This year the Austin Cave Festival comes to the Wildflower Center! This free, family-friendly event will feature hands-on activities, cave explorations, science and adventure presentations, live music, and more. Visitors will have the opportunity to visit two caves and see how water makes its way to the aquifer and Barton Springs, learn about animals that call Austin’s caves home, try on caving gear, and learn how to protect and conserve Austin’s water resources.
All Day Activities (10 a.m.- 4 p.m.)
- Crawl through CaveSim, an artificial cave with interactive electronic formations, fauna, and artifacts
- See and draw a cave cricket and check out geoscience models, family caving videos, and hands-on activities
- Cave tours (registration below)
If you plan to go caving, please wear clothing and closed-toe shoes you can get muddy and clean clothes/shoes to change into afterwards. The cave tour registrations are currently full, but walk-ups will be accepted (space permitting). There will also be a virtual reality cave from PassmoreVR and an artificial cave from CaveSim with interactive electronic formations, fauna and artifacts.
In addition to caving, there will be lots of indoor and outdoor activities to choose from, so the event will be held rain or shine!
- 10:15 a.m. – Noon: Presentations about caves, springs, and aquifers (Auditorium)
- Noon – 12:30 p.m.: Music by Bill Oliver and the Otter Space Band (Courtyard)
- 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.: VR cave exploration (Auditorium)
- 1 – 1:30 p.m.: Music by Bill Oliver and the Otter Space Band (Courtyard)
- 1, 2 and 3 p.m..: Guided hike to a sinkhole (Meet in Courtyard, 45 min. per hike)
- 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.: Presentations about cave Habitats, endangered salamanders, exploration, and why caves matter (Auditorium)
- Guided Geology Hikes to a Sinkhole
- 10:20 a.m.: “The Treasures of Austin’s Caves” by Nico Hauwert, Ph.D., P.G., Program Manager of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, Austin Water Wildland Conservation Division
- 10:40 a.m.: “Caves: the Essential Natural Infrastructure for Barton Springs” by Kevin Thuesen, Ph.D., Program Manager of the Water Quality Protection Lands, Austin Water Wildland Conservation Division
- 11 a.m.: “Recent Tracing in the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer” by Saj Zappitello, P.G., Hydrogeologist, City of Austin Watershed Protection Department
- 11:20 a.m.: “From Rainfall to Springflow: the Fascinating Story of Flow Paths in the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers” by Brian Hunt, P.G., Senior Hydrogeologist, Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District
- 11:40 a.m.: “Everybody Poops: Wastewater Management & the Edwards Aquifer” by Chris Herrington, P.E., Supervising Engineer, City of Austin Watershed Protection Department
- 1:30 p.m.: “The Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni): Update on Current Research” by Andy Gluesenkamp, Ph.D., Director of Conservation, San Antonio Zoo
- 2:00 p.m.: “Your Underground Neighbors – Karst Invertebrates of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve” by Todd Bayless, Biologist, Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources Division
- 2:20 p.m.: “Explore!” by Peter Sprouse, Owner, Zara Environmental
- 2:40 p.m.: “Austin’s Endangered Salamanders” by Nathan Bendik, Environmental Scientist Senior, Watershed Protection Department
- 3 p.m.: “The National Speleological Society – We Explore, We Conserve, We Study” by Geary Schindel, President, National Speleological Society
Austin Cave Festival Cave Tours
Join experts from City of Austin Watershed Protection and Wildlands for tours of La Crosse Cave and Wildflower Cave to explore the underground world and learn what critters live there, how water enters the cave and travels through the Edwards Aquifer, and how actions in the recharge zone affect water quality at Barton Springs. Wear closed-toe shoes and clothes you can get muddy. Helmets, headlamps and additional cave gear will be provided. Please read the descriptions below and register in advance for the cave and a specific time. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Tours are 45 minutes each.
Cave tours will occur from 10:15 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. All tour registrations are full and have been removed from this page, but walk-ups will be accepted (space permitting).
La Crosse Cave (for ages 4+) has a staircase that provides access to the cave. Most of the cave can be walked through. Some stooping is required, but crawling is minimal. There are parts of the cave that may also be explored by crawling.
Wildflower Cave (for ages 8+) requires participants to crawl on hands and knees. This cave has a low ceiling; participants will mainly be sitting or crawling.
Austin Cave Festival will be hosted by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, the City of Austin (Austin Water Wildland Conservation Division, Parks and Recreation Department, Watershed Protection Department), in collaboration with Texas Cave Management Association, Texas Speleological Association, and many other organizations.