Canoe through this water cave with a spotlight illuminating your way past stunning cave geology…
Barton Creek Cave is a water cave that is explored on a canoe using powerful spotlights to illuminate your way. It’s located in the Slate Creek Preserve, a community based effort between villages and private land owners to preserve the natural habitat of the Slate Creek and Upper Barton Creek watersheds. This 3,750 acre protected area acts as an important wildlife corridor connecting the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve and the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, Margay, Baird’s Tapir and Black Howler Monkey are among the numerous mammal species found in the preserve along with many birds such as parrots, toucans and hummingbirds.
Twenty years ago the cave was on privately owned property and not many people knew about it. One innovative local tour guide, from David Adventure Tours started offering the very first guided tours to Barton Creek Cave. The tour quickly became popular and it became the “must do tour” for visitors at the time. However, since the cave holds Maya artifacts, the Institute of Archaeology stepped in to manage the cave and ensure its preservation. The Institute negotiated a land exchange deal with the private owner so that the cave would be owned and managed by the government. Today this cave tour has been overshadowed by more popular caves like Actun Tunichil Muknal, but Barton Creek still remains a very fun and accessible cave that is well worth exploring.
On the drive to the Barton Creek Cave you’ll pass vast orange orchards and Teak tree plantations. It’s always a nice site to see the perfectly ordered lines of trees and you’ll often find plenty of birds as well. Just ahead you’ll pass the Mennonite Village called Upper Barton Creek. Although some guides will refer to this community as Amish, the fact is that there are no Amish in Belize, only Mennonites. In accordance with their beliefs they live a simple life without the aid of modern technology. They have productive farms and get around by horse and carriage. They even have ingenious mechanical tools powered by hydro-power from the river.
You’ll then continue along the road until you reach the Barton Creek river where your Barton Creek Cave Tour will begin. The river is a beautiful emerald green surrounded by cliffs draped in vines and lush jungle all around. A few feet away is Barton Creek Outpost, a lodge that offers free camping and budget accommodations for backpackers. You’ll put your canoes into the river and paddle for a few minutes until you reach the cave entrance. You’ll then enter the cave using a powerful spotlight to illuminate your way. In some areas you’ll pass through cathedral chambers and in other areas you’ll have to tuck your head down into the canoe to go through very low ceilings. After canoeing for about 1 mile (1.5 km) the river goes underground and you cannot continue any further; very little of the cave past this point has been explored. Like many of the other caves in Belize, Barton Creek Cave was used by the Maya for sacred rituals. Unfortunately, many of the artifacts, including pottery and even a human sacrificial skull, have been looted. Once you exit the cave you can take a refreshing swim in the river or relax in one of the hammocks strung between trees right at the water’s edge.
It only takes a couple hours to explore Barton Creek Cave so you can add another attraction or activity to make a full day out of your adventure. Mountain Equestrian Trails nearby offers horseback riding tours which are a great way to see the jungle. Green Hills Butterfly Ranch offers a chance to see many butterfly species including the Blue Morpho Butterfly with it’s vibrant blue hues. Big Rock Waterfall is a short drive away where you can enjoy this majestic waterfall and take a refreshing swim.
Plan your Belize Vacation
- Here’s a list of reputable Tour Operators & Guides that can take you to Barton Creek Cave.
- Here’s a list of Resorts in the Cayo District where you can stay to visit Barton Creek Cave.