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Spotlight on Devil’s Sinkhole

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By Melissa Gaskill


Dropping into a circular hole in a limestone ridge high in Edwards County, we descend 150 feet straight down to the top of a mountain of rubble, then another 150 feet or so to the sloping rock floor. Here, the cavity opens into an awe-inspiring oval chamber easily a football field-and-a- half across. Great horned owls peer down from nests high on the ledges, and swallows dart in and out of the narrow entrance high above.


After exploring awhile, it’s time to return to the surface, which normally requires an arduous climb on a precarious dangling rope. Fortunately, no one has to climb anything on this tour. In fact, we never leave our chairs at the Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area Visitor’s Center in the tiny town of Rocksprings. Our trek has been a virtual journey, courtesy of 3D glasses and two state-of-the-art technologies, Light Detection and Ranging (aka LiDAR), and 3D Photo Real Modeling.


At the actual Devil’s Sinkhole, a sturdy viewing platform affords a heart-thumping peek into those first 150 vertical feet. Purchased by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1985, the property is a National Natural Landmark. Since 2002, on late spring and summer evenings, visitors have gathered here to witness millions of Mexican free-tailed bats whirling out of the sinkhole.


Of course, the view from the platform reveals only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, or in this case, a tiny fraction of the cave. Devil’s Sinkhole is actually Texas’ third deepest cave, formed several thousand years ago when porous limestone collapsed after underground water receded.


Before the creation of the virtual tour, only a few hardy cavers could see beyond the opening shaft, barely 50 feet across, and the pile of rubble directly beneath it. Now you get a bat’s-eye view of what it’s like to fly in and around the cave.


Before you go, check out these essentials.  
Read 11676 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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