While our physical offices are closed until at least April 13 due Austin's COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl

LONGHORN CAVERN. Longhorn Cavern is in Longhorn Cavern State Park nine miles southwest of Burnet on State Park Road 4 in southwestern Burnet County. The area was once part of D. G. Sherrard's pasture, and the cavern was called Sherrard's Cave. When Backbone Ridge was formed several million years ago, water seepage formed holes in the underground limestone. By about a million years ago, these holes had become wide enough to form connecting rooms. The seepage became an underground river, and erosion and stalactite formation continued. The cave had several natural entrances. The number and kinds of bones found in it suggest that it was used as a refuge by predatory animals. In more recent history the cavern was used by Comanche Indians-hence the name "Indian Council Room" given to one of the chambers. The constant 65° F temperature and the layer of flint, useful for making tools, doubtless made the shelter very attractive. The Indians were driven out in the 1860s by the Confederate Army, which then used the cavern as a place to manufacture gunpowder. After the Civil War Indians again made use of the cave. Several outlaws, including Sam Bass, are thought to have sought shelter there as well. In the 1920s and early 1930s part of the cavern was used as a dance hall, night club, and restaurant. One of the rooms was used for theater presentations and religious services. In 1931 the state of Texas purchased the cavern and the surrounding ranchland for a state park. The Civilian Conservation Corps worked from 1934 to 1938 to clear the passages in the cave, to build levees for flood control, to dig drainage holes, and to install a lighting system. In 1932 the cavern and park were opened and operated as a concession by the Longhorn Cavern Company. Several private groups have had the concession during the years; in the 1990s the cavern and park were overseen by Longhorn Cavern, Incorporated. Eleven miles of the cavern has been explored, although the guided tour (offered several times daily, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) is only a 1¼-mile round trip.

Malvin George Bowden, History of Burnet County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1940). Sandy Bridges, "Longhorn Cavern State Park," Texas Highways, July 1986. Victor S. Craun, "Commercial Caves of Texas," in The Caves of Texas (National Speleological Society Bulletin 10, April 1948). William H. Matthews III, The Geologic Story of Longhorn Cavern (Austin: Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas, 1963).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, "LONGHORN CAVERN," accessed April 05, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/rql01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...