Airman's Cave, originally called Airmen's cave is a long cave with an entry on the Barton Creek greenbelt. The cave runs over 2 miles along South Lamar Boulevard and under sections of Loop 360 and Highway 290.
Explore Michael Wescott Loder's 1971 story and photos recounting the discovery and mapping Airman's cave. More recent images from outdoorsman Patrick Lewis document a visit with friends to the "Aggie Art gallery" located within the cave.
Entrance to Airmen's Cave, 1971
"Seen here is caving gear used in 1971. Ammunition can protects the Nikon S2 with 35mm f2.5 Nikkor lens. We used flashguns because strobes were too fragile, smaller sizes gave little light and their coverage was too narrow for wide-angle lenses. Most shooting was done on ‘B’ with open flash. Home-made mount on the tripod holds a brunton compass used in mapping. Carbide lamps were standard. Their coverage was wider and often brighter than electric and they could be recharged in the cave. I guess they’re collectables today."
— Michael Wescott Loder
"Airman Chuck Carpenter standing in the 'Walking Passage.' Only about 250 feet of the cave is walking, the remainder is crawling or squeezing."
"Tracy Blashill messing with his carbide lamp in the 'big room.' 8 April 1971. Tracy was then eleven or twelve years old and one of the most enthusiastic cavers I have ever met."
"Bill Russell mapping in the Walking Passage. He is using my compass and notebook. Note the crack in the ceiling. This is a feature of the entire length of the cave."
Bill Russell mapping in one of the more generous spaces of William’s Maze.
"Original mapping notes from the 'Maze' area and 'Wes’s Jam.' All the angles are in 'Mills,' since we were using a military brunton. We converted them to degrees later."
"Survey of the 'One-legged Man Passage.' The critter in the upper right corner is a 'Monoptic-unipod,' a creature often seen but seldom photographed by long-time spelunkers. I do not remember what “Ginger” refers to."
"Survey of the Walking Passage. Original cave dirt still hangs in the creases. Cave mapping is both a science and an art."
Map of Airman's Cave from 1975
"Mike Bradley taking a breather while we surveyed. Carbide lamps were still the only way to go in 1971."
"Linda standing in the Walking Passage"
"Linda carrying ammo can for camera equipment moves deeper into cave followed by Chuck and Skip."
"Airmen Chuck Carpenter and Skip Choate looking for bugs in the 'Big Room.'"
"Now the cave is only opened once a month for the public. We spent an hour in the art gallery contributing to the sculptures."
"This tight passage is known as the birth canal. To explore the rest of the cave one must fit through this narrow opening."
"Crawling through Airmen's Cave is not for the faint of heart."
"Deeper in the cave is the Aggie art gallery, a chamber where cavers have created and left their sculptures."
"Inside the Aggie Art Gallery."
Airman’s Cave is only appropriate for people with previous caving experience in tight caves. The entrance squeeze, known as the birth canal, is challenging and not everyone can fit. In 2012 a security gate was installed to protect the public and to protect the fauna that lives in the cave.
To gain access to the cave, contact the cave manager email@example.com. Learn more about Wildland Caves, including the unique fauna that lives underground at http://austintexas.gov/page/wildland-caves