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McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park

When we plan a trip to Austin, I always try to make time for a stop at McKinney Falls State Park. The park isn't very large, nor are the waterfalls particularly spectacular but when I arrive there, the place seems always to throw a spell on me. I know what's waiting for me, yet I'm surprised by it every time.

Path at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Path at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Christmas cactus at McKinney Falls State Park

Christmas cactus at McKinney Falls State Park

As you walk along the trail, the park reveals broad areas of exposed limestone, across which ran the El Camino Real de los Tejas. From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, this trail led missionaries, soldiers, traders and government officials from Spanish-controlled Mexico to Texas and Louisiana. I wonder if they marveled at the sudden appearance of so much exposed rock the way I do.

Limestone expanse at McKinney Falls State Park

Limestone expanse at McKinney Falls State Park

Upper waterfall at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Upper waterfall at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Upper waterfall at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Upper waterfall at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Lower waterfall at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Lower waterfall at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Unless you're really unlucky, and arrive at McKinney Falls during a dry spell, you'll be able to enjoy the views of Onion Creek as it flows alongside the walking trail and across the upper and lower falls. When you first see the waterfalls, you'll probably do what most people do - stop and enjoy the sight and sound of it. Not long after, you'll begin to notice how the water has carved, rounded, and polished the stone before reaching the edge. Soon you'll be making your way over to get a closer look. Both at the upper and lower falls there are large stone slabs lying submerged in the water - a testament to the great abrasive power of water.

Rock shelter at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Rock shelter at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Onion Creek at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Onion Creek at McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Along Onion Creek grow enormous cypress trees, the largest of which has been given the name Old Baldy. It's estimated to be older than 500 years. Normally the trail leads you right to it, but during this last visit it became clear that the last flooding event did a lot of damage to both the trail and the nearby wooden bridge. We also discovered that the visitor center had been damaged. Hopefully the funds will be allocated for the necessary repairs so that we'll find the park returned to its normal self the next time we visit.

 

Christmas in Old Town Spring

Christmas in Old Town Spring

Austin on Foot

Austin on Foot