American Locations 6 – Caverns of Sonora

This trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Caverns of Sonora, Texas

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Leaving San Angelo, Texas, we drove south on Hwy 277 to Sonora. We then drove a short distance west on I-10 and stopped to see the Caverns of Sonora. I first learned about this cave while watching the Planet Earth program. There is a brief mention of the Caverns of Sonora near the end of the segment on caves. There were some images of incredibly intricate crystal-like formations I had not seen in any other caves.

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Here is the Wikipedia entry about it:  The Caverns of Sonora, a National Natural Landmark, is a unique cave located 8 miles (13 km) west of the small city of Sonora, the seat of Sutton CountyTexas. It is a world-class cave because of its stunning array of calcite crystal formations, especially helictites. These helictites are found in extreme abundance, often with a rare purity and complexity. One formation is so densely packed with them, it has been dubbed the “snake pit”. The founder of the National Speleological Society, Bill Stephenson, said of the cave after his first visit: “This is the most indescribably beautiful cave in the world, its beauty cannot be exaggerated, not even by a Texan.”

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About ten miles or so west of Sonora on I-10 we took the Caverns Road exit and followed some narrow winding roads through remote ranchland. Don’t worry, the route is well-marked.

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It is less than ten miles south of the interstate. Above ground, there is not much to recommend it. A gift shop, of course, and a snack bar, and a small campground. The treasures are below ground.

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For some reason, because of the kind of cave it is, these caverns are not cool. They are warm and humid. Which a young man in our tour group who had recently dyed his hair orange learned to his dismay, as the orange color ran down all over his face and neck. But he redeemed himself at the end of the tour. Before exiting the cave he sang a beautiful song, which echoed majestically off the cavern walls. The reason he had dyed his hair was that he was the lead singer in a rock band, and he really had a nice voice.

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You should make an effort to see this cave soon. These formations are extremely fragile. And unlike better known caves, such as Mammoth Cave and Carlsbad Caverns, the Caverns of Sonora are not part of the national park system. It is a private enterprise. Although our tour guide stressed we weren’t to touch any of the formations, since the oils on our skin would damage them, people weren’t heeding his warning. I suppose the reason being a private tour guide does not have the authority of a park ranger, so is easily disregarded. Also, some of the passageways were extremely tight, making it difficult not to graze against some of these incredible pieces of nature art. So try to see these amazing caverns before they are too badly damaged.

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You know how formations in caves get tagged with corny names. Here is a photo of my favorite titled formation: the strip of bacon.

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