Avery Ranch Cave turned out to be a great spot for one of Mother Nature’s classrooms.
Some years ago, the Texas Cave Conservancy installed a secure entrance to the cave off Avery Ranch Boulevard in far Northwest Austin, north of the Travis-Williamson county line. A set of stairs, lighting and a deck allow visitors to see the one-room cave, filled with caramel-colored formations like stalactites and stalagmites.
“If you had to set up a cave to be used for educational purposes, the way Avery Ranch is set up is perfect. It’s a great setup for that type of program,” said John Brooks, president of the Texas Cave Management Association.
On Friday, the Texas Cave Management Association finalized a deal to buy Avery Ranch Cave for $25,000 from the conservancy, which periodically allowed public access to the cave for educational events. Brooks said his organization plans to continue using the cave for educational and community outreach programs, with a focus on helping people understand the importance of protecting caves and the role such karst formations play in channeling area’s groundwater.
“The Texas Cave Conservancy did a fine job of protecting and preserving the cave and using it as an educational resource,” Brooks said. “We intend to continue using the cave in a very similar manner.”
The cave — a single chamber about 30 to 40 feet long, with a maximum ceiling height of 18 feet — was in pristine condition when crews discovered it in 2001 while excavating a sewer line. The Texas Cave Conservancy worked with landowners, state regulators and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the area; among other things, a gated entrance and fencing around the property were installed to keep out unauthorized explorers.
The conservancy used to hold “Cave Day” tours at Avery Ranch, an event the new owners are looking into continuing, Brooks said. He noted the Texas Cave Management Association holds a similar Cave Day tour every 18 months at the Robber Baron Cave it owns in San Antonio.
The association is also exploring a partnership with schools to create educational programs for students, he said.
The Texas Cave Management Association, the state’s oldest nonprofit cave conservancy, owns nine cave preserves across Central and Southwest Texas, including Robber Baron Cave in San Antonio, Ezell’s Cave in San Marcos and the Deep and Punkin Caves Preserve in Edwards County.
“We buy caves to conserve them for a multitude of reasons. One of them is exploration; another is scientific, so we have several caves we protect for endangered species,” Brooks said. “Then we have several caves open for recreational caving or for exploration activities. (Avery Ranch Cave) fits a unique aspect of our mission, which is education.”
The association is one of 34 land trusts in Texas directly involved in protecting land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historical or productive value.