There is a cave in the Texas Hill Country, so pretty they couldn't find a name good enough, so they didn't name it. Now it's called Cave Without a Name. I don't make this stuff up; I just tell you about it.
Texas may not be great at naming caves, but they sure are great at having them. They say they have over 7,000 throughout the site. You know Texas, go BIG or go home.
When I heard about the cave that was too pretty to name I was skeptical but intrigued. I looked it up and it was only an hour and a half drive from where I was staying and you know me - I hopped in vanGo and set off to explore this National Natural Landmark. Here's what I found.
Texas Hill Country
First off, you must drive through the Texas Hill Country to get to the cave. I've said it before, and I'll repeat it: The drive alone is worth it wherever you're going.
Once you get beyond the San Antonio area, the change in geography rolls over you. Colorful flowers pepper the landscape, llamas graze in fields, the roads become more narrow. Most of all, the hills emerge.
After a while drive on these gently sloping hills that remind of a child's rollercoaster - smooth, yet impressive - I found the site of the cave.
The cave is hosted in a remote area of Boerne, Texas. Bourne was named for its German founder Ludwig Bourne and it still honors its German roots. You'll find a few small diners selling German food. But, at only 11 square miles if you blink you'll miss it.
On the outskirts of Boerne, the cave is adjacent to a small campground popular for the RV set. You enter the grounds through a dirt road. There you'll find a small shack set up to take the $20 admission at the cave. I thought it was a rather steep fee for a hole in the ground, but things cost what they cost.
I was the only person there waiting for the tour to start at 3 pm. I’d shown up almost an hour early and David and Mike, the cave guides seemed pretty rigid about the set, guided tour times.
You’re not allowed to go into the cave yourself and for a good reason: people are careless and damage is something they no longer tolerate.
By the time the tour started, there were 11 of us – a young couple, a man and his young daughter about seven years old, and two retired couples. As I usually do on tours, as the only single person, I tried to buddy up with the guide. I tend to have a lot of questions, so it’s just easier to establish a relationship early. Mike, though, showed no interest whatsoever in my existence.
Every time he looked at me it was with a distinct air of annoyance. At first, I thought it was me, but no, it was women. There was a marked difference in his engagement level with the men who he answered with a smile and full sentences. So, if you're a woman traveling alone like me, do your research in advance, or have a man ask your questions.
Cave Without a Name
There is a covered hole on the property which used to be the only entrance to the cave. People had to be lowered down the narrow hole by rope. Lucky for us they've since built a stairway.
We walked down a narrow, limestone staircase about eight stories deep. There the opening led to a massive cavern, extending over a quarter of a mile.
Inside the cave, there were the prerequisite stalagmites and stalactite, curtain, straw and column structures you’d see in any cave. However, the sight and particular formations are new each time. There are unusual 19-foot-long draperies referred to as "Texas-sized cave bacon" and a group of stalagmites Mike said resemble the nativity scene. They did.
Fun fact: During prohibition, local farmers only explored a small portion of what they then thought was just a sinkhole and they decided it was perfect to use for their illegal alcohol operations! They used to store the illicit booze in the entrance to the cave, but had no idea was hidden right there.
What Makes it so Beautiful
What was unique about this cave is the river. Say what? The river.
In the back of the main area is an extensive set of caverns linked to the underground portion of the Guadalupe River. Cave explorers say the river flows through more than 2.7 miles of caverns. That might sound like a lot, but it's only the 7th longest cave in Texas. Can you believe that?
The water has a few entry points from a natural spring-fed pool that form shallow waterfall features down in those caverns. The water is as cool and clear as glass. Sometimes, Mike said, the cave floods and water would be deeper than our heads. That was a daunting thought.
Concert in the Cave
There was a stack of about 100 chairs in one corner of the Queen's Throne room. Mike said, before COVID, they used to hold concerts. The chambers have spectacular natural acoustics from the three domes on the ceiling. Mike thumped on his chest, and it echoed throughout like a drum.
This was only my second cave visit in Texas, but it really was the prettiest. I also toured the Natural Bridge Caverns, which are the biggest in Texas. There are also a lot more people, so plan accordingly.