Natural Bridge Caverns founder lived with ‘passion for exploration and discovery’

Orion Knox Jr. died on New Year’s Eve

Orion Knox Jr. helped develop the caverns after their discovery in the 1960s.

COMAL COUNTY, Texas – In tribute to Orion Knox Jr., 81, one of four St. Mary’s University students who discovered what is now Natural Bridge Caverns, a special commemoration to honor the legendary caver is being planned in the near future, according to a spokeswoman for Natural Bridge Caverns.

Knox died on New Year’s Eve.

A family statement said memorial donations could be made to the Texas Cave Management Association and the Texas Nature Conservancy.

Brad Wuest, president of Natural Bridge Caverns, said Knox took time away from college to develop what is now the largest show cave in Texas and one of the largest in the world, which was beneath his family’s ranch.

“If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have this,” Wuest said.

Wuest said it is only fitting that Knox chose Natural Bridge Caverns as his final resting place as “he considered this one of his life’s greatest accomplishments,” Wuest said.

“He just had that passion for exploration and discovery,” Wuest said.

Knox continued exploring, surveying and mapping Natural Bridge Caverns, but Wuest also said he would come back “just to see what’s going on.”

He said Knox’s last caving expedition was at age 78 after a lifetime of exploring and finding caves around the world.

Wuest said the last time he saw Knox was December 21, when he was taken on a tour and later attended the Christmas concert in the cavern.

He said Knox’s legacy was his philosophy, “Never stop exploring in life. Never stop making new discoveries.”

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Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

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