedrals feeds the adrenaline of the caving junkie. Whether you are a beginner caver, advanced or interested in the sport, check out these caves in the underbelly of Austin!
By: Jennifer MacKenzie Murphy
South Mopac and JCT Brush Country Road
Every new adventure starts with a first step – Whirlpool Cave introduces caving to the beginning caver. Prepare to crawl and use your hands, knees, elbows and stomach during a portion of your journey through the cave. You will get sweaty and dirty from crawling on the ground. As you look around the cave, observe various rock types, plant life and other geological features. You might even run into an endangered Barton Spring salamander! The cave welcomes new cavers and children alike.
Maple Run Cave
3900 Deer Lane
After mastering Whirlpool Cave, challenge yourself at Maple Run Cave. Prepare for a tighter and crawlier journey than Whirlpool. Using your upper body strength will be necessary for a successful adventure at Maple Run. Do not be alarmed when you exit the cave and see some bruises and scratches on arms and legs, it is part of being a caver. Protect yourself from mosquitos and bring bug repellent in the summer. The cave is located at Goat Cave Karst Nature Preserve.
3755 South Capital of Texas Highway
A difficult yet rewarding crawl – the 2.5 mile-long Airman’s Cave contains demanding passageways and offers the Aggie Art Gallery and geode room. Its small “keyhole” entrance permits only some to enter the cave. The narrow “One-legged Man” passage challenges visitors by using one leg to crawl and then dragging the other one behind. Reach the Aggie Art Gallery filled with anonymous sculptures and contribute an art piece using cave mud. Few have reached the geode room and never took pictures. Maybe you could be the first! The cave resides in Barton Creek Greenbelt East and opens occasionally.
There are caves throughout Austin! Explore a world that lies beneath the city.
Austin contains numerous caves and there are many opportunities to explore. Check the calendar of Underground Texas (UT) Grotto and contact them to take a training course before planning a caving expedition. Help educate yourself on safety for you and the cave!