Pedernales falls state park is located in Blanco County (Texas), 10 miles east of Johnson City and 30 miles north west of Austin, 75 miles from San Antonio, 230 miles from Dallas and 230 miles from Houston. The closest city to Pedernales Falls state park is Johnson City. The park is on Pedernales river and covers an area of 5221 acres. This was actually a private property known as Circle Bar Ranch and was purcased by State of Texas in 1970. This park opened to public in 1973.
This park offers great diversity to the visitors. The visitors can indulge in activities like swimming, wading, tubing and fishing. There are a number of picnic areas and campsites within the park. There are also numerous hiking, biking and equestrian trails. The main areas of attraction are the falls area, the beach and the Bird Blind.
The detailed map of the park can be found here.
Our trip to Pedernales Falls state park was planned for the Memorial Day weekend in 2009. We decided to base ourselves at Marble Falls, around 34 miles north of Pedernales Falls State Park.
We started from Dallas on May 23, 2009 at 12:00 and reached our hotel (Quality Inn) in Marble Falls at 3:30 pm. We spent that day in and around Marble Falls (details here). The next day we started at around 10:45 for Pedernales Falls State Park. We drove down 281 south towards . There is lodging available if one wishes to stay very close to the park. After we reached Johnoson City we drove down Ranch Road 2766 East towards Pedernales Falls State Park. The ride was beautiful, undulating roads going up and down with forest on both sides. This area is prone to flooding and you will see markers by the side of the road showing the depth of the water, especially where the road is sloping down ( see the photo below).
The park entrance is clearly marked. Once inside the park we reached the visitor center where we paid the fees. The fee is nominal, $5 per adult, kids are free. We took the kids to the restroom, took a few pictures and then headed towards the falls area.
At the entrance to the fall area there is this big warning sign. This is a flash flood area and within minutes the whole area can get flooded. If you see water level rising immediately go to higher ground. Please read the following sign carefully and be prepared. The morning we went there it was a little cloudy and it had rained and we were worried but then the sky cleared up and it was a perfect day.
The walk from this sign to the actual falls area will take you around 15 minutes. There are benches (made from tree trunk) built alongside the trail in case someone needs to rest. The trail ended into the falls area and we were all excited to see the beautiful falls area.
The area is wide open with cascading falls and there is lot of areas to explore. We spent lot of time near the accessible area, taking pictures, wetting our feet in the falls water and just relaxing. The easily accessible area has a smaller cascading fall with the pool beneath. The limestone rock formations are very beautiful and the water marks on the rocks show the level of water that can be reached during heavy rains. The different layers of limestone rocks can be seen on the two sides of the river falls area. The rock is porous and water seeps below the ground and emerges as clear water springs downstream.
After we had explored the easily accessible area I was itching to go upstream to explore further. There is no easy marked route to go upstream. One has to kind of go up through the rocks on the side of the falls and find the way through to the upstream area. The little one is just 3 years old and for safety considerations we could not all go up. Soma volunteered to stay with the little one and me and my elder daughter found our way to the upstream area. We had to hop, skip and jump over many bushes and rocks and it was lot of fun. My elder daughter was a great sport and willing to explore all the areas. I would highly recommend going upstream since the view is beautiful. We came across a circular hole in the rock and another piece of rock stuck within that hole.
We were lucky to come across many heart formations on the rocks, the sign of mother nature’s love towards this place. We were even blessed with a heart like cloud formation ( not exactly a heart but pretty close). It was a perfect day and we were glad that we were spending the day in such a relaxed environment surrounded by the natural beauty.
The limestone rocks have lot of perforations on them caused by flowing water. You can see these perforations on the rocks throughout the park. Some of these are heart shaped.
Fauna and Flora:
The park offers diverse fauna and flora. There are abundant Opuntia cactii plants throughout the park. We saw blooming Yucca (Spanish Dagger) flowers throughout the park. The yellow opuntia flowers are beautiful and bees and butterflies are seen hovering around them for nectar. Also there are lot of wild flowers.
After spending a few hours in the falls area, we had our lunch in the picnic area. There is no food available inside the park so be sure to carry your own lunch and drinks/water. We drove towards the swimming area downstream. After parking our car we had to walk down the stairs to the swimming area ( took us around 10 minutes). This is downstream from the falls area and lot of people were swimming in this area. It was getting warmer in the afternoon and was the perfect time to take a dip and chill out in water. We saw small fishes in the stream. Suddenly I felt a little ticklish on my toes and found out that the tiny fishes were nibbling on my toes. The kids did not want to be part of any of that and went a little downstream where the stream was flowing fast. We all swam in the stream for a while and after we had our fill, we started off towards our next stop, the Bird Blind.
The Bird Blind is also a must see. We love taking photographs of wild life and this was the perfect opportunity.
We saw the following birds:
- Red Cardinals
- Mountain bluebird
- Painted bunting
- Male Red Winged Blackbird
After the bird blind it was time to head back to our hotel. It was a most satisfying day and we all had our fill. We had our dinner in Marble Falls area and retired in our rooms. Next day we had breakfast at the hotel, checked out and headed towards our home.
Not so fast . What about other areas on our way back. We decided to check out Lake Buchanan (just a little out of our way back home). We went to Lake Buchanan beach access, took a few photographs, let the kids have some fun in the water and then again headed back home.
This is part of Texas Hill Country known for its beautiful wild flowers. Different seasons take different colors. We stopped where ever we would find colorful blanket of wild flowers.
Other things to do:
There are trails including the Wolf Mountain Trail (7.5 miles) which passes through small creeks and circles round two hills in the south section of the park. There is also a camping area nearby which is primitive overlooking the river canyon (Refer to the map). There are biking trails, equestrian trails and fishing opportunity in the park also.
View Pedernales Falls State Park-Trail in a larger map
View Pedernales Falls State Park in a larger map
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