Connection to Wild Cave Remains Elusive but Exploration to Continue
Natural Bridge Caverns to Share Recent Discoveries and Host Cave Demonstrations During International Day of Caves and Subterranean World Celebration on June 4-5
(San Antonio, Texas) June 1, 2022 — The Natural Bridge Caverns expedition team returned after a 16 and half hour trip attempting to make a connection between Natural Bridge Caverns’ Hope’s Mantel to the south and the Wild Cave to the north. Photos from the expedition will be shared at International Cave Day events at the Cavern on June 4th and 5th. It’s how Natural Bridge Caverns’ will join cave enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate the International Day of Caves and the Subterranean World (aka International Cave Day) on June 6th. The goal is to inspire greater appreciation and stewardship of cave and karst landscapes.
“After about seven hours of hard caving we arrived at Hope’s Mantel excited to discover what lay below. After rigging the pit, we descended and surveyed a beautiful room, however the passage beyond that point was filled with flowstone formations and breakdown rubble,” said Brad Wuest, one of the expedition leaders and president of Natural Bridge Caverns. “We pushed every lead in the area but couldn’t make it through, although we could feel airflow indicating a small connection somewhere through all that breakdown. In all we were able to close the gap by 50 feet this time, so now the two caves are only 250 feet apart.”
The expedition teams are not giving up on finding a connection but are shifting focus to continued exploration of other areas of both the Wild Cave to the north and promising unexplored sections of Natural Bridge Caverns in an area around the room called The Dungeon. Every exploration has the potential to add to the known size of both caverns. Expeditions are in the planning stages, with the first scheduled for later this month.
Natural Bridge Caverns is unusual in comparison to other unexplored caves in Texas in that expedition teams have repeatedly discovered previously unknown massive chambers throughout the system. So, the potential to find additional “big cave” is strong. Several leads (leads are pits, crawlways, and passages that may be hidden or hard to get to and have not been explored yet) have been identified and are there, waiting for expedition teams to explore. The Wild Cave also continues north, and during the last expedition there the team had to limit the final part of their exploration that day to an upper passage – the lower passage was filled with water. Then Wild Cave exploration was stopped only by the clock – they had reached their “turnaround time,” a hard and fast rule followed by explorers to ensure safe returns during exploration. It’s possible, if the water in that area has receded, that there are additional lower-level leads there that are worthy of pursuit on future expeditions this year.
It’s both the unknown and incredible finds of the last two years that drives the desire for exploration for the Natural Bridge Caverns expedition team. More people have walked on the moon than have seen some of the remote areas known in Natural Bridge Caverns, not to mention the areas being discovered that no one has ever seen. “Caves are not always ready to reveal their wonders,” noted Brad. “But that doesn’t stop us from gearing up for more exploration to search for these hidden wonders.”
Travis Wuest, Natural Bridge Caverns vice president and expedition member, agreed. “We’ll never stop exploring, especially given there is still so much to learn and discover. Just in the last two years we’ve found large chambers filled with breathtaking speleothems, crystal clear travertine pools of water, pits that go down to the aquifer, and beauty never before seen by anyone in the world. We know there are more big discoveries waiting beneath our feet.”
For the team, it’s not just about finding unknown areas of the cavern system. Understanding the cavern, its history, and its eco-system are equally important. Archaeologists just finished a dig in the area, examining burn rock middens. Bio-diversity expeditions have begun an extensive study of the cave adapted species that call this subterranean world home. A future trip is planned to recover fossilized wild cat bones from the cave with the help of a paleontologist. The Wuest family just received the Lone Star Land Steward Award from Texas Parks and Wildlife for their efforts to preserve, restore, and protect the habitat all around Natural Bridge Caverns, all in an effort to be strong stewards for both the land and the Cavern.
Saturday and Sunday the public will have a chance to see the results of the latest exploration as well as take part in cave crawls and learn about rope techniques used in caving. Natural Bridge Caverns will also launch an Explorers blog this summer, giving fans an inside view of the efforts by our team to better understand this incredible natural wonder, sharing videos and photos of trips, and providing education on biodiversity, paleontology, and so much more. To stay up to date, visit the Natural Bridge Caverns website or connect on the Caverns social channels.
Photos and Assets HERE.