Things to Do

Beyond the Bluebonnets – 5 Other Things You Should Know About Willow City

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Tony Maples Photography


Most Texans living in the Texas Hill Country already know about the Willow City Loop, a 13-mile stretch of road off of FM 1323 about 12 miles northeast of Fredericksburg in Gillespie County.

In late March and early April, the two-lane highway is often bumper-to-bumper with bluebonnet-seekers. It is considered one of the premier springtime destinations in the state, winding through canyons and meadows filled with bluebonnets and other wildflowers, before finally reconnecting with Highway 16.

The Willow City Loop is usually just a scenic side-trip off of State Highway 16 on the way to or from Fredericksburg or Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, with nary a thought about the “city” itself and its rich, tenacious history. So, here are 5 more things to know about Willow City…

1. Willow City was settled by a preacher.

Willow City by Barbara Shallue

Photo: Barbara Shallue

Willow City was settled before the Civil War by a Baptist preacher who apparently didn’t feel comfortable around his German neighbors, so instead of traveling 12 miles to Fredericksburg for supplies and whatever, they would venture 90 miles to Austin… in a wagon, no less. (Source: Tourin’ Texas, July 2003)

2. Willow City was a hangout for outlaws.

willow city loop bluebonnets

Photo: Barbara Shallue

In the 1880s, Willow City was reportedly a hangout for outlaws. There were even three stabbings in the schoolhouse. (Source: Tourin’ Texas, July 2003)

3. Willow City was almost a ghost town.

Indian paintbrush

Photo: Barbara Shallue

In 1900, the population had reached a whopping 132 residents. There were three general stores, a drugstore, two blacksmiths, and a cotton gin. By the 1960s, the population had dropped to 17. It almost joined the list of Texas Ghost Towns.

The current population has held steady between 70 and 80 residents for a couple of decades; however, it is now home to only one general store and two bars. The school building remains as a historic landmark, but students travel to Fredericksburg for classes. The boiler in the gin exploded in 1924, killing two people, and the post office recently closed. There is one church, but it is currently lacking a preacher, and there’s not a single traffic light in sight.

4. There are two local watering holes.

white poppies

Photo: Barbara Shallue

As far as the two bars are concerned. both are pretty rustic, full of country character, and popular with visitors coming to experience the Willow City Loop or Enchanted Rock via motorcycle, bicycle, or car. Harry’s on the Loop, located at 2732 Ranch Road 1323, Willow City, Texas, is a pure Texas roadhouse, complete with a vintage juke-box and cigarette machine. While Harry’s provides free peanuts, chips, and other snacks to munch while sipping on your beverage, Knot in the Loop, located at 236 Ranch Road 1323, Willow City, Texas is not only a bar, but also a restaurant. It serves hamburgers, French fries, quesadillas, and other basic Texas roadside favorites.

5. Locals cherish their city.

bluebonnets and poppies on willow city loop

Photo: Barbara Shallue

Willow City is a peaceful place, according to the clerk at the General Store, who has lived there all of his life. He hopes it stays that way.

P.S. Visitors to the Willow City Loop should remember that the land along the road is privately owned. If you go, stay on the road, and don’t block driveways. Be respectful!