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Caves of Cedar Park

Your guide to hiking and biking the city’s Cave Preserves and Historical Areas

Map of the Cedar Park Caves and Preserves

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                   There are over 750 known caves in Williamson county alone! 


 Cave Fact! Caves generally have a steady, year-round temperature. That temperature corresponds to the average for the above-ground area where the cave is located!

What is a cave? How did it form?

                  Central Texas boasts hundreds of caves, and Cedar Park is home to dozens of those, making them vital to the stability of our water supplies and development as a safe, ecologically mindful city. Caves are a fixture in the imagination of many children and adults alike. They are mysterious places where alien creatures sustain themselves seemingly on darkness and silence, and invoke feelings of fear and curiosity in many. However, rather than scary dark holes, caves are really just any naturally occurring underground cavity that is big enough for a person to fit in to and explore. There are tens of thousands of caves in the United States. They exist in many types of environments, from volcanic islands to desert wastelands, and house animals often endemic to that one area, or even that particular cave. 

                Big or small, they all appear thanks to geological processes that take centuries to occur. The most common type of caves are limestone caves. These caves form in what is called “karst” landscapes. Karst landscapes are simply regions whose bedrock is made of soluble rock. The rock dissolves due to the CO2 that is picked up from the atmosphere during rainfall, which acts as an acid, slowly but surely eating away at the limestone. The longer and more often water flows over these landscapes, the more it erodes the bedrock, creating cracks, crevices, and sinkholes that eventually hollow out to form a cave.

                  Exact dating is impossible for caves since the holes are younger than the rock, and sometimes continuing to grow even today. Caves and their formations are ancient as far as humans are concerned, and serve as an integral part of delicate ecosystems that depend on clean water, unpolluted air, and careful cultivation of development-free areas around them to survive.


Image showing Karst landscape
Courtesy of 

Types of Cave Formations

              Once a cave is discovered and explored by a person for the first time, the first thing many notice are the vast array of different rock formations that exist. Every cave is unique, and these formations are created through different, specific sets of circumstances, depending on whether the water drips, seeps, condenses, flows, or ponds. Cave formations are called “speleothem,” and they are defined as a secondary mineral deposit formed in a cave. Many speleothems are named for their resemblance to man-made or natural objects, such as “soda straws.” They form from many minerals, such as salt and sulfur. Speleothems made of pure calcium carbonate are a translucent white color, but often speleothems are colored by minerals such as iron, copper or manganese, or may be brown because of mud and silt particulate inclusions.

               Dozens of these types of formations are illustrated in the picture shown on this page, however, to avoid a book of encyclopedic proportions, we will define just a few of the most common types below.
Stalagmites and Stalactites are two different types of dripstone, meaning they are formed from the slow accumulation of minerals from dripping water. Stalactites are pointed pendants hanging from the cave ceiling. Soda Straws are very thin but long stalactites that are hollow cylinders that look like straws you would use for drinking. These delicate cave features are easily broken off by inattentive cavers, so be careful when viewing them. Soda straws are a very easy way to tell if a cave is active or not, because they will have water dripping from their openings. Stalagmites, on the other hand, are the ground up counterparts to stalactites, often forming in blunt mounds from the water dripping through Stalactites. They come in several forms, such as Broomstick, Totem pole, and Fried egg. A Column forms when stalactites and stalagmites meet or when stalactites reach the floor of the cave. 

                Flowstone is a sheet-like rock formation found on cave floors and walls. It comes in many forms as well, one of which is Bacon Flowstone, which is a drapery on the wall of a cave with variously colored bands within the sheet. Cave Crystals come in several varieties, such as Dogtooth spar, which are calcite crystals often found near seasonal pools.

              Unlike Speleothems, Speleogens are formations within caves that are created by the removal of bedrock, rather than the accumulation of minerals. These include Pillars, Scallops, Boneyard, and Boxwork. There are also other types of formations found in caves that don’t fall under either category, such as Cave Popcorn (cave coral), which are small knobby clusters of calcite that litter cave floors, and Calcite Rafts, which are thin accumulations of calcite that appear on the surface of cave pools.


A- Stalactite   B- Soda Straws   C- Stalagmites   D- Coned Stalagmite   E- Column   F- Sinterfahne   G- Drapery H- Helictites   I- Moonmilk   J- Sinter pool   K- Calcite crystal   L- Sinter terrace   M- Karst   N- body of water           O- Shield   P- Cave Clouds   Q- Cave Pearls   R- Tower cones   S- Shelfstones   T- Baldacchino canopy              U- Bottlebrush stalactite   V- Conulite   W- Flowstone   X- Trays   Y- Calcite Rafts   Z- Coralloids   AA- Frostworks AB- Flowstone   AC- Splattermite   AD- Speleoseismites   AE- Boxworks   AF- Oriented stalactites
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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Last updated: 8/5/2015 2:44:27 PM