Winter Break 2013 Trip, Day 5: Natural Bridge Caverns

December 30, 2013

On this day we had originally planned to be down at the Gulf Coast in Corpus Christi, but a rainy forecast led me to ask to extend our stay in San Antonio for a couple of days. The hotel clerk was accommodating, charging us the same rate even though our stay now included this day of the Alamo Bowl game, when rates typically jump upward.

Day 5 Map (click image for slideshow)

At first we were headed northwest toward some parks on the northwest edge of San Antonio, intending to spend the day hiking. We stopped along the way for lunch at La Fogata, with me ordering Un poquito de Todo, a little bit of everything. It was all tasty.

When we exited the restaurant, the weather remained very cold and windy, so we changed plans again. I knew we were tired of museums and wanted a nature walk, and it occurred to me that one can walk quite comfortably underground even in wintry weather. So we headed to Natural Bridge Caverns northeast of town for what would prove to be a warm and humid half-mile walk deep beneath the surface.

Back in 1960 a group of persistent (and cave crazy) college students discovered two miles of underground passageways leading from a large sinkhole beneath a natural stone bridge on the Wuest ranch. Wendy and I opted for the popular Discovery tour of the first half-mile. These largest known caverns in the state are a popular attraction; several dozen people were leaving for the tour every half-hour, and we had an hour-long wait for our group to depart.

The Natural Bridge

We walked around the area, locating the natural bridge and the sinkhole, where a group was lined up to enter. Wendy located a woodpecker pounding away at a nearby tree as we walked by, huddled in our coats. Our group was finally called and we proceeded to the cave entrance with our guide, Christian.

We soon reached a room with significant formations. Christian explained that ceiling discolorations were caused by long-gone bat colonies. The next room had a profusion of formations, including very long columns where stalagmites joined up with stalactites. We crossed a deep creek chasm and passed an immense column, the first of a series of gigantic formations, including one which looked like a goblin king’s throne.

The King’s Throne

More flowing formations followed, and we passed above a deep canyon, reaching the largest room of all, where we threaded our way upward through numerous features.

We certainly got the warmer walk we sought; the cavern has 99% humidity so even at 70 degrees it feels much warmer. The last stretch was particularly hot.

We were pooped when we made our way back to the hotel through Alamo Bowl traffic, settling on Chili’s for dinner at the nearby Rivercenter along the River Walk. The next day we would rise early to make our way back north to Fort Worth for more art museums and a New Year’s Eve celebration.

Click here for a slideshow from this day

Day 6: Fort Worth on New Year’s Eve >

< Day 4: Art in San Antonio

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife, Wendy, and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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