The Mayfield family began its ranching operations in Sonora Texas around the turn of the 20th Century. An opening in the rocks was found in the southern part of the ranch when a dog chased a raccoon into this 20-inch opening. Locals began exploring the cave sometime in the early 20’s. They could go back about 500 feet from the entrance to a fifty-foot deep pit. This section of the Cave was eventually known as Mayfield Cave. Labor day weekend, 1955, the discovery of a lifetime took place on the Mayfield Ranch near the town of Sonora, Texas. Two weeks prior to that weekend, three speleologists, Bob Crisman, Bart Crisman and James Estes from Abilene, Texas were exploring another well-known cave in Sutton County. They exited the cave around three p.m. and headed to the Mayfield Ranch to take a look at a cave known as Mayfield Cave. They entered the cave and eventually made their way to a large room with a deep pit blocking further progress. High on the other side of this pit were seemingly inaccessible passages that continued, but pressed for time, they left the cave.
This story was told to other cavers. Labor day weekend, Danny Sheffield, Jack Allen, Claude Head and Jack Prince crossed a narrow, sloping ledge, high on top of the right hand side of the big pit, and reached the passages on the other side. Stories of bizarre formations and untold beauty began circulating among members of the caving community.
Jack Burch, a caver from Oklahoma saw the cavern for the first time in 1956. He began to see human impact in the caverns in places where there shouldn’t have been any damage. His vision was to develop the cavern to stop this destruction and preserve the cavern for future generations. Development started in 1959. The Caverns of Sonora was opened to the public July 16, 1960.