After finding damage to the swimming pool the pool was closed indefinitely. The parks system just didn’t have the funding to repair the structure. The TPWD Foundation along with the Apache Corporation have raised over $1 million and efforts continue. This pool is a unique park in our parks system and it will truly be a triumphant return for this oasis. Be sure and check out the Texas Monthly article on the fundraising efforts.
On a recent visit I found myself in the unfortunate predicament of having driven an hour to find the “park full” sign. While this would usually make me happy because it means the park is popular I really had my heart set on a hike today. After a quick discussion with park staff I found myself on a new trail. While you aren’t anywhere near the river or the falls this does mean you aren’t anywhere near the crowds. I left the park, yes that’s right, and took a left from the park entrance. About a half mile down there is a parking lot and a trailhead. The Madrone Trailhead. This 2.5 mile trail provides an escape from the crowds while providing great natural features and birdwatching you may not get in the rest of the park. At the end of this trail you can either walk back up the road to the parking or continue on to another trail.
I continued on to the Juniper Ridge Trail (black dotted line above) and took the left turn back towards parking. Really great trail with slightly more challenging paths than the madrone trail, but nothing too challenging for most. I’ve hiked this trail three times now and I’ve only seen one other person. To say this trail is underutilized is fair. You don’t see a lot of evidence of litterers either. But if you do please do the park staff a favor and pick up the trash and pack it out.
About two miles into this trail you are faced with more options. You can head back to parking or continue on to more trails. All of the rest of the park is accessible from these trails and I can’t wait to get out and keep exploring.
PSA: please remember to check in even though you are parking “outside” the park. The state parks are allocated funding, at least in part, based on the number of annual visitors. Not only are you stealing the daily access fee but you’re hurting the annual funding of the park. Additionally, you should let the park staff know you are hiking on this remote trail. That way if you get hurt or lost they will know where to start looking.
For those that haven’t heard you can now reserve your spot at our state’s parks using the online reservation system. This is great for those parks that are difficult to get to and then you do get all the way there and see the dreaded “park full” sign. Not any more. You can now reserve a day pass to popular parks like Enchanted Rock and not worry about there being space when you get there. Plan ahead though as parks are filling up faster than ever.
Though this park is in my backyard (almost) I don’t visit it as much as I would like. Hoping to change that I visited last weekend and discovered the beauty of the picnic trail and the onion creek hike and bike trail. Don’t worry the trail is wide enough to accommodate our biking friends who seem, at least in my experience, to think the trails are made for them alone. Ok, off my soap box. McKinney Falls State Park is still recovering from the floods a few years ago. The headquarters is still closed for repairs. Much of the Park is still open though. If you know which fork in the trail to take you can find some truly amazing sights in the backyard of the live music capitol of the world.
If you’re in the park to do some fishing I encourage you to not fish in the swimming hole and then complain about people swimming in your fishing spot. I witnessed quite the argument during my recent visit and it is completely unnecessary. The best fishing is up stream from the swimming holes anyways. Not going to give away my secrets but put a little effort into moving upstream and you will be rewarded. Here’s the only clue I’ll give.
This past Saturday I made it out to Pedernales Falls SP again. This time I brought the fishing gear with me and headed to the Pedernales Falls overlook area.
The spot I chose was just North of this spot though I won’t give away the exact spot. Where’s the fun in that?
Here’s the first giant I caught. No laughs. I was in it for the sport and not to find dinner.
And the biggest catch of the day…
It was a lot of fun until the families with untrained children showed up and thought it was a good idea to throws rocks into the water. I wish I had the camera out to get a shot of the fish throwing up the peace sign and disappearing never to be seen again.
By the way, “Harassment of Hunters, Trappers, or Anglers (Sportsmen’s Rights Act) is punishable by a fine of $200 to $2000 and/or 180 days in jail.”
Until that point it was a wonderful day out on the river. There were some bigger fish in this spot, but they weren’t interested in the bait I tried. Maybe next time.
*No fish were harmed in the production of this blog post.
After the storms on Monday, I headed out the Perd to see if the rains had any impact on the water level. While out there I remembered that there’s plenty about this park that I haven’t experienced yet. One of those things is the bird blind at the park.
My expectations were really low because I thought “low budget and state park must mean bench and tree = bird blind.” Boy was I wrong.
If you haven’t had the pleasure, put it at the top of your list for your next visit to the park.
From the park store, head towards the main falls. Keep an eye out on the left side of the road for the parking area for the blind. It is well-marked and should be easily found.
To get the most out of your visit and to be respectful of others at the blind:
- Turn your radio off before you turn into the parking area.
- No talking unless you are able to whisper (not all people are able to in my experience)
- When you park, try to park at the far end of the lot away from the entrance to the blind.
- Close the door to your car as quietly as possible
- Don’t set your alarm. Lock your doors, but no honking of the horn to set the alarm.
- Enter the blind quietly (don’t let the gate slam)
There are two large bird blinds once you enter. The first one on the right, pictured below, has a few hummingbird feeders.
I saw several different species in just a short time in this blind.
There is another blind in this area that has a special visitor right now.
I was lucky to get there around feeding time. The volunteer, Mr. Strickland, said that the baby fox, pictured below, shows up every day around 5pm and stays about an hour.
According to Mr. Strickland, there is a mother and a couple of other young foxes. However he had not seen them in a few days and the worry is that something might have happened to them. Hopefully this little guy is not on his own so young.
The park is in the middle of a large project at the blind/surrounding area. They are building a large star gazing area. Mr. Strickland said that there would be a telescope and accompanying facility. I look forward to visiting this facility when it opens.
I made it out to Pedernales on Monday after the heavy rains. Got some great pictures with the old camera I dug out of the closet. Easy to say that this park is my favorite so far. Every time I visit I see something I haven’t seen before.
The creek trail starts at the information kiosk near the restrooms* and follows the old homestead (no longer there), school (mid to late 1800’s structure), and then continues along the creek until it meets back up with the main trail (rimrock trail).
The old school building provides a small picture of what living on the ranch must have been like.
Even though the creek trail is only a half mile from the ponds and prairies trail the landscape is completely different. You’ll also see lots of grasshoppers along this trail. Watch for snakes (depending on time of year) and keep an eye out for the many birds and butterflies. The creek will have water in it if there has been a recent rain. Otherwise you can explore the old creek bed.
The old trees on this trail also provide plenty of photo opportunities. This was one of my favorite from today.
I found another great video on one of the parks I’ve visited a few times now. Watch the video and check out my posts on McKinney Falls State Park.
My friends and I decided to give McKinney Falls another chance. Maybe February just isn’t the best time to visit the park. After some much-needed rain and a different choice in trail I gained a new appreciation for the park. The wildflowers were blooming and it was nice and green.
We parked by the Smith Visitor Center and took the trail along the river, past the visitor center, and on to the rock shelter.
This massive tree was along the trail.
As you walk under the rock shelter used by the Native Americans so long ago take notice of the nests of spiders along the roof of the cave.
If you’re brave enough and the conditions are good take the path from the cave down to the river.
It is rather steep and slick so be careful. It was worth it for us though.
I’m glad we gave this park another chance. Hopefully some of the pending increase in funding from the legislature will make it to the other sections of the park.