From Balmorhea I drove to Sonora to visit the beautiful Sonora Caverns. I had seen the caverns several years ago, so I know I was in for a treat. It is one of my favorite caves because the formations are so delicate and the colors are beautiful. After my visit here I drove to Junction to spend the night at the South Llano River State Park.
The Caverns of Sonora have an interesting history. The Mayfield family began its ranching operations in Sonora, Texas around the turn of the 20th Century. An opening in the rocks was found in the southern part of the ranch when a dog chased a raccoon into this 20-inch opening. Locals began exploring the cave sometime in the early 20’s. They could go back about 500 feet from the entrance to a fifty-foot deep pit. This section of the Cave was eventually known as Mayfield Cave.
Two weeks prior to Labor Day week end 1955, three speleologists, Bob and Bart Crisman and James Estes from Abilene, Texas were exploring another well-known cave in Sutton County. They exited the cave around 3:00 p.m. and headed to the Mayfield Ranch to see the Mayfield Cave. They entered the cave and eventually made their way to a large room with a deep pit blocking further progress. High on the other side of this pit were seemingly inaccessible passages that continued, but pressed for time, they left the cave. This story was told to other cavers.
During Labor day week end, Danny Sheffield, Jack Allen, Claude Head and Jack Prince crossed a narrow sloping ledge high on top of the big pit, and reached the passages on the other side. Stories of bizarre formations and untold beauty began circulating among members of the caving community.
Jack Burch, a caver from Oklahoma, saw the cavern for the first time in 1956. He began to see human impact in the caverns in places where there shouldn’t have been any damage. His vision was to develop the cavern to stop this destruction and preserve the cavern for future generations. Development started in 1959 and the Caverns of Sonora were opened to the public July 16, 1960.