Western Trips

Western Trips

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Longhorn Caverns of Texas

If you're looking for one of the most interesting and unique parks in the state of Texas, make a note of Longhorn Caverns State Park. This fascinating site is in the middle of the scenic Texas Hill Country in Burnet County.

longhorn caverns state park
Longhorn Caverns State Park Visitors Center
Opened to the public in 1938, the land at Longhorn Caverns was purchased by the federal government from private owners in the mid 1930's. The structures and roads built there were part of the Civilian Conservation Corp efforts during the Great Depression.

 If you're familiar with our National Parks you'll know that the CCC was involved in projects at many of them. Company 854 of the CCC was the group that made the site of Longhorn Caverns into a state park. The pay during this period was one dollar per day and the work was hard.

While the CCC worked at the site during the summer it was naturally much cooler down in the caverns. In one way working underground had it's advantages over working on roadways where the heat could reach over 100 degrees. By the same token, working underground could and would lead to back problems for many of the workers. Long stretches of the cave would force one to work hunched over for long periods.

limestone caverns
Limestone formations
The Stories of Longhorn Caverns

The caverns, first discovered by Anglos in the mid 1800's, actually have quite an interesting history outside of it's geologic formation.

Indians who first inhabited the caverns were said to have kidnapped people and held them for ransom in the caverns. One story has the famed Texas Rangers actually lowering themselves into the caverns by rope and freeing hostages after a fierce fight.

The Confederates were said to have used Longhorn Caverns as a place to manufacture gunpowder during the Civil War.The caverns are the home to bats and bat guano was used to make gunpowder.

It's said that the infamous Texas outlaw Sam Bass used the cavern as a hideout. Among other things Bass was known as a train robber. Visit the Longhorn Caverns today and you'll be told that the underground caves contain a hidden fortune that to this day has not been located. While there is no direct evidence that Sam Bass ever visited the cave, the story circulating was that some $2 million was stashed there.

limestone formations
Beautiful formations on high ceiling
During the 1920's the caverns were used as a speakeasy.In addition to this, entertainers would play music throughout the night. The speakeasy was also a dance hall. This subterranean speakeasy operated when the land and caverns were owned privately. A natural advantage for the speakeasy was the fact that the temperature inside the caverns stays at 68 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. This was a great advantage during those 100 degree plus days during a Texas summer and before air conditioning. While touring the caverns today you'll see stages that were set up for entertaining almost one hundred years ago.

 Longhorn Caverns was also used as a bomb shelter during the Cold War days of the 1960's. It was said that President Johnson who spent time on his nearby ranch in Stonewall Texas could have been relocated there during a nuclear conflict. The Longhorn Caverns were stocked with months worth of supplies during this time. The limestone rock of the caverns is said to provide added protection against radiation fallout. 

longhorn caverns observation tower
Park Observation Tower
Longhorn Caverns State Park Observation Tower and Hiking Trails

During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps  made many improvements to the park. With great workmanship, they used native limestone and timber to construct buildings, retaining walls, and an observation tower. Climb the iron spiral staircase to the top of the tower and you'll have a sweeping view of the scenic Texas Hill Country. Other buildings constructed by the CCC during the 1930's include an administrative building that is now used for exhibits, a water tower, a cabin and a formal entrance to the caverns which is referred to as the Sam Bass Entrance.

You'll also want to take advantage of the hiking trails at the park. The Backbone Ridge Trail gets its name from Backbone Mountain, where the cavern is located.

See other Texas Hill Country Western Trips photo articles on the links shown below. 

The Nimitz Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg Texas

The Famous Driskill Hotel in Austin Texas

The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

longhorn caverns state park buildings
Administration Bldg built by the CCC
Visiting Longhorn Caverns State Park

Longhorn Caverns State Park is located in Burnet County Texas. This is about 63 miles northwest of Austin and about 10 miles north of Marble Falls. Longhorn Caverns is on Park Road 4 accessed to the west off of U.S. Hwy 281 and north of Marble Falls.

The park is open 363 days per year, closing only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.This is a fun and educational trip perfect for the entire family.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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