Longhorn Cavern State Park is located at 6211 Park Road 4 South, Burnet, TX 78611. This is one of the most unusual places we have danced so far. It was originally called the Longhorn Cavern Club in the 1920’s and 30’s and included a restaurant and night club with the dance hall. One “room” was used for theater presentations and religious services. The state purchased the cavern and surrounding ranch land from private owners in 1937.
There is no entrance fee to the park, but if you want to see the caverns you must pay for a cave tour. There are eleven cave rooms or formations on the ninety minute walking tour. One of them is called the Underground Ballroom and was the one we were interested in. Tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis. The grounds and facilities are open during the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekends and holidays the hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. They are closed Christmas eve and Christmas day. No overnight camping is allowed at this park. The walking tours are offered on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays. The tour does require you to have good balance and the ability to bend over (4’ low ceilings) for some distance on slick ground. Three people had to return half way through due to their inability to complete the walk.
According to a poster in the store, dancers were required to wear “Fashionable dress” which meant ballroom clothing, long gowns and high heels for the ladies, black tie for the gents. Dancing was $0.25 per male, ladies were free. They laid 2,000 square feet of wood down for a dance floor. The band was set into an alcove of limestone.
Our tour guide, Allie, had a recording of the big jazz band that played there. It was a lively beat and we were delighted to have music to dance to in this space. Another couple also danced a few measures with us. We were told there used to be a 35’ concrete ramp built for people to access the dance floor, restaurant and night club. This was a high society event venue. When the state bought the land they took up the floor so the cave could return to its original natural state. This cave is a living cave. The formations are still growing. We were reminded not to touch the formations because the oil on our fingers would kill the growth process.
The caverns were excavated between 1934 and 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). They removed more than 3,000 dump truck loads of rock and debris from the cavern. In the past, the cave was used by the Comanche Indians, Mexican Free Tail bats and Tri Color bats. Angelo settlers found the caves in the 1880’s, which caused the Comanche to abandon the caves. Mexican Free Tail bats didn’t like the drilling and excavation, and left in the 30’s and 40’s. The Tri Color bats are the only remaining inhabitants. Tri Color bats are very tiny, about the size of your thumb and are not social. They hang in individual areas, rather than in groups. The females teach the pups to hunt for food and when they are weaned, they both return to the cave. We were told there are about 70 Tri Color bats in this cave. We saw two – an adult and an adolescent.
The Crystal room is full of very soft crystals – registering a three on a scale of ten. Fingernails are a 2.5 for reference.
We saw a nature made dog, that looked human formed. It was given the name The Queen’s dog. It was originally growing with the legs upward from the collection of mud, minerals and water. During the cave excavation, workers found it in a pit. State employees moved it to the current location next to the Queen’s Throne. Looking at it, it’s hard to fathom nature made this, not human hands. There was also another formation that looked like Abraham Lincoln’s face.
The cavern is several layers deep. At times there was an “attic” of hollow caves above us. Other times there were rooms deep below us, full of water.
During the civil war, the United States used the bat guano to make gunpowder. There were still several empty canisters in the cave.
The formations were fantastic….my photos don’t do them justice. I can’t imagine trotting down a 35’ descent on a concrete ramp in a ballgown and heels to dance here though. I was fine in my t-shirt and tennis shoes to keep from slipping on the wet floor.
The guides are full of information and made the entire tour interesting and entertaining, keeping both children and adults enthralled with cave and area history. Though this was on my list as a Closed dance floor, I’m glad we searched it out and were able to dance on it ourselves.
If you want more history, here’s a link. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/rql01
The rest of these are photos from inside and outside of the cave. It was a mile and a half hike, with a short dance inside. So worth it!