Wednesday, April 10, 2013

McKinney Falls State Park



A cold front blew into the area early Sunday morning (March 24, 2013). For the next two days, temperatures remained cool and winds high, making it unpleasant to be outside. In fact, early morning temps were dipping close to freezing Monday and Tuesday. But Tuesday promised sunshine and low winds, so we decided to journey about 20 miles up the road from our camp in Lockhart and visit McKinney Falls State Park, on the southern outskirts of Austin.

The centerpiece of McKinney Falls is Onion Creek and the two small waterfalls on the limestone bed of that creek. The creek itself was not much more than a trickle. I’m sure that there are times that the creek is much more imposing, as evidenced by the exposed limestone that abounds near the creek. Numerous people were exploring the area, including 2 busloads of students from area schools.

Exposed limestone expanse along Onion Creek, which is barely visible in left-center of picture. Also note Homestead in right part of picture among the trees.

Lower Falls of Onion Creek. Water flow is very low due to drought.
Close up of cascade at Donna's feet in above picture.

After viewing the lower falls, we picked our way across the creek and hiked the 2.75 mile Homestead Trail, which is simply a loop trail that passes an old grist mill and the McKinney homestead.

Grist Mill

Our first glimpse of the Homestead through the trees.

Thomas McKinney built this house in the late 1840s. He was an active player in the early days of Texas.
After visiting the lower falls, we went upstream to see the upper falls. We were surprised to see a family swimming in the cool water of the pool at the base of the falls. As with the lower falls, the upper falls was little more than a trickle.

The Upper Falls
One of the rivulets forming the Upper Falls

The Smith Visitor Center near the Upper Falls
As we were leaving the area around the lower falls, we heard numerous sirens sounding nearby. We were surprised to see rescue personnel then appear along the creek, working their way to a young woman who had taken a tumble from a boulder along the stream. After a bit of exploration, they decided the best way to get to her would be from the upper falls area.

As we got to the upper falls area, we saw no fewer than 10 emergency and rescue vehicles in that parking lot, all for a single person who had suffered what we heard was a broken leg. Most of the rescue personnel were standing around in small groups chatting.

We drove through the rest of the park, looking at the camping areas. The park is heavily wooded with good hiking trails. There appear to be no full hookups except for hosts. A handful of shelters are available. Trailer spaces seem to be rather small. We saw many that were wedged in among the trees, and I wondered how a few had been able to park their trailers where they were.


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