Caverns of Sonora
"This is the most indescribably beautiful
cave in the world, its beauty cannot be exaggerated, not even by a Texan."
- Bill Stephenson, founder of the National Speleological Society.
to one legend, in 1887, a sheepherder was tending his herd on land belonging to
the Mayfield Ranch in Sutton County, Texas when he spotted a small cave entrance
that was too small to admit an adult. Another story tells of a hunter's dog originally
discovering the entrance.
Over the years, explorers chipped away at the
small entrance until it was large enough to allow a person to enter.
the entrance lay a darkened corridor, strewn with boulders. The corridor extended
to some depth, then ended abruptly at a great void, seemingly a bottomless pit!
It was here that all exploration of the Mayfield Cave ended.
some point, the Mayfield family had a gate installed at the entrance in an effort
to protect the curious from injurying themselves in the cave. For years it was
unexplored.In 1955, the National Speleological Society gained permission to explore
the cave. Members Bob Crisman, Bart Crisman and Jack Prince were the ones who
were sent into the cave to make a preliminary assessment. This was a normal practice
and so far, the Mayfield Cave had shown nobody anything that would be terribly
The team made its way
down the corridor once inside, to the point where all previous exploration had
stopped, the great void. After looking down into the cavern, one of them turned
his light on the wall opposite them, about fifty feet away. There, high on the
far wall of the cavern was another passageway! It was up very high and reaching
it would be almost impossible. With this new discovery, the team suddenly had
a much greater interest in the cave. But, their assessment was done; it was time
to return to the surface and plan their actual exploration, including ways of
going farther into the cave.
Labor Day Weekend, 1955, was the time chosen
by the team. The descent to the bottom of the cavern proved to be extremely difficult,
which in caver terms, usually means dangerous and tiring! There was still, in
the minds of all of them, the dedication to the idea that at least one of them
would see the inside of the newly discovered passageway, regardless of the danger
involved and the apparent impossibility of it. Either of these three men
would have tried to make it to the new passageway. Each was experienced and each
had, in his past, shown that giving up wasn't acceptable.
was decided that Jack would try a very narrow ledge that ran upward toward the
vicinity of the passageway. It appeared a dangerous thing to do, but it was the
ONLY thing of any reason. The ledge ended before reaching the new passageway and
as one progressed upward, it became more and more narrow toward its top. Considering
the fact that the ledge slanted and the fact that the humity in the cave is always
close to 100%, the rock ledge was wet and slippery from the moisture in the air.
Jack Prince started inching his way up the ledge.
He knew as he progressed that there would be no chance of surviving
a fall onto the rocks below.
took quite awhile as he carefully planned each step. In time, he was near the
passageway, but with no way to reach it! It was then that he decided to take a
major risk. He looked at a nearby stalagmite and wondered about its strength.
He could throw a rope over the stalagmite and then swing toward the passageway
- if the stalagmite would hold his weight.
Christmas Tree Room.
The Hall of White Giants.
if the stalagmite didn't hold his weight, he would die in the darkness on the
rocks below! He leaped with all his weight supported by the stalagmite and swung
in an arc that took him into the passageway! The stalagmite held; Jack Prince
was still alive and had entered this new passageway!
entering, he noticed that his light had illuminated in a kaliedoscope fashion,what
appeared to be rock formations.
struggled to hold his stance and immediately yelled out to the rest of the team
that he was alright and that he had safely entered the passageway. Then, aiming
his light at various points around him, he began the exploration of this newly
found passageway. He stopped cold for a moment and stared in absolute awe!
Labor Day Weekend in 1955, Jack Prince became the first human ever to see this
underground wonderland that would become known as the Caverns of Sonora!
Caverns of Sonora
are open daily between 8 am and 6 pm. Tours leave the Gift Shop continously throughout
the day. Many of the formations in the Caverns of Sonora are still growing, still
forming. The conditions inside the cave are 71°F with 98% humity, so it is
cool during the summer and warm during the winter. It is located 8 miles west
of Sonora, Texas. To contact the Caverns of Sonora call 325-387-3105 or e-mail
them by clicking
2007 Wilson Jay