After years of careful development and millions of dollars invested in design, engineering, technology, construction, and guest experience, Natural Bridge Caverns in San Antonio, Texas, will open its latest and most ambitious tour: Hidden Wonders. Natural Bridge Caverns is the state’s largest and most-visited commercial cave, and this new multimillion-dollar tour experience features state-of-the-art lighting, a sound and light show, and expansion into never-before-toured areas of the property’s Hidden Cavern. Development of the new tour experience and careful development of new areas of the cavern has been underway since 2017 and will open to the public on May 12.
The Hidden Cavern is a second cavern at Natural Bridge Caverns and part of the same geologic system. This distinct and unique environment never had a natural opening to the surface. As a result, incredibly delicate and beautiful formations were able to grow in a completely sealed environment.
“In developing this area of the cavern system, we have both pursued and established best case practices for working in this delicate environment,” says Brad Wuest, president of Natural Bridge Caverns. “Our goal is to give visitors a stunning view of the cavern like never before, without impacting its beauty. Developing this tour has been challenging due to many things—including the depth of the new public tour area. This expansion required the construction of a 710-foot exit tunnel—double the length of anything done before—and to do so with minimal impact on the cavern. We used best-in-class techniques and developed new ones to make it work. We took the time to do it right. The result speaks for itself.”
Fully programmable state-of-the-art lighting is one of the dramatic changes in the cavern as well as a 1,100-foot-long expansion of the public passageways beginning with a stainless steel bridge across the cavern’s deepest point. Now guests will tour through an area that was only previously accessible by cavers. This addition will showcase an underground canyon, more formations, and a large 5,700-square-foot dome chamber called the “Ballroom” which serves as an event space. A new viewing area overlooking a massive passage called the “Box Canyon” is now a natural theater for a unique sound and light show finale. Exiting the Hidden Wonders tour will also be a one-of-a-kind experience as guests effortlessly ride from underground to the surface on the 700-foot-long BAT (Belt Assisted Transport) through the newly constructed exit tunnel. The BAT is the world’s first conveyor system ride out of a cavern.
“We plan to showcase the science behind the beauty of this once hidden cavern on our tour,” Wuest says. “With Hidden Wonders’ many enhancements, we have an opportunity to both educate and entertain.”
Featured Image Credit: Natural Bridge Caverns