Weatherford Democrat

Community

July 26, 2011

Texas, underground

WEATHERFORD — The Natural Bridge Caverns take “deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country” to a whole new meaning. With depths reaching 260 feet underground, it is Texas’ largest-known cavern and consistently ranks as one of the state’s top tourist destinations. Discovered in 1960 by students at  St. Mary’s University, the cavern, located just west of New Braunfels, has delighted visitors for decades with lantern-led tours, archaeological gems, and natural formations like “soda straw” stalactites occurring along hidden passages.

Originally thought to consist of only a modest-sized cave under a 60-foot naturally occurring limestone bridge, it wasn’t until four students with St. Mary’s spelientology club took a routine caving expedition to the next level that the massive chambers of the cavern were discovered.

On March 27, 1960, students Orion Knox, Al Brandt, Preston Knodell and Jo Cantu decided to split off from the rest of their group, who were exploring the original cave of the Natural Bridge Caverns. Having visited the cave three times prior, the group of four was curious to see if there was anything more to the cave.

As the smallest member of the group, Knox, then 19, made his way through a tight crawlspace with a rock hammer and a carbide lamp. When he emerged on the other side, he was welcomed by a great expanse of darkness. He called back to the group, “Hey, we have may have something here.”

That “something” was the largest underground cavern in Texas, and it would take the relentless efforts of the landowner, rancher and widow Clara Wuest, to bring its development to fruition. When Wuest first approached the state and national parks agencies to seek their assistance in developing the cavern, she was turned down. But this setback didn’t stop her. She mortgaged her ranch to fund the project, and for 2 years, cavers and workers, including Orion Knox, worked 14-hour days to develop the site. By completion, they had excavated a half-mile route into the cavern, complete with paths and tunnels for visitors to navigate. Wuest opened the cavern to the public in 1964, and tourists began flocking to the attraction, giving a significant boost to the early years of Texas’ tourism industry. In 1971, the Natural Bridge Caverns were listed as a registered U.S. natural landmark.

First discovered by student explorers, today the cavern aptly remains a principal site of study. The Center of Archaeological Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio has been involved in the excavation of the landmark, and the cavern has provided students with an enlightening, hands-on dimension to their geological studies throughout the years.

Certainly for visitors of any age, the cavern provides an exciting learning experience. The Lantern Tour recreates the ambience of a dauntless exploratory expedition to the delight of its young patrons. Chalkboard drawings and lessons are replaced with palpable wonders such as stalagmites, stalactites and cave ribbons. Children can take turns on the mining sluice, scrutinizing their fortunes as they sift through buckets to discover fossils, gems and arrowheads. Some arrowheads and spearheads found during the original excavation dated from 5,000 B.C.

The Natural Bridge Caverns’ beauty dazzles observers and captivates photographers. In 2003, USA Today classified the Natural Bridge Caverns as one of “10 Great Places to get nature on film.” In addition to commercial praise, the cavern also enjoys national recognition from the United States Department of the Interior as part of the National Register of Historical Places.

Whether it’s a classroom field trip, a summer daytrip, or scratching an itch for adventure, a visit to the Natural Bridge Caverns will not disappoint. To learn more, visit www.naturalbridgecaverns.com.

 

Sources: Austin American-Statesman; Texas State Historical Association; Naturalbridgecaverns.com

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Armed Services, and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

1
Text Only
Community
  • 0929 loc WCS mission night.jpg WCS Mission Night

    Families and students from Weatherford Christian School gathered Monday night at the South Main Church of Christ Auditorium to learn more about the numerous missions that WCS partners with throughout their school year. This was a first-time event that gave families a greater insight to what each organization does and how the school is able to help make a difference in the lives of others by giving back to their community through service.

    September 28, 2013 1 Photo

  • Dr. Sheila Page Sheila Page to speak at PCRP meeting

    The Parker County Republican Party will hold its monthly meeting Thursday in the Strain Room located at Weatherford College (next door to the Doss cafeteria/meeting room) at 7 p.m. The meeting is free to attend and open to the public. 

    September 28, 2013 1 Photo

  • Brock ISD receives state ratings for STAAR testing results

    At its regular August monthly meeting Brock ISD trustees were informed of the new state district and campus ratings just received from Texas Education Agency.  The district, high school and junior high campuses received a rating of “Met Standard,” while the elementary campus was rated “Improvement Required.”  

    August 20, 2013

  • DSCN0300.JPG Portrait greets visitors at Chandor Gardens

    The entrance to the main house at Chandor Gardens provides visitors with a greeting right at the door — a life-sized portrait, one of many painted by Douglas Chandor.

    August 20, 2013 1 Photo

  • 0813 one storm damage.jpg Storm damage

    High winds apparently took the roof off Vicky Pierce’s barn and caused damage to her home Sunday night. 

    August 13, 2013 1 Photo

  • Thelma Parker County Pet of the Week

    Meet Thelma!

    August 13, 2013 1 Photo

  • Pretty Girl Pet of the Week — Pretty Girl

    Pretty Girl lives up to her name! She is a soft, golden brown with white markings on her face and deep chestnut eyes that look right back at you. 

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo

  • Greenwood VFD gifted with ceremonial bell

    For several years members of the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Department have wanted a ceremonial bell that could be used in the department’s firefighting ceremonies. A few months ago, residents Robbie and Melinda Mayes-Kelly made a donation to the department for the specific purpose of acquiring a bell. Then Enrico Barone, another resident, saw the bell at the station and offered to build a stand for it. Enrico is retired and is a skilled woodworker. He built a beautiful stand which has wheels and is mobile.

    July 2, 2013

  • Fun on the tank

    Located in Fort Worth, a little more than half an hour from Weatherford, Burger’s Lake offers summer fun for everyone.

    June 23, 2013

  • Food bank offers Weatherford kids free summer lunches

    Almost half of Weatherford ISD students are eligible for free, reduced-price school meals.

    June 22, 2013

Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Obama Offers Condolences at Dutch Embassy Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts