Natural Bridge Caverns – San Antonio, Texas

Jocelyn Murray April 15, 2013 No Comments

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Natural Bridge Caverns Watchtower

Columns rise to the lofty ceiling like sentinels on guard

Imagine a lost kingdom hidden deep within the ground. A place whose narrow crystal corridors open up to caverns that resemble the great halls of a castle, complete with stalactites hanging like crystal chandeliers, imposing columns that reach to the lofty ceilings, and stalagmites rising like sentinels guarding a land of secrets.  This is a sumptuous rocky palace whose shimmering walls are draped in flowing crystal formations from the calcite minerals of which they are formed.  It is a captivating citadel where fables, fiction and fantasy are brought to life in a timeless realm of stunning splendor.

It is not hard to imagine these things when visiting Natural Bridge Caverns in San Antonio, Texas.

 

 

History

Natural Bridge Caverns formations

The limestone formations are stunning

First discovered in 1960, the caverns date back to millions of years when they were formed by the compacted layers of sediment carved out by underground water and movement along the Balcones Fault Zone.  Excavations of the caverns have unearthed prehistoric artifacts and tools like spearheads and arrowheads from about 5000 BC that belonged to the native peoples who lived in these parts. Animal remains including the jawbone and femur of black bears over 8000 years old have also been discovered. And while bats are seldom seen now, the guano of bats who once occupied the caverns stain certain areas of the limestone, and their distinctive roosting patches still mark parts of the ceilings where they used to hang upside down to sleep.

Natural Bridge Caverns Emerald Pool

The still waters of an emerald pool invite the imagination for a dip

Stalagmites and stalactites grow at a rate of about one inch per century. These amazing icicle-like formations captivate onlookers with their unspoiled beauty. The caverns are a tepid 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 99 percent. A guided tour through this hidden domain is made more spectacularly eerie by the lonely dripping of water echoing in the darkness, by the secret grottos nestled within the flowstone, by the emerald pools that collect in the rocky hollows, and by the dim lighting that reflects the crystalline glimmer with spellbinding allure.

 

 

Caverns’ Highlights

Natural Bridge Caverns grendel's canyon

The murky depths of Grendel’s Canyon where Beowulf’s immortalized monster might dwell

 

Visitors can expect to see highlights like Grendel’s Canyon that creeps down to a depth of 207 feet, and whose dark shadows might easily conceal the hideous monster from the epic poem Beowulf lurking in the partially obscured cave at the bottom.

Natural Bridge Caverns King's Throne

King’s Throne is draped in a curtain of stalactites

There is King’s Throne—a thick limestone stalagmite draped with a myriad of smaller stalactites that hang from the seat of the throne with all the palatial grace of an Underworld’s princely dominion.  Then there is the Watchtower—the tallest column in the caverns with a height of 50 feet, that almost looks like melted vanilla ice cream was poured over the formation before it froze once again while dripping down the sides, glinting with the appearance of crushed diamonds in the pallid light.

Another marvel is Castle of the White Giants that rises from a depth of 150 feet and leaves one staring speechless at the limestone creation that dwarfs onlookers with its stunning beauty. And Purgatory Creek that plunges to a depth of 211 feet—the deepest point on the tour—before it disappears below the formations climbing above.

Natural Bridge Caverns Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest beckons with the mystique of a primeval wood

Then there is Sherwood Forest whose columns stand closely together like the tree trunks of a primeval wood, and whose canopy of stalactites hangs from the ceiling with a luminous grandeur of a royal forest that has been frozen in time, perhaps even cast under the ancient spell of a witch or fairy who might still rule this crystal kingdom when no one is around.

Natural Bridge Caverns Caves

This secret kingdom entices visitors with its natural splendor

This is the kind of place where one cannot help staring with a hushed appreciation of the natural splendor that rivals human ingenuity. Everywhere there is something truly magnificent to see, from the craggy narrow passageways that connect the immense chambers, to the lofty domed ceilings of the caverns that beckon with an otherworldly splendor.

While visiting Natural Bridge Caverns, visitors can also test their physical prowess at the outdoor Canopy Challenge obstacle course, or go zip-lining with gorgeous views of the Texas Hill Country which is especially exciting for school-aged children. Younger children and toddlers have a Canopy Kids Course that is made just for them. Guests can also visit the gift shop, get a bite to eat at the snack bar, or just roam the grounds with their shady trees, singing birds, and balmy breezes blowing above the hidden kingdom that waits below.

 

 

Natural Bridge Caverns is located at 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, San Antonio, TX 78266. They are open daily (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day) from 9am – 4pm with extended summer hours.

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avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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