near Bee Caves, Travis
46 m (150 ft.)
2.5 m (8 ft.)
Saturdays and Sundays only.
Tours at 10, 12, 2, and 4 for first 30 people; no pets or reservations.
Educational groups by appointment.
Length of Tour:
1:00 or more (1.6
km, 1 mi.)
None (donations accepted)
(210) 825-3442; John Ahrns,
William R. Elliott
From Austin, take Ben
White Boulevard (Highway 290) west to Oak Hill. Go right at "The Y" at
a big Albertson's store onto Highway 71. Drive 7.1 miles to the village
of Bee Caves, continue 1.2 miles, turn left onto Hamilton Pool Road (RM
3238) and follow it for about 13 miles to the Pedernales River. West Cave
is past the river at the first gate to the right at the top of the hill.
If you go to West Cave, be sure to stop at Hamilton's Pool on the way-it's
a beautiful Texas-size "cenote" swimming hole in a county park just east
of the river. Hamilton's Pool is formed in a huge sinkhole with a waterfall
on one side-definitely worth a stop! An alternative route is to
take U.S. Highway 281 north from San Antonio to Johnson City. Continue
12 miles north to Round Mountain, turn right on RM 962 and drive about
15 miles to West Cave.
West Cave is not a
show cave but part of a nature trail in a lush, green canyon shaded by
tall cypress and oak trees-an enchanting experience.
Originally known as Hammett's Cave,
for Hammett's Crossing on the nearby Pedernales River, "Westcave Preserve"
is operated by a nonprofit conservation organization and owned by the Lower
Colorado River Authority. The nature trail and talk are educational, taking
in an unusual part of the Hill Country. The trail leads from a plateau
top overlooking the river into a small but verdant canyon formed by the
headward cutting of a creek. A 12-m-high waterfall drops into a deep, green
pool that overflows into the creek.
The cave itself is rather small, being
only 46 m long with a 2.5-m ceiling and two entrances. Part of the north
end has been walled off by travertine deposited by the waterfall. The north
end is floored with soil and curves toward the south to a short drop from
a window overlooking the shelter behind the mossy waterfall. A series of
water-filled rimstone pools gradually rise to the ceiling at the south
end of the cave. You only need a small flashlight.
West Cave was part of some un-appropriated
public school land from 1839 until 1937, when it was sold to Chester Lay
of Austin. The cave was then operated as a commercial venture but failed
after a few months. The property suffered from various abuses until John
Ahrns acquired the place in the 1970s and began restoring and showing it
as an educational nature preserve. Westcave Preserve Corporation was formed
in 1976 to protect and restore the place. Many plant species, both rare
and representative of the Hill Country, may be seen on the tour.
Craun, V. S. 1948. Commercial caves
of Texas. Bull. Natl. Speleol. Soc., 10:33-45.