Interpretive Trail Guide
Interpretive Guide of Longhorn Cavern State Park (SP) in Texas. Published by Texas Parks & Wildlife.
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CREATING PARKS With the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the nation suffered from debilitating unemployment levels. With more than half the young men under 25 years of age out of work, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide employment. The program put young men to work developing state and national parks, as well as rehabilitating forests and controlling soil erosion. INTERPRETIVE GUIDE INKS LAKE STATE PARK AND ENJOY BOTH PARKS Inks Lake, a small pass-through lake, is considered the jewel of the Highland Lakes Chain. Typically, Inks Lake fluctuates minimally because of the small volume of water it holds in comparison to other Highland Lakes. This usually allows recreation activities in the park, such as swimming, boating and fishing, to continue unaffected by drought conditions. LONGHORN CAVERN STATE PARK CONNECTED BY A SHARED HISTORY, Beat the heat with a visit to Longhorn Cavern State Park— the cave is as cool as 68 degrees year-round! The park offers guided tours lasting about 11/2 hours for the 1.1-mile round trip. Low-heeled shoes with rubber soles are recommended. INKS LAKE AND LONGHORN CAVERN Inks Lake State Park 3630 Park Road 4 West, Burnet, TX 78611 (512) 793-2223 • www.tpwd.texas.gov/inks/ PREHISTORIC OCCUPATION DATING Longhorn Cavern State Park 6211 Park Road 4 South, Burnet, TX 78611 (512) 715-9000 • www.visitlonghorncavern.com WATER RESOURCES. HOWEVER, THEIR STATE PARKS BOAST SPECTACULAR GEOLOGICAL FEATURES, EVIDENCE OF TO MORE THAN 8,000 YEARS AGO, AND STRONG CONNECTIONS TO STORIES DON’T REALLY WEAVE TOGETHER UNTIL THE 1930s AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION. BOTH PARKS OWE THEIR EXISTENCE TO THE NEW Proud Sponsor of Texas Parks and Wildlife Programs © 2018 TPWD. PWD BR P4507-015U (7/18) In accordance with Texas State Depository Law, this publication is available at the Texas State Publications Clearinghouse and/or Texas Depository Libraries. TPWD receives funds from the USFWS. TPWD prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, and gender, pursuant to state and federal law. To request an accommodation or obtain information in an alternative format, please contact TPWD on a Text Telephone (TDD) at (512) 389-8915 or by Relay Texas at 7-1-1 or (800) 735-2989. If you believe you have been discriminated against by TPWD, please contact TPWD or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office for Diversity and Workforce Management, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041. Texas State Parks is a division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Between 1934 and 1942, the young men of CCC Company 854 labored to create two new state parks here. At Longhorn Cavern, they removed debris from the cavern, and built trails, an administration building, an observation tower and a lighting system. The beginning of World War II cut short plans for Inks Lake State Park. Despite this, the CCC constructed a boat house and road system with dozens of stone culverts. DEAL WORK PROGRAMS OF THAT TRYING TIME IN AMERICAN HISTORY. The men of CCC Company 854 cleared 30,000 cubic yards of mud and debris from Longhorn Cavern by hand. That’s equal to about 3,000 dump truck loads! I N K S L A K E S T A T E P A R K A N D L O N G H O R N C A V E R N S T A T E P A R K L ONG H OR N C A VER N GNEISS ISLANDS AND VERNAL POOLS At Inks Lake, the pink rock outcrops jutting up through the surrounding limestone are Valley Spring Gneiss (pronounced “nice”), a pinkish granite-like metamorphic rock formed from recrystallized sedimentary rocks. T he geologic history of Longhorn Cavern is complex, and the theories don’t all agree. Around 500 million years ago, a shallow tropical sea covered this area. The sea floor, covered with sediments and the remains of sea creatures, eventually turned into the limestone beneath your feet. Between 280 and 300 million years ago, mountain-building forces shifted under Central Texas in an event called the “Llano Uplift.” During this upheaval, faults and fractures formed in the flat-lying limestone. Later, an underground river system—dissolving and flowing through the limestone—formed Longhorn Cavern. Few caverns in the United States were formed in this way, making Longhorn Cavern unique. During the last million years, the water deposited a thick layer of mud and debris in the cave. Early visitors were restricted to a small area due to this debris. Some of the earliest visitors were the area’s prehistoric peoples, who used parts of the cave for shelter. Anglo settlers found the cavern in the mid-1800s and began mining bat guano that was used in manufacturing gun powder during the Civil War. Tourists began visiting the cave in the 1870s, attracted by the desire to learn and by the novelty of the cavern. For a short time in the 1930s, the cavern included a dance hall. This underground nightclub featured bands and live radio broadcasts. Now, visitors can discover the stories the cavern has to tell on several guided tours. Completed in the 1937 by the LCRA after the original builder went bankrupt, Buchanan Dam is the longest multiple-arch dam in the nation. This technique is no longer used in dam building due to the amount of labor necessary. Although less labor intensive, modern dams require many more materials to build. INKS LAKE About 8,000 years ago, prehistoric peoples lived and worked here along the banks of the Colorado River. Later, Spanish and Anglo settlers built communities in the area. A dependable water source, abundant fish and game, and the area’s natural beauty combined to make this an inviting location. Those same features bring people to the shores of Inks Lake today. For early Hill Country residents, the river proved as much a danger as a blessing. The Colorado River, the largest river entirely within the state of Texas, has a 900-mile course, through which almost 600 billion gallons of water flow in a typical year. Steep slopes and thin, rocky soils channeled runoff into the river, causing frequent, devastating floods. Created as a means of flood control, Inks Lake is the second in a series of six lakes which make up the “Highland Lakes Chain.” Two dams form the boundaries of Inks Lake—Buchanan Dam to the north, and Inks Dam to the south. Built by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) at the height of the Great Depression, the construction not only improved flood control but provided employment for as many as 1,500 people. The Texas State Parks Board originally acquired much of the acreage from the LCRA in 1940. The decision to gift the State Parks Board with the property was part of a larger plan, endorsed by local business leaders, to aid development of the Colorado River. The flood control project on the Colorado River was a signature issue of U.S. Rep. (and future President) Lyndon B. Johnson, who once stated, “Of all the endeavors on which I have worked in public life, I am proudest of the accomplishments in developing the Colorado River.” COURTESY OF LOWER COLORADO RIVER AUTHORITY (LCRA) These gneiss “islands” support unique, localized and ecologically significant microhabitats. Over many hundreds of years, larger rocks are broken down into gravels and soil by the plants that grow in crevices and at the base of these formations. Outcrops support a wide array of wildflowers, grasses, forbs, mosses, lichens and ferns. Most of these plants are small, requiring a keen eye to see tiny flowers, interesting shapes and colors—well worth the search! Shallow temporary rainwater basins called vernal pools form on rock outcrops. The thin layer of sand and organic material on the bottom of the pools sustains a great variety of aquatic plants which become dormant when the water dries up in summer. All that’s visible by mid-summer is a thin crust in a dry basin which regenerates with the next spring rain. Some of these plants, such as rock quillwort and basin corn salad, are found only in this area of Texas, and nowhere else in the world. Dry, gravelly areas, shaded crevices and the outcrop base may support wild onions, carpets of spikemosses, sedges, native grasses, spiderworts, and several arid land fern species. Bare rock outcrops offer outdoor laboratories for the study of plant succession, soil development, interesting microhabitats and their plant communities. Many of these outcrops are quarried or developed throughout Central Texas. Inks Lake State Park protects a valuable representative of this special natural community.