Deep and Punkin Caves Nature Preserve

Preserve Manager: Don Arburn

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.

4 weeks ago

Crash Kennedy

Basic Cave Rescue workshop at Carta Valley just announced! See flier in the "files" section for details. Spaces fill up quickly, so don't delay! ... See MoreSee Less


Comment on Facebook

*gulp* registered!

Aimee Beveridge

Crash Kennedy, will you be at the grotto meeting tonight for an update? If no, I can give folks details

Are there still spaces? How many?

I signed up for Geoff Hoese and myself. Thanks Kara Dittmer Savvas

Kevin Walsh

Shit, I have frigging doctors appointment on Fri afternoon, will try to reschedule it so we can get outta dodge.

I have room in my vehicle for a rider. Leaving south Austin around 3:30 on Friday

Yes, I’m 100% interested in going. How do I sign up?

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4 days ago

Don Arburn

Folks, without service projects, no improvements are possible. And the volunteer hours are valuable to the TCMA.
It has come to my attention that no work has been done on a couple of recent trips, this is very disappointing. Other groups have gone above and beyond, some of them historically mocked for their behaviors towards the property. How the tables have turned...
Crash Kennedy, have anything to add?
... See MoreSee Less


Comment on Facebook

Sucks to see this type of thing needing to be said. 🙁

The general policy at D&P has always been that ALL trips are work trips. Survey trips are work trips. Digging trips are work trips. Cabin remodeling trips are work trips. What is not so obvious to some is that recreational trips, bird-watching trips, meteor-shower trips, and just plain chilling trips also need to be work trips. Cut some brush, clear rocks from the roads, fill potholes, cut back juniper, haul home some junk, or anything else for the greater good. If you need direction, contact the Preserve manager. Have this plan in place BEFORE your trip.

I think it’s great that people contribute and volunteer. I also think it contributes to the TCMAs, the preserves, and the greater community interest to allow trips that are focused on other things than work projects.

The work requested is not extreme or requiring of a major time commitment. If you do not want to bother with that, a major monetary commitment seems appropriate to me.

Hmm... Geoff brings up an interesting point. When does it become acceptable just to have a fun trip?I’m not in favor of criteria, just an honest balance, 2 out of 4 trips, 1 out of 4 or is it something where we need to add an approval process to the reservations and if the pm thinks you’ve been freeloading you don’t get priority for key dates like holidays. Maybe some public shaming?I’m not convinced dig trips qualify as work any more than other caving as it’s all a passion or recreational hobby for us. They do add value but no more than general caving that stumbles upon something new might. If anything the digging has taken over some prime camping space 😉Interesting thoughts, I clearly don’t have a well formed opinion.

But underlying all this is the question of whether the preserve manager with the support of the board has the right to set policy.I think YES.

I try to do improvements each time I’m out. Thanks for keeping everyone on track.

Is there a formal list of jobs that need doing? If so perhaps people need to be made aware of it?

Well, I might be in the boat of having skipped working on the place during my last trip. I had to get back for some other work issues. Yes, the back porch decking needs to be replaced. I think it dates from the original porch installation some years ago and the rotten plywood was salvaged from a previous use. However, I think that should probably be a work weekend project unless previously arranged. I have put in a few hours over the years working on the place but we all need to contribute. Don has done a great job out there and needs all the support he can get.

who can we mesaage to volunteer at? ive never been to the preserve but id be more than willing to volunteer

I'm too am guilty of not completing my service project. I shamefully admitted the same to Don after my last trip. I was not a good trip leader that evening. I did not delegate responsibilities or communicate effectively with my co-leaders on the required service project. I was wickedly dehydrated and tired after leading scouts all day and on our walk back to cabin the service project did not get completed. The scouts were gone by 7:45am the next day.... Lesson learned... delegate the responsibilities and communicate the requirements. Oh... drink lots of water....Rob

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3 months ago

Kevin Walsh
Should we empty the gauge?

Should we empty the gauge? ... See MoreSee Less


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Report the amount in the book. There might be a place for it

What Tom said.

On it 👍

Almost looks like a water tower with a rain gauge in front of it lol

Always leave with an empty gauge.

It is with an empty gauge I say goodbye

YET? That algea had a good run.

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5 days ago

Richard Zarria
A blacklight was present at the cabin.  The first rock flipped over had this beauty underneath :)

A blacklight was present at the cabin. The first rock flipped over had this beauty underneath 🙂 ... See MoreSee Less


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Very cool! We need to have a small black light in Huautla next year to get photos like this of Alacran tartarus.

Sweet pic! is the light I had with me, used for this photo. It isn't small, or light, but it is sturdy and reliable and has been with me for almost 5 years now.

Beautiful! Though I may not really want to know about all the critters, especially scorpions and ticks, around me!

Put the light away, and all the scorpions disappear. That's what I think.

Black lights matter Can cheap uv LEDs light up these guys? I bought some a while ago and I think they were less than .25 each.

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3 weeks ago

Don Arburn
It’s a SIGN!

It’s a SIGN! ... See MoreSee Less


Comment on Facebook

Is it also in spanish?

It's crooked

No MJ, the sign is perfectly level plumb and square. It's the cabin that's catawampus.

I can see it now that you point it out

Looks great!

How toy feeling Jenni


Joe Mitchell told me to let you know he likes the frame.

Very cool.

4th choice. Wait til you arrive and read it.


the sign looks great! I learned a few things!

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2 months ago

Don Arburn

It has been reported that there is a major leak in the shower building behind a wall in the shower stall. I’ve done more than my part in completing plumbing there this year. If some intrepid individual would take a look and solve it it would be appreciated. Please. ... See MoreSee Less


Comment on Facebook

I suck at plumbing and carpentry. But I rock at chainsawing.

Is it leaking, or just reported to be leaking. I got an engineers report one day. Pilot "starboard #2 engine makes unfamiliar noise when turbine begins spooling". Power Plant Engineer "ran starboard #2 engine at initial spooling speed for 45 min. Noise now familiar".

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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