By Bill Steele

In 1960, cavers checked out a small cave on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas. Other cavers had been there before, but they pushed harder, and made the discovery of some of the largest, best decorated cave passages in Texas. A few years later it opened as a show cave and is well known and very popular. No new passages had been discovered in the cave since the late 1960s.

In October 2018, Bill Steele arranged with one of the original explorers of the cave, Orion Knox, now in his late 70s, to join and narrate a special tour of the cave for members of the Texas Chapter of The Explorers Club. At the visitors’ center after this tour, standing at a map of the cave on the wall, Orion was asked if any leads remain in the cave. He smiled and pointed to the Dome Pit, a 100+‑foot-high dome with a possible passage at the top. It was thought to not be climbable due to the limestone being too soft, so it had never been attempted.

Steele said that the best cave wall climber in the USA, Lee White of Georgia, would be with him following the 2019 Huautla expedition. In May 2019, White climbed the wall and the passage at the top led to an extension of the cave with pits; well-decorated chambers; experiments with flying drones underground, netting much media attention; and now a planned new shaft entrance into the new discoveries.

6 Comments

  1. Bill, that was a great tour of the new part of NBC. It makes you wonder if there’s more passage currently blocked off? Has anyone done a resistivity survey in the NBC area to locate voids not connected to known passage? See John Lyles’ Monday talk on Fort Stanton Cave where he briefly shows a topo map of the FSC area with known cave and apparently unconnected resistivity blobs ( I haven’t checked with John about this yet ). Somewhere I still have a copy of Orion’s NBC map, because it’s a great example of a well done cave map. Because he greatly reduced the center part of the map, it looks like a well done copper engraving. Rick Banning

    1. Rick – I work at NBC. There have been a number of “casual” resistivity studies done over the years here at Natural Bridge Caverns. By casual I mean surveys which were conducted by various university groups. None of these studies produced any new discoveries – all of them show the expected resistivity signatures of the known rooms and passages. And we have never conducted a resistivity survey above the property where the new passages Bill presented on were found.

  2. Hi Brian, so there’s a possibility of more passage past the current end? Also, I wonder about what’s the smallest passage that gets picked up by a resistivity survey? Tight long crawls might not show up ?? Rick Banning

  3. Great presentation Bill! It brings back wonderful memories. Thanks for your help, being a part of these expeditions and helping make our discoveries a reality! And thanks to the late, great Lee White who conquered the Dome Pit climb which led to all our subsequent discoveries. May he R.I.P. in caver Heaven! I close my eyes and see virgin passage below and beyond from our last expedition. I can hardly wait to get back there and keep it going.

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