To access Longhorn Cavern State Park, a visitor must drive the 5 mile access road to the park entrance. This view through the front windshield of our car gives an idea of the scenery. There were some seriously large inclines followed by large dips in the roadway such that the road resembled a roller coaster in places.
This map behind glass was near to the visitor center where the cave tours start from. This state park is accessible from Austin, Killeen, and Temple easily by state highways in what the locals call “central Texas”. There is no admission entrance fee to this park, but that is misleading. The only way to get into the cavern is by taking a tour. The tours charge a fee of $18 for adults, and $13 for children. The tours are conducted by a private company under contract with the state park system of Texas. The cave tour lasts just about 90 minutes.
Folks walk down stone stairs to the entry to the cavern system, which is actually 8 miles long. The tour only covers a small fraction of that distance. In this next view, we are looking up at a tree above us.
The tour guide informed us that this is a cave formed by an underground river. Whereas most caves are formed by the seepage of water through porous sedimentary rock layers from above, about 10 per cent of caves are formed by underground rivers over time.
The locked cave entrance.
Glancing upwards, we saw outcrops of these small rocks embedded in the ceiling of the cave.
The tour guide said these were limestone caverns, but that the limestone is very old here. It dates back to 400 to 600 million years ago. There is a paucity of fossils, but the limestone was formed by large numbers of very simple, and very small aquatic life forms (perhaps lacking skeletons). Recall your high school science classes, and think of the pre-Cambrian period. The oldest strata here were deposited in remote times in the past as far as life on Earth is concerned. (Parts of North America have been underwater at various times in the geologic past. A visitor to the US Southwest sees much evidence of that in the ancient limestone and sandstone formations in Utah, Arizona, and other states.)
This next image we have chosen to call Cat Face in Stone. If you look at the right side of the pic and use a little imagination, you can “see” (a suggestion of) the face of a house cat in the stone. We did not realize this when we took this shot.
Here is another scene along the tour. As this cave was formed by a river, and not by seepage of water from above over long periods of time, there were very few stalactites to be seen.
Here is another scene along the underground walking trail.
Some areas along the tour opened up into large rooms. But, in other spots, we had to walk along ducking our heads away from a low lying ceiling of stone.
This cavern system did have its share of bizarre scenes, and in places was a little spooky or creepy. At one point, the tour guide extinguished the lights so that we could experience the total darkness of the cavern.
Looking up in one spot early on the tour, we saw this texture and color of the rocks.
Changing shapes, textures and colors in the rock are noticeable along the tour.
The above ground temperature the day we visited was in the very high 80s (Farenheit) in the late morning. Below ground, the cave enjoys year round temps in the 68 to 70 degree range.
Here is another view of the same rock formation as shown immediately above.
In this final image of part one of this photo essay, we get an idea how large some of the “rooms” or chambers of the cavern system are.
. . . . to be continued . . . .
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