A brand new tour at Natural Bridge Caverns takes guests up rocky inclines and throughout slippery ledges into parts of the cave by no means earlier than seen by the general public.
The St. Mary’s Adventure Tour diverges from the paved pathway in the primary halls of the cave and into wilder sections of the underground community. Members put on helmets, gloves, headlamps, and harnesses, and clip onto security ropes as they navigate difficult stretches.
“There’s heaps to see again there,” says tour information Ethan Fagan, who together with workforce chief John Younger helped design the brand new tour on the cave north of San Antonio.
“While you’re a child, you look by way of Nationwide Geographic and see footage of cavers carrying harnesses and equipment,” Younger provides. “One of many causes I designed this was to offer individuals the chance to get a harness on and have that very same expertise.”
4 college students from St. Mary’s College in San Antonio first found the Pure Bridge Caverns—named for a 60-foot pure limestone bridge that spans the cavern’s entrance—in 1960. Explorers have surveyed 3.65 miles of the subterranean community, which reaches 304 toes deep at Popcorn Pit, its deepest recognized level. They’re nonetheless exploring, too. The cave’s house owners say they hope the brand new expertise will encourage guests to advocate for and shield delicate cave environments.
The St. Mary’s route takes guests previous tall, baseball-bat sized columns referred to as broomsticks, beneath ceilings of delicate, dripping “straws,” and close to formations that appear like fried eggs, drapes, wings, and, in a single spot, a cup of crème brulee perched atop a pedestal. In a single space, skinny blades of calcite create a honeycombed sample of packing containers that cling to a wall, and in one other, mineral deposits kind what appear like huge, slick ribbons. “The formations are completely unimaginable,” Younger says.
It’s moist contained in the cave, and anybody who takes the tour must be ready to submerge their boots in swimming pools of water. (Don’t fear, showers can be found on the finish.)
The addition of the St. Mary’s Journey Tour means Pure Bridge Caverns now provides two off-the-beaten-passageway excursions. The unique, referred to as the Discovery Journey Tour, lasts 4 hours and includes squeezing by way of tight crawl areas, tromping by way of mud, and stooping and squatting to get round obstacles. The brand new tour includes much less crawling and extra climbing and technical ropes work. Neither requires earlier caving expertise.
Earlier than descending into the cave, individuals within the St. Mary’s Journey Tour observe clipping the carabiners hooked up to their harnesses to security ropes. As soon as contained in the cave, they use these abilities to make two steep climbs and scooch their approach across the Fairy Pit, a 30-foot gap that appears much less like fairy’s residence and extra like someplace the Creature of the Black Lagoon may hang around.
Wildlife sightings within the tour might embrace bats and numerous bugs, together with spiders and crickets that make their residence in the dead of night, damp recesses of the cavern. At one level, the guides will flip off their lights, cloaking the collapse utter blackness. “That is like going to church for me,” Younger says.
The St. Mary’s Journey Tour prices $129.99 and is obtainable twice day by day. Group dimension is proscribed to 6 friends. No expertise is required, however individuals must be in good bodily health. Natural Bridge Caverns is at 26495 Pure Bridge Caverns Highway in San Antonio. Name 210-651-6101.