The Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio Texas

On March 27, 1960, four college students from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio began an underground exploration that ultimately would reveal the largest cavern system in Texas. Led to the site after hearing of an amazing 60-foot limestone bridge which would become the caverns’ namesake. Initially the students didn’t make any remarkable finds, but on their fourth expedition they uncovered a long, narrow crawlspace that ultimately opened up into two miles of virgin caverns. Today, their discovery is recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior and one of the world’s premier show caverns.

Guests of Natural Bridge Caverns can choose from two daily tours ‘ the Discovery Tour and the Illuminations Tour ‘ each quite different and offering its own unique enchantments.  Both tours are led by trained Natural Bridge guides down to a depth of 180 feet below the surface, through passages and rooms of glistening cave formations revealed in succession, beautifully unfolding long-held secrets of the caverns. Many of the formations actually sparkle from the light reflecting off calcite crystals that adorn them. First-time cavern visitors may be surprised by the colours of some formations, sometimes subtle, sometimes deeper, depending upon the mineral content.

Natural Bridge Caverns is called a living cave because the cave formations are still being formed by water dissolving rock.  Over hundreds of thousands of years they create the cave’s formations, including icicle-like stalactites on the ceiling and pillar-like stalagmites on the floor. The rate of growth varies, but currently it’s about one inch every 100 years.

Cavern tours feature vast rooms and winding passages of geologic treasures, from gigantic, towering stone monuments like Sherwood Forest and the Castle of the White Giants, to delicate and rare formations of soda straws and cave ribbon. The formations are plentiful and beautiful, even breath-taking, and nearly all of them are still growing.

The Discovery Tour lasts approximately 75 minutes and boasts the largest rooms of the two tours, one the size of a football field. The Illuminations Tour lasts approximately 70 minutes and features a total darkness experience.

A family-oriented attraction, Natural Bridge Caverns offers a variety of activities for all ages. Two unique Adventure Tours allow the more daring an opportunity to don rappelling gear, helmets and headlamps for a guided cave excursion that gives participants a chance to get dirty and appreciate the experience of exploring the unknown. These three-to-four-hour Adventure Tours are by reservation only and are not for the faint of heart.

Natural Bridge Mining Company is an authentic mining sluice where guests can pan for gems, minerals and fossils, just like miners once did in their search for gold. Sparkling quartz, sapphire, ruby, topaz, emerald, crystal and many other gems and minerals, as well as arrowheads and fossils are among the treasures that can be discovered at this attraction. The more adventurous might want to try the Watchtower Challenge, season and weather permitting, and test their climbing skills on one of the largest outdoor climbing and zip line towers in Texas.  A new tour called The Lantern Tour has just been introduced.

Explore the Natural Bridge Caverns’ Discovery Passages illuminated only by the light of your cave lantern, just like the original discoverers did 50 years ago. Travel down the winding passages and be amazed how the incredible and rare formations of the cavern reveal themselves in room after dazzling room. Towering stone monuments. Glistening, delicate soda straws. Waves of colourful ribbons. You’ll feel like you’re one of the first people to experience Texas’ largest and most spectacular underground cavern.  This tour leaves at 9am each day and bookings are recommended.

Natural Bridge Caverns is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended hours for spring and summer. The year-round temperature in the caverns is 70 degrees with high humidity. Guests should wear lightweight clothing and comfortable walking shoes which provide good traction on steep, wet surfaces. Strollers are not recommended for the Discovery Tour, and not permitted on the Illuminations Tour. The caverns are located 30 miles north of downtown San Antonio and eight miles west of IH-35 at exit 175/Natural Bridge Caverns Road.

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