Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve

Preserve Manager: Rob Bisset

The Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve was purchased by the Texas Cave Management Association in September 2004. The preserve covers 225 acres and contains both Deep Cave and Punkin Cave. The property also contains a field house which is the center of operations at the preserve.

Both Deep Cave and Punkin Cave are large vertical and horizontal maze caves. They were formed by ascending water rather than descending water and possibly by sulfuric acid processes much like Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Deep Cave

Forest of Columns
Crystal Waterfall
Helictite Room

Deep Cave is now more than two kilometers long and close to 100 meters deep. There is an active mapping project for the cave that is lead by Joe Mitchell two to three weekends each year. Survey trips are announced on the Texas Caver email list, or you may contact the Preserve Manager for more information.

Deep Cave does not require rope work to explore but does require a great deal of climbing and a moderate amount of crawling. Major features in the cave include the entrance room, the Forest of Columns, the Helictite Room, and Miller Time area. Trips commonly last 3–6 hours depending upon the areas of the cave visited.

Punkin Cave

Punkin Cave is only accessible via rope. It has two entrances, located about 30 meters apart. The larger main entrance is a 15 meter rappel into a large room. The second entrance is a 12 meter rappel into the same room. These entrance drops are commonly used for training new vertical cavers.

The cave contains over one kilometer of horizontal passage and there is an active mapping project for the cave being run by Jim Kennedy. Trips are announced on the Texas Caver email list or you may contact the Preserve Manager for more information.


Field House


The Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve contains a field house and camping area located on the northern border of the preserve. The field house contains two bunk rooms, each with four twin-size bunks, as well as three full-size futons in the main room. The Field House also has an electric stove and oven, a microwave, a refrigerator, a front and back porch, fire ring, and a number of campsites.

There may be a supply of non-potable water and showers available at the cabin depending on local rainfall conditions. We recommend that each person bring at least one gallon of water per day for drinking and cooking. Additional water may be necessary for showers.

There is also a state-of-the-art desiccating E-Loo toilet system near the cabin, and a shower building with two indoor showers and one outdoor shower.


Punkin Cave is noted for the presence of 10,000 to 30,000 Mexican free-tail bats, which are present between the middle of June and late October. Deep Cave also has a summer bat colony. Access to Punkin Cave beyond the entrance room is restricted while bats are present, but the bat flight can be viewed during the summer months.

Numerous cave crickets live in the entrance of Deep Cave and exit the cave each night. The cave is also home to cave-adapted scorpions. Great Horned Owls nest in the entrance room to Punkin Cave, and honeybees maintain a hive on the ceiling, which is visible from the main pit entrance.

Golden Check Warblers have also been identified on the preserve. There have also been numerous hawks, owls, deer, turtles, snakes, and a mountain lion that passes through occasionally. The preserve also has pinion pines, oaks, cacti, ferns, and orchids.

Scorpion in Deep Cave
Crested coralroot orchid
Beehive on roof of Punkin Cave
Fern growing in Punkin Cave
Echinocereus in bloom


Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve is located near Carta Valley in Edwards County. The preserve is about 35 miles west of Rock Springs and 30 miles northeast of Del Rio. Exact directions are provided with your visitation permit.


Because of the complexity of Deep Cave and the beautiful formations located in the cave, visits to the cave require an approved Trip Leader. There is a limit of 5 people to each Trip Leader on a trip to help minimize damage to this fragile cave, and a limit of 24 people total allowed on the property.

Everyone entering the cave must have a helmet with a non-elastic chin strap, knee pads, one helmet-mounted light source, and one spare light with batteries.

To stay at the preserve, the group requires an Expedition Leader. All experienced cavers are encouraged to become a Trip Leader and Expedition Leader. Trip permits as well as Trip Leader and Expedition Leader training may be obtained by contacting the Preserve Manager. Directions to the preserve will be provided with the permit.

Overnight visitors to the preserve must also perform one hour of conservation work on the property. This may include cutting catclaw around the cabin, working on the road, collecting rocks, cutting grass and brush, planting trees, etc.

A donation of $10.00 per person per visit is requested to help defray the costs of operating and maintaining the preserve.

Youth Groups, Outdoor Clubs, Researchers

The Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve is open to non-TCMA individuals and groups as long as the group has an approved Trip Leader and Expedition Leader, and has a limit of 24 people total allowed on the property. The preserve is open year round but does require a visitation permit. Contact the Preserve Manager to obtain a permit and a list of approved Trip and Expedition Leaders. 

Scout groups are welcome as long as they follow the Scouting guide to safe caving. Minimum age for youth groups is 14 years of age. There have been two Eagle Scout projects completed at the preserve. If you would like to perform an Eagle Scout project on the property, please contact the Preserve Manager.

The preserve is also open on a permit basis to scientists, researchers, birders, etc. Contact the Preserve Manager for further information.

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