GUIDE TO TEXAS HILL COUNTRY PARKS
The only way to deal with the Texas summer is to find water then wade, swim, tube, dive, or float. This is how, for 12,000 years, Texans managed to cool down in the hottest times.
If a great hand reached down from heaven to rip the heart---the Hill Country---out of Texas, fine clear water would pour out as though from a great sponge. That's what makes this, the country of eleven hundred springs, so special. These springs are the lifeblood of the Hill Country. They are where rivers begin. Each of these sites provide cold crystalline water which draws all manner of life to it. And above the Balcones in a thousand other places the fine waters break into the sunshine after their lightless journey of a thousand years. The older the water the better.
Ask any person in these parts what they consider their favorite slice of the Texas Hill Country and most likely it will be a place of living water. Some choose pools at motels, resorts, parks, and backyards. Others are drawn to the seven Highland Lakes of the Colorado, or to Canyon, or Medina Lake. Over thirty thousand boats are registered in Travis County alone. Fishing, sail, or house-boats have created a lake culture, each with its special way of enjoying water.
One of our favorite haunts in the Hill Country is the two-mile stretch of Llano River between the Slab on Ranch Road 3404 west of Kingsland and to Long's Fishing Camp. Between, the river breaks into many channels, some fast, some slow, some deep, some shallow, though mostly solid granite. At one point the Llano drops into some fine rapids with pools below.
Go to Long's and pay the small fee for a shaded picnic sight and head downstream, or simply park near the Slab and make your way upstream.
But, that's only a suggestion. There are a thousand other Hill Country streams that offer up world-class water. If you are lucky enough to call the Hill country home, or lucky enough to return to the Hill Country time and time again, you'll find your own favorite spots for water.
Whether that spot is the cloistered cool dampness of a tiny Hill Country spring, the engineered waters of Schlitterbahn, the rapids of the Guadalupe, or Frio, or the expansive Hill Country Lakes, over time it will become what you think of the Hill Country.
The following is a listing of state, county, and city parks where you can camp (C), swim(S), or launch a boat (B). We know we missed a few, but these are some of the best.
CSB INKS LAKE STATE PARK: Inks Lake State Park is a 1,200 acre panorama of cedar and oak woodlands, wildflowers, and pink granite outcroppings. The park borders Inks Lake, and recreational opportunities at the park include swimming, boating, canoeing, water skiing, scuba diving, sailing, and fishing. Deer, turkey, quail, numerous songbirds, and other species of wildlife are abundant here.
Campsites and shelters accommodate up to eight persons, with a combination of motor vehicles and trailers not to exceed two. Picnic table, BBQ grill and restrooms with hot showers are nearby. There is no lifeguard on duty for swimming. The park also offers two fishing piers and two fish cleaning shelters, a two-lane boat ramp, a nine hole golf course with clubs, pull carts and golf carts for rent. There is a playground and concession facility at the park which offers groceries, picnic supplies, canoe, boat, and paddleboat rentals.CSB BURNET COUNTY PARK: This small park offers picnic tables, BBQ grilles, a public boat ramp, portable restrooms, and free campsites on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is no lifeguard on duty. Take HWY. 29 west from Burnet and drive for 3.5 miles, turn right on Ranch Road 2341 for approximately eleven miles. The park is on the left. CSB BLACK ROCK PARK: A public boat ramp, primitive camping, RV sites, dump station, playground, bathrooms, swimming, and fishing is available at Black Rock Park. A fee is collected for overnight camping. To locate the park go west from Burnet on HWY 29 for approximately 13 miles, turn right on HWY 261 and continue up the road until you see the sign to the park. CS SHAW ISLAND PARK: This park offers fifteen sites, primitive camping, group camping, no charge, no reservations. To locate Shaw Island Park go west from Burnet on HWY 29 for about 13 miles, turn right on HWY 261, and continue up the road until you see signs to the park. B BURNET PARK: This is a public boat ramp site. There is no camping. To locate the park go west from Burnet on HWY 29 for about ten miles. Turn right on HWY 690, take a left when you see the boat ramp sign.
CSB COLORADO BEND STATE PARK: This park offers a wide spectrum of outdoor recreational opportunities including fishing, boating, hiking, mountain biking, guided nature and caving tours, bird watching, mineral study, and photography. Among the parks "specialty items," are its crystal-clear creeks dammed along their length with striking growths of travertine, a mineral precipitate from calcium-carbonate rich waters.
Two large parking areas by the Colorado River accommodate up to 300 vehicles and include primitive tent camping facilities with drinking water, chemical toilets, and a fish-cleaning table. Fires are permitted only in designated areas. RVs and trailers must be self-contained.
Colorado Bend State Park is located on RR 580 between San Saba and Lampasas. For further assistance, and information contact Colorado Bend State Park, Box 118, Bend, Texas 76824. Phone: 915/628-3240.S SAN SABA MUNICIPAL PARK: This 24 acre park includes a small lake, swimming pool, picnic sites and an 18-hole golf course. CSB CEDAR POINT RESOURCE AREA: Covering about 400 acres, the Lower Colorado River Authority's Cedar Point Resource Area is the largest of the few publicly owned tracts on Lake Buchanan. As part of LCRA's Primitive Recreation System- areas left relatively unimproved to retain their basic natural appeal- the Cedar Point Resource Area is ideal for those who like to "rough it." There are access roads, parking areas, a single-lane boat ramp, fire rings for campsites, and informational signs to help guide visitors, but no tables, running water, or restrooms.
Approximately three miles of shoreline span the north side of Cedar Point and another third of a mile stretches on the southeast side at Maxwell's Slough. There are no designated swimming areas. Roads and pathways, cut into the land long-ago, serve as hiking trails. Cedar Point, open year-round and free of charge, is located 25 miles northeast of Llano near the community of Tow. From Llano to the east take FM 2241 and turn north at Bluffton. Travel approximately four miles and turn right on FM 3014, then to .3 of a mile to the main site entrance. From Buchanan Dam, to the south, take Highway 261 to Bluffton and follow the same directions.
CSB SAN MARCOS CITY PARK: The cool (72 degrees year-round) spring-fed San Marcos River offers tubing, snorkeling, and kyaking in its crystal clear waters. You can rent tubes from the San Marcos Lions Club Tube Rental - San Marcos City Park - Tubes are rented until 5:30p.m. River Taxi - available. All proceeds benefit local charities. Call 512-396-LION for more information. Group Rates available. Hours 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. Note The last tube is rented at 5:30 pm Week Day Rates: $3.00/reg. tube ($10.00 deposit/tube required) $5.00/tube with bottom ($10.00 deposit/tube required) . There is a limited supply of "double tubes". Weekends and Holiday Rates: $4.00/reg. tube ($10.00 deposit/tube required) $6.00/tube with bottom ($10.00 deposit/tube required). Your deposit can be made with cash or credit card and is returned upon receipt of our tube. Only local checks are accepted. Please be prepared to provide photo identification, i.e., valid drivers license, etc. Your deposit is returned upon receipt of the tube(s). Please call the Tube Rental to make special arrangements for group reservations and discounts. The tube rental is located in the City Park next to the National Guard Armory.CSB ROBINSON CITY PARK: On the banks of the Llano River, the park offers picnic and playground areas, a golf course, swimming pool and fishing. The park also has an excellent swimming hole on the Llano River next to the dam. The adjacent 100 RV camping sites, community center and rodeo grounds are operated by the Llano County Community Center. Located on FM 152 about two miles west of the courthouse. For information on camping call 915/247-2551.
CS BLANCO STATE PARK: This 110-acre park is located one mile south of Blanco on US 281. Camping, trailer sites, picnic areas, screened shelters, fishing, swimming, pedal boats, children's play area, restrooms, and showers are available. For overnight reservations call 512/389-8900. (Photo left) S LBJ STATE PARK: 710-acre park (day use only) is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer and offers picnic facilities, swimming pool, tennis courts and nature trail. Wildlife displays include Texas Longhorns, white-tailed deer and buffalo. Historic buildings include two restored dog-run cabins of area pioneers, furnished in frontier style, and the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead (open daily 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.in the summer) where rural life of the early 1900's is interpreted by living history demonstrations. Open daily on US 290 just east of Stonewall. CS LADY BIRD JOHNSON PARK: A 190-acre municipal park featuring fully equipped RV sites, golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, picnicking plus a small lake for sailboats, canoes, and pedal boats. Located on Highway 16, 3.5 miles south of Fredericksburg. CS SOUTH LLANO RIVER STATE PARK: Cool clear water, shady trees, and abundant wildlife all make South Llano River State Park an ideal camping spot. The winding South Llano River forms the northern park boundary with 1.5 miles of river frontage. The 507-acre wooded bottomland is home to the white-tail deer and Rio Grande turkey. Campsites accommodate up to eight persons each, with a combination of motor vehicles and trailers not to exceed two; sites have picnic table and BBQ grill. In addition to primitive campsites there are walk-in campsites with picnic tables and fire rings, campsites with water and electricity which include back-in parking; and a restroom with hot showers nearby.
A spring-fed scenic stream has sufficient flow for canoeing, tubing, and swimming. Several hiking trails leading into the adjoining 2,123-acre Walter Buck Wildlife Management Area are available.
South Llano River State Park and adjoining Walter Buck State Wildlife Management Area are located five miles south of Junction in Kimble County off US 377 on Park Road 73. For further information contact South Llano River State Park, HC15, Box 224, Junction, Texas 76849 or Phone 915/446-3994.CS KERRVILLE SCHREINER STATE PARK: Located on the Guadalupe River, this 500-acre park offers a host of activities including swimming, fishing, and boating. Campsites, picnic tables, tiled showers and restrooms make it the perfect setting for a day's outing or an overnight stay. Reservations are recommended for campsites. Open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for day use. Screened shelters and RV campsites available. Located south of Kerrville on Highway 173. CS PEDERNALES FALLS STATE PARK: This 4,800-acre scenic park features picturesque waterfalls, abundant animal and bird life, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, and hiking. Located approximately eight miles east of Johnson City on FM 2766. CS LOST MAPLES STATE NATURAL AREA: While they aren't really "lost," the bigtooth maples for which the park is named are selective in their habitat.Because of their shallow roots, the trees are susceptible to damage by soil compaction and visitors are cautioned to stay on prescribed paths to ensure continued vigor of the maple stands. Fall color is usually at its peak in early November.
Park facilities include campsites with water, picnic areas, restrooms, showers, and primitive camp areas reached by almost eleven miles of hiking and backpacking trails. Swimming is permitted but no facilities are provided. Located 4 miles north of Vanderpool on RR 187.CS GUADALUPE RIVER STATE PARK: This 1,900-acre scenic Hill Country park is bisected by the beautiful, cypress-edged river that flows over natural rapids in the park. Wildlife includes white-tail deer, coyotes, foxes, and armadillos; juniper thickets offer nesting habitat for rare golden-cheeked warbler. Tent and RV camping, restrooms, showers, picnic sites, plus fishing, canoeing, swimming, and hiking are available. Located on RR 46, 13 miles east of Boerne. CS MCKINNEY FALLS STATE PARK: At the confluence of Onion and Williamson Creeks, this park offers quiet pools, occasional rapids and waterfalls. Excellent visitor center, hiking and interpretive trails, campsites, playground, and the ruins of homestead of Thomas F. McKinney, one of Stephen F. Austin's original 300 colonists. Situated about thirteen miles southeast of downtown Austin. From US 183 south, take Scenic Loop Road west to park entrance. S HAMILTON POOL: A park operated by Travis County, this place, with its waterfall that drops some sixty feet, has been a favorite swimming hole for generations. Visitation is limited so call in advance: 512/264-2740. Located west of Austin on Highway 71 approximately 16 miles to FM 3238, south 13 miles.