Cascade Caverns Cathedral Room
|Location||Kendall County, Texas, United States|
|Depth||132 Feet at Cathedral Room|
|Show cave opened||1932|
Cascade Caverns is a historically, geologically, and biologically important limestone solutional cave three miles (4.8 km) south of Boerne, Texas, United States, on 226 Cascade Caverns Road, in Kendall County. It has been commercially operated as a show cave and open for public tours since 1932. Informal tours were run as far back as 1875 when Dr. Benjamin Hester owned the cave property. The cave was known by the native Lipan Apache people who lived in the area prior to 1800.
Cascade Caverns is part of the Glen Rose Formation, a shallow marine to shoreline geological formation from the Lower Cretaceous period. This formation has been exposed in a large area beginning in South Central Texas, running north through the Texas Hill Country, ending up in North Central Texas.
The cave has been open to the environment for many tens of thousands of years, as evidenced by prehistoric animal finds and Lipan Apache artifacts from the 1700s. In the mid-19th century, there were various legends about a hermit that lived on the ledge at the entrance to the cave. In 1878 August Siemering, one of the co-founders of the San Antonio Express News, wrote the book Ein Verfehltes Leben (A Stolen Life, or A Wasted Life) about a hermit who lived in the cave. The book was later translated into English in 1932, The Hermit of the Cavern by May E. Francis, a UT professor.
A cave in the area was also mentioned in the book The Boy Captives by Clinton L. Smith about two local boys who were abducted by Comanche and Lipan Indians on February 26, 1871. They spent several years living with the Indians until they were finally returned to their family. The cave may be Cascade Caverns or any of the other caves in the Cibolo Creek area.
The cave was first commercially opened in 1932 and operated until about 1941. Alfred and Edith Gray were the original land owners when the cave was first opened. The cave was closed during WWII because most of the men were away fighting in Europe and there was strict gas rationing which limited travel. During the time of closure, the cave's artifact collection was looted from the gift shop. Business was resumed in the late 1940s. Cascade Caverns had been originally known as Hester's Cave, named after a late 19th century landowner. It became most famous as a result of Frank Nicholson's publication of cave explorations.
Frank Nicholson (formerly of Carlsbad Caverns) was the first person in modern times to explore the cave all the way to the Cathedral Room. Several other people helped to explore the main cave along with other caves in the area, including Bernard Cartwright and his brother Dan. Bernard was married to Mary Rose (nee Kronkosky), who said that she and Edith Gray and their children would worry and wait for the cave explorers to come back out into the light of day.
The exploration in 1931 required getting past the Lake Room which was a sump. According to a newspaper article from November 1931 in the San Antonio Express News, they had some waterproof molasses buckets that they put their lights in. There is also a legend that they put flashlights in mason jars.
The cave tour business changed hands many times over the years. In the 1930s there was a flag-stop on the San Antonio-Boerne SA&AP train line which ran by the cave about a hundred yards from the entrance. The current gift shop was originally a dance hall next to a kitchen. The Menger Hotel ran a restaurant near the cave entrance when the cave initially opened as a commercial endeavor in 1932. At one time there was a toy train from Joske's department store that ran around the grounds. The train still exists and is in storage, but is no longer used. There was also at one time a swimming pool, a movie theater, a gravity house.
In 1967, the artist Paul "P.B." Kime, who had a studio at Cascade Caverns in the 1960s, created a parade float that was used in the first Boerne Berges Fest in 1967 and the first Weihnachts Parade in 1987.
In April 1984, a Texas Historical Marker was placed near the cave to commemorate the natural landmark.
In 1993, The Walt Disney Company filmed a movie called Father Hood starring Patrick Swayze. They filmed for several weeks both inside the cave and out on the grounds. Several minutes of footage were used in the final version of the film. A prop in the film was a giant T-Rex which is still located near the gift shop today.
The original gift shop (constructed in 1932) was badly damaged and the Alfred & Edith Gray Theater (constructed in 1984) was destroyed in a flood in 2002.
Cascade Caverns maintains an average temperature of 60–65 °F (16–18 °C) all year round. A forty-five minute to one-hour commercial tour passes through a half mile of flowstone corridors and winding chambers, which leads one 132 feet below the surface and into the Cathedral Room.
Below the Cathedral Room is another cave which is only accessible through a drain pipe that was installed in the early 1960s after the natural passage was collapsed during a flood. Adventure Tours to the lower cave are given by expert cavers by reservation only. The sump at the bottom of the Lower Cave is about 230 feet below the surface.
The cave was host to Texas’ only cavern with a natural interior waterfall. Originally, there were 7 waterfalls in the cavern. A very bad drought in the 1950s caused all of the waterfalls to dry up, except for the one in the Cathedral Room. It would either not run or unexpectedly flood the room, so in the 1960s the original source of the water was cemented up and an artificial waterfall was installed to mimic the original one without the danger of flooding. This very feature, the cascading waterfall, is what had earned the cave its name. The cave is 95% alive and water droplets persistently fall upon the cave formations. The primary formation found in the cave are Soda straws. Most are quite short because of frequent flooding.
The cave is home to unusual insects. These include cave crickets (Rhaphidophoridae) and cave beetles (Rhadine persephone - very rare!). Also to be found in the cave are a microscopic creature called Stygobromus dejectus, the Cascade Caverns Amphipod. There are also amphibians, crawfish, reptiles, Tricolored bats (Pipistrellus), and the rare Cascade Caverns Neotenic Salamanders that live in the cave. Known as the Cascade Caverns Salamander or Kendall County Salamander, it can only be found in Cascade Caverns and another regional cave, the Cave Without a Name.
Mastodon remains, Saber-toothed Tiger bones (Smilodon), American Bison bones, and other animals have been found in the cave. Native American artifacts, human remains, and even a pistol were reportedly found during excavation of the front room. Most of these items disappeared during the closure in the early 1940s.
Tours are run year-round, with only rare closings due to flooding. There is a dam that protects the cave from unexpected flash flooding. There have been quite a few floods throughout the years that have impacted the cave. Naturally the cave formed with the help of flooding, with water helping to carve out the rock. During the exploration in 1931, it was reported that there were white fish in the cave. After the natural flow of water was inhibited with the dam these fish are no longer seen.
Flooding at Cascade Caverns
|1900||September||9-10||12.36"||1900 Galveston hurricane|
|1921||September||7-11||39.70"||September 1921 San Antonio floods (51 San Antonio Deaths)|
|1932||July||1-2||32.4-35.6"||Guadalupe River Basin Flood|
|1935||June||9-15||12.59"||The "Great Flood"|
|1937||May||31||5.94"||Destroyed Cascade Dam|
|1946||September||26||9.45"||6 San Antonio Deaths|
|1952||September||9-11||13.63"||Central Texas Flood|
|1972||May||11-12||31.65"-38"||New Braunfels-Seguin Flood|
|1978||August||1-4||23.5"-46.62"||"500 Year Flood" (20+ deaths in Bandera/Kendall/Kerr Counties)|
|1987||July||16-17||11.0"||Comfort Bus Tragedy Flood (10 student deaths)|
|1992||May||16-17||12.61"||The "50 Year Flood"|
|1998||August||22-25||15.85"||Tropical Storm Charley (1998)|
|1998||October||16-18||22.0"||Hurricane Madeline (1998)|
|2002||July||1-7||28.43"||Damaged the Old Gift Shop and destroyed the Movie Theater|
|2007||May||1-2||10.31"||Tom Summers drowns at Cave Without a Name|
|2015||May||23-24||17.33"||Texas-Oklahoma Flood (El Nino related)|
- Siemering, A (1932). The hermit of the cavern; a novel of the early sixties ... early German settlers in Southwest Texas ... San Antonio, Tex.: Naylor Print. Co.
- A. Richard Smith, "Cascade Caverns," Handbook of Texas Online , accessed April 13, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- "Mary Rose Cartwright". www.txgenwebcounties.org. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
- "Tearing the Mask of Mystery from Kendall County's Wonder Cavern". The San Antonio Express News. November 22, 1931.
- "Cascade Cavern Holds Mysteries of Mother Earth". The Kerrville Daily Times. August 24, 1933.
- 2010 Report by Ozark Underground Laboratory
- San Antonio Express News, Newspaper Article
- "Stygobromus dejectus (Cascade Cave Amphipod)". www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
- Cascade Caverns, Biology & Paleontology
- "San Antonio, TX Flood, May 1937 | GenDisasters ... Genealogy in Tragedy, Disasters, Fires, Floods". www.gendisasters.com. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
- Times, Special To The New York (1972-05-13). "11 Dead in Flood in Texas; Thousands Leave Homes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
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