Longhorn Cavern State Park
Facilities & Fees
Park Name: Longhorn Cavern State Park
Campground's Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/f...nghorn_cavern/
Last Visited (Month and Year): April, 2006
No Camping Facilities
Shaded Picnic Areas: Yes
Hiking Trails: Approximately 2 miles
Clean restrooms: Yes
Pets allowed: Yes, on lead
Fires/Grills allowed: Not noted
Fees: There is no park "Entry" fee or "Parking" fee. Cavern Tour Fees are as follows:
Ages 20-59: $10.95 each
Ages 13-19 and 60+ (Seniors): $9.95 each
Ages 2-12: $5.95
Less then age 2 are "Free".
Holders of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department "Passport" and Active Military also receive a $1.00 discount.
Cavern Tour Times:
Saturday & Sunday: Hourly 10AM through 4PM
Monday through Friday (Winter Hours): 11AM, 1PM & 3PM
Monday through Friday (Summer Hours): Hourly 10AM through 4PM
(Note: Tour Times can vary. It is advised that you call ahead, 1-877-441-CAVE (2283) toll free).
Overall Rating (1=poor 10=excellent): 6
Due to limited capacity, pictures associated with this review may only be available at the above link for a short time. If you find that the link is no longer active, feel free to contact me via "Private Message" and I will do my best to e-mail the related pictures to you.
We spent the second week in April, 2006 at Inks Lake State Park. Those of you who live in Texas may remember that week as very hot with temps well above the norm. DW and I spent a good deal of time inside the trailer avoiding the afternoon heat by watching movies. Of course, there is only so much of that you can do and we found ourselves thinking about what we might do to wile away some of the time. We had visited Longhorn Caverns State Park many years ago with our kiddos and decided that this was a perfect time for another trip. It would allow me to gather some information for a review and also get us out of the trailer and out of the heat for a while. The following should give you an idea of what we discovered and may whet your appetite for a trip to this park.
Longhorn Cavern State Park is located in the Texas Hill Country, not far from Burnet, Texas. You can find your way to the park by following Park Road 4 from either south or west of Burnet. You can connect with Park Road 4 approximately 6 miles south of Burnet on US Highway 281 and then turning west. Alternately, you can go about 8 miles west of Burnet on State Highway 29 and catch the same road heading south. Either way is a nice drive and will bring you to the park. Below is a link to a map that you may find helpful:
DW had already done a bit of "homework" on this side trip and had found out that the first tour of the day (11AM) might include a large contingent of grade school children on a field trip. This was enough to convince us to wait until the 1PM tour. We arrived at the park at about 12:30PM and sure enough, there stood 3 yellow school buses. There were kiddos everywhere with adults trying to corral them. Worst yet, it appeared that they were all headed INTO the Visitor's Center to start a tour. We decided that we really didn't need a cavern tour THAT bad. Decided to have a walk around the park and then leave. About 20 minutes later we heard the buses fire up. What do you know! They were pulling out and just left us enough time to return to the Visitor's Center and catch the 1:00PM tour. I want to state right off that neither DW nor I are cave/cavern "experts" of any sort. My evaluation is based on a limited number of tours of other caves and nothing more.
The tour begins at the cavern entrance and to tell the truth, the entrance is one of the best parts. The stairway leading to the cave entrance has been beautifully constructed of stone. Native plant life has been thoughtfully placed to enhance the "Texas" feel of the park. As you would expect, the entrance is gated to keep out larger critters and those that don't belong. They have done a great job with this gate, using steel and iron welded together to form a Texas motif. I have a fair picture of it and it will be "on line" for those who are interested.
The tour itself is totally on foot. It takes you approximately 85 feet into the earth, set on three "levels". Walking is smooth with few, if any, tripping hazards. There are a number of places where you have to bend over to get through but no crawling is necessary in this tour. There are also a few short sections of the tour that are optional. These areas tend to be a bit tighter and more confining but in no way a challenge. Baby strollers are allowed but I can see that this could be an impediment in certain areas. I'll note here that there are other tours of this cavern that offer a much more complete experience. Here are for site reference that might help you decide if you are interested in any of these:
Wild Cave Tour: http://www.longhorncaverns.com/wildcave.html
Geological Tour: http://www.longhorncaverns.com/geology.html
Backbone Ridge Trail: http://www.longhorncaverns.com/backbone.html
We have no experience with any of these but the Backbone Ridge Trail does appeal to me.
Another of my favorite parts of this tour is the Indian Council Room. It would seem that this part of the cavern was used for many years by the Comanche Indians. This doesn't interest me as much as how the Confederate Army manufactured and stored gunpowder in the cavern during the Civil War. Later the room was used for "boot-legging" alcohol and as a dance hall during the Prohibition years. A dance floor had been laid in with an area for the band. Seems some entrepreneur was even savvy enough to put in bleachers so he could rent it out as a church on Sundays. Even now, this room is rented out for wedding receptions and other such gatherings. There is an elevator used to bring in supplies for such gatherings. Very interesting to me.
According to our guide, this cave was formed by an underground river and the erosion it caused. To my recollection, all other caves that I have been in were formed by the downward trickling of ground water. This causes the structure of Longhorn Caverns to be different then one might expect. When originally explored, rather then finding great open rooms and passages, it would seem that many of these areas were closed up with mud. When the cavern was being developed for public viewing during the Depression, the Civil Corps of Conservation (CCC) was put to work "mucking out" these areas. This was accomplished using not much more then picks, shovels, buckets and barrows. As you tour the cavern and the guide points out the height at which this mud had been, you get a sense of the amount of labor it had to have taken to clear these areas. Not the sort of task I would choose but we need to remember that the men who labored here were desperate for any type of work. When asked, our guide stated that there was little chance that the cavern would be developed any further for the types of tours that we were on. The stated reason was fear of ecological damage to the caverns. I have no doubt that this is a valid reason but I also realize that the cost of further development would be exorbitant.
There are a limited number of the stalactites and stalagmites that I've become accustomed to seeing. Also, there just doesn't seem to be the crystalline glitter that I have witnessed in other caves. As stated earlier in this review, DW and I have been in this cavern before. I seem to recall the rooms shining more on our last tour. My only thought concerning this discrepancy is the current drought that our part of the country is under. Beyond there being little glitter and shine to the cave rooms, I also noted that everywhere there should have been a pool, there was nothing but cracked mud. Also, the humidity in the cave seemed much lower then it should have been. I have a feeling that as soon as we get enough rain to bring our water tables back up to where they belong, the cavern will return to the luster that I recall. Not being any sort of expert, my evaluation has little validity but we will wait and see.
Other park facilities include a Visitor's Center containing a State Park Store, a CafÃ© and Rest Rooms. Neither the Store or the CafÃ© were noteworthy in any way but you may find something to interest you in the Store. To the north of the Visitor's Center there is a CCC Museum. For some reason, I took no note of this structure while we were there and regret not exploring it or the CCC Officer's Quarters at the south end of the park. These omissions will be corrected on our next visit.
Approximately 200 yards west of the Visitor's Center you will find the Observation Tower. This is a stone structure built by the CCC. There seems to be little special history connected with this tower but I find the construction and form of the building appealing. It's another example of fine workmanship that was accomplished by the men of that time.
Longhorn Caverns State Park is just another one of the places that gives the Texas Hill Country it's flare. In our travels in this part of the state we have found many like it. Though this Park may not be the most remarkable in the system, it is truly worth the time to explore while you are here.
As always, I've probably rambled on more then I needed to. It's pretty easy to do when I'm talking about a part of Texas that I care so much about. I hope that you were able to gain something from it. If you did, my time is well spent. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me using the "Private Messaging" system associated with this message board. Until then and always,
Note: Information and site references contained in this review were current as of this writing. I apologize for any errors you may find and will attempt to correct them if notified.