I had noticed the uniquely-named Goat Cave Karst Preserve a few times on maps of South Austin. Today we felt adventurous enough to try something completely new to us so we headed that way. The 9-acre preserve is located at 3900 Deer Lane, between South Mopac (take the Davis Lane exit) and Brodie Lane. Check a map before you go because it is a little confusing if you are not familiar with the area!
We passed the park entrance the first time but easily turned around and found a small parking area across Deer Lane from the preserve. As the photo below illustrates, you have to dash across Deer Lane to enter the park. This is not for the faint of heart: the traffic was pretty heavy and the line of sight was limited. Be cautious!
Once we made it across Deer Lane, it was a breeze to find the trail and view interesting information about the park, including what karst features are and why they are important.
The sign states: “Austin sits above layers of fine-grained limestone formed approximately 100 million years ago. when most of Texas lay at the bottom of a warm shallow sea, teeming with life. Over the millennia, the limestone sea floor rose to become dry ground. Then, rain and surface water dissolved a network of holes and tunnels into the limestone bedrock. Geologists call these cavities ‘solution features.’ Many of these below-ground openings and passageways are connected into a vast subterranean formation stretching from Uvalde to Austin. It forms the ‘plumbing’ of the Edwards Aquifer, a huge natural underground water storage area. ‘Karst’ is the geologist’s term for landscapes formed by this process.”
Karst topography is characterized by sinkholes, sinking streams, and springs. Goat Cave Karst Preserve contains sinkholes and caves typical for the area, specifically (from left to right on the graphic below) Goat Cave (home to a bat colony), Hideout Sink, and Wade Sink.
We started along the path, excited to locate the caves!
We quickly came upon the first and smallest sinkhole, Wade Sink, by taking a short path to the left off of the main trail.
Just a short distance later, we found Hideout Sink.
This one was a lot more exciting, especially when we saw this daddy longlegs nest!
Even though I had read that the main attraction–Goat Cave–was surrounded by a fence, I was nonetheless surprised by the extent to which the fence prevented even a minimal view of Goat Cave.
The City of Austin is serious about its fence! Check out the barbed wire at the top.
I took this picture with the zoom lens of my camera from behind the fence and, as you can see, it’s still not much to look at! This web site has some pictures from inside the cave.
We decided to forge ahead even though we were disappointed by our “view” of Goat Cave. As we walked along the path, we were right next to the barbed wire fence marking the border of the preserve.
We reached the end of the trail, turned around, and headed back to the entrance. Tracing our way back was much easier than our original journey down the trail. No one else was visiting the preserve so it felt quite isolated despite being directly adjacent to houses and busy streets.
Austin Active Kids Opinion: This short outing was interesting and educational but it has some definite downsides, specifically the parking situation and the limited view of the cave.
Outing Time: About 30 – 45 minutes
Outing Distance: Less than 3/4 mile
Reminders: Goat Cave Nature Preserve does not have water fountains or restroom facilities. The trail is not particularly stroller-friendly and the dash across Deer Lane certainly is not. This outing is probably better for older children who are able to have a realistic expectation of what the “caves” will really be like. Austin Explorer described Goat Cave Nature Preserve in this article.