Cave, near Johnson
City in Blanco
County, has been a place of mystery since cattlemen first discovered
its dark entrance while grazing their herds along the Pedernales
River in the 1800s. Only a small number of people have been inside.
For everyone else the underground wonders and the natural beauty
of the cave remain hidden in a damp subterranean blackness that
has never seen the light of day.
Buffalo Cave was known only locally until 1925 when the West Texas
Guano Company leased the site for guano mining. At the direction
of the company an experienced caveman named T. C. Harrington explored
the cavern and declared it "one of the most wonderful caves in Texas."
Descending into the cave Harrington found several lofty rooms where
centuries of dripping water had slowly eaten away the limestone
In one room he found bones believed to be human.
In another room Harrington found a molar "3 inches long," and an
ivory tusk. According to reports the tusk went on public display
at the office of the Blanco Record-Courier.
About 70 feet down in the cave and far back from the entrance, Harrington
surprised a wildcat. The animal scared the daylights out of Harrington
before it slowly retreating into the darkness.
Farther on the explorer found several animal carcasses - believed
to be cattle that wandered into the cave and never made it out.
He found a long set of horns and a bubbling turquoise spring.
Newspaper stories spread the word about Buffalo Cave, but there
is no evidence that the West Texas Guano Company ever mined an ounce
of guano there. Apparently the business never got off the ground,
and the cave was soon forgotten.
Then in 1929 geologists searching for petroleum in Blanco
County stumbled upon Buffalo Cave. J. B. Dickinson, a geologist
and spelunker from Tulsa Oklahoma, couldn't resist taking a peek
"The Buffalo Cavern seems to be a most wonderful freak," Dickinson
told a reporter. "We made a somewhat hurried investigation with
ordinary flashlights and found many interesting situations. We started
on the north side of the Pedernales
River about one thousand feet and came out on the south side,
being a direct line of almost a mile. Our meanderings probably covered
twice that distance."
"The character of the limestone easily erodes by the action of the
water, hence the immense opening and the numerous large rooms."
Dickinson estimated there were a dozen or more branches of the cave,
"some of them may lead several miles under the high hills."
News about Buffalo Cave created a lot of public interest. The cave
drew comparisons to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Longhorn
Caverns near Burnet.
Riding a wave of publicity the owners of the property decided to
open the cave to the public.
made the opening of Buffalo Cave feasible. Roads to the site, which
until 1930 had been in bad condition, had recently been improved,
and electricity had finally reached the
Hill Country. Strings of electric lights lit up the cave for
the first time.
Billed as "one of the most famous underground caverns in Texas,"
Buffalo Cave opened to the public on July 26, 1931.
There was a big celebration. Newspapers advertised "plenty of lights.
Music in 3 parts of the cave. Free coffee and ice. Bar-B-Que available
at low cost."
Then almost immediately, the publicity stopped.
Just how long Buffalo Cave remained a tourist attraction is not
clear, but the site rather quickly closed to the public.
The Great Depression may have hurt attendance. Perhaps the owners
of the property decided not to turn their pasture into a tourist
For whatever reason Buffalo Cave fell off the radar. Even people
in Blanco County
forgot about it.
Since the 1930s the cave has been left alone with nature, but it
probably hasn't changed much.
A cave is a hidden universe, separated from the outside world. There
is no day or night in a cave. There are no seasons.
Time stands still. A second in the life of a human is like a century
in a cave.
December 15, 2019 Column
"Buffalo Cave Opening Saturday," Fredericksburg Standard, July
"Mysteries of the Famous Buffalo Cave," Llano News, October 29,
"Large Cavern is Found in Texas," The Junction Eagle, April 25,