Caverns of Sonora, Sonora Texas

The Caverns of Sonora are accessed by Exit 392 on I-10 in Texas.  We have been reading their billboards for quite some time and finally decided to visit, to see if their claim that they have been recognized as one of the most beautiful show caves on the planet is valid.  They have also been designated a National Natural Landmark by the Federal Government.  

The only way to see the cavern is by guided tour, which takes about two hours, and includes 360 stair steps.  You descend to 155 feet below the surface during the tour.  The good news about the stairs is that they are very easy to navigate, and there are hand rails for all the stairs and most of the paths.  The tour has a stop where you can rest for a few minutes, which is helpful if you aren’t in great physical shape.  During that break our guide turned out the lights so we could experience total darkness, something most of us never do.  The temperature in the cavern is a constant 71º, which is made very comfortable by the 98% humidity.  No jackets needed.

The first part of the cave is dry, no longer actively creating formations.  The ceiling in this part is still interesting, though, and it’s not long until you get into areas where the formations are actively growing.

There are so many interesting formations that it is difficult to figure out what to photograph.  There are formations of every type imaginable:  stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, soda straws and helictites.  Helictites are a distorted form of stalactites, which grow in different directions, and many times resemble twigs.  They are illustrated below left; the photo below right shows soda straws, which are hollow, thin-walled stalactites.

There are also several small lakes within the cavern.  The cavern itself is unusual in that it has several layers of passages.  One of the sights along the path is the arrows drawn on the walls by early explorers to mark the exit trail. 

There is an artificial ‘wishing’ lake in the cave, which was created specifically to be a place where people could throw money.  Apparently they were putting money into the natural lakes, which is not good for them.  It is clear from looking at the lake with the money that copper is leached from the pennies, as the water is a very definite copper green.  The owners clean out this lake several times a year, and all money from it is donated to charity.

Even though these photos make it appear that the cave is rather monochromatic, in actuality there are many different colors in the cave.

There are rules for the tour:  you cannot bring any food, drink, tobacco or chewing gum into the cave, and you cannot carry anything except your camera:  no bags of any sort, no jackets.  No pets are allowed in the cave, but there are kennels for them on site.  There is also absolutely no touching of formations, as that can destroy them.  For that reason, this is not a good tour for very young children.

The Caverns of Sonora website http://www.cavernsofsonora.com shows some video and photos that will give you a further hint of what you will encounter when you visit.  They cannot, however, convey the incredible beauty of what you will encounter.  The Caverns of Sonora are not as big as Carlsbad, but they will still wow you.  And the tour is well worth the price of admission.  Our tour guide has explored caves for many years, and taught us much about the cavern, its history and its formations.  A large set of our photos can be found at rovingstones.shutterfly.com/pictures/2399.  A smaller selection can be found in this photo album.

In addition to the tour of the cavern, there is a campground and other activities for children, such as gemstone panning.  Special tours and learning activities are also available.


Stalactites

Original visit April 24, 2010

© Susan L. Stone 2015                   rovingstones@me.com