Airmen's Cave

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Airmen's Cave
Map showing the location of Airmen's Cave
Map showing the location of Airmen's Cave
Showing location of Airmen's Cave in Texas
Location Austin, Texas, U.S.A.
Coordinates 30°14′30″N 97°47′30″W / 30.241673°N 97.791595°W / 30.241673; -97.791595Coordinates: 30°14′30″N 97°47′30″W / 30.241673°N 97.791595°W / 30.241673; -97.791595
Depth 9 metres (30 ft)
Length 3,444 metres (11,299 ft)
Height variation 15 metres (49 ft)
Altitude 170 metres (560 ft)
Discovery 1971
Geology Cretaceous limestone
Entrances 1
Hazards small passages
Access gated
Cave survey Un. Texas Grotto, NSS. 1974

Airmen's Cave is a cave located adjacent to Barton Creek in Travis County in the south of Austin, Texas. It is 3,444 metres (11,299 ft) long,[1] and is characterised by long crawls and tight passages.[2]

The cave was discovered in 1971 by two airmen from Bergstrom Air Force Base, who excavated a draughting crack under a crag. It was explored and surveyed over the next three years by members of the University of Texas Grotto of the National Speleological Society who had to dig their way through several blockages.[3]

The cave is formed in the Edwards limestone of the early Cretaceous, and was original a feeder for Barton Springs before the water table lowered and the stream found a different course.[4] It is home to a number of endangered troglobite species including Rhadine persephone (the Tooth Cave ground beetle), Tartarocreagris texana (the Tooth Cave pseudoscorpion), Neoleptoneta myopica (the Tooth Cave spider), Texella reddelli (the Bee Creek cave harvestman), Texella reyesi (the Bone Cave harvestman), and Texamaurops reddelli (the Kretschmarr Cave mold beetle).[5]

Airmen's Cave has several notable features. One of the more foreboding passages is still in sight of daylight, the Birth Canal. A tight, restricting tunnel that once discouraged many novice cavers from continuing on. Much deeper in the cave is a space known as the Aggie Art Gallery. The section of the cave has a concentration of reddish maroon clay and features dozens of handmade sculptures, all formed and left behind by spelunkers.[citation needed]

The cave was the subject of a major rescue in October 1977 when three students became lost. They emerged unharmed after being underground for 30 hours.[6]

The cave is within the Barton Creek Greenbelt public park, and is managed by the City of Austin's Park and Recreation Department.[7] They installed a security gate in 2012 as a result of a sharp increase in traffic which was considered to pose a serious safety risk to untrained individuals exploring the cave, as well as being a threat to the cave and cave fauna.[8]


  1. ^ Gulden, Bob (November 2013). "USA Longest Caves". NSS GEO2 Committee on Long and Deep Caves. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Weinstein, Natalie (15 October 2007). "When low-tech triumphs: a cave rescue". CNET. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Russel, William (November 1975). ""Airmen's Cave". The Texas Caver 20 (6): 167–177. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Hovorka, Sue. "Edwards Limestone Outcrop along Barton Creek". Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Wildland Caves". City of Austin. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Student Spelunkers Emerge Unharmed After Being Trapped in Texas Cave". Fox News. 14 October 2007. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Park Directory". The City of Austin. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  8. ^ ""Biological Monitoring "". City of Austin BCCP Coordinating Committee Meeting. Retrieved 27 December 2013.