Heart of Texas Magazine

Life is Better Outside: A Deeper Look into Pedernales Falls State Park

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The Texas Hill Country is defined by water. Rain falls on vast ranches in the western Hill Country, filters down into aquifers, emerges in springs, which grow into creeks, then rivers. The Pedernales River arises in just such a manner—in Kimble County, near the southwest corner of Fredericksburg’s Gillespie County. It flows over a bed of 300 million-year-old limestone, through ranches and farms and canyons and towns, and 106 miles later, pours into the Colorado River. Much of its way is placid and gentle, and at Johnson City, where it’s dammed, the flow averages only 80 cubic feet per second. Enough to float a canoe or kayak, but nothing to brag about.

Ten miles east of Johnson City, all of that changes. In just over a half mile, the riverbed drops down 50 vertical feet, creating magical swirls and sunlit white foam in an energetic, frenetic flow. A steady flow of people appears daily to peer into its depths, to wonder at its energy, to marvel in its clarity, to draw its beauty into their barrenness. West of Dripping Springs you enter the Pedernales Falls State Park and follow a long winding road to the parking lot at its end.  There is a short trail to the overlook, where a couple of trails lead down into a wide streambed. The river flows from left to right over a series of falls and drops and slides into pools lined with sandy beaches. People scramble over the water-carved limestone to reach its edge. There are families and couples and sunbathing, but no doubt most are lusting for a swim in its cool waters. The signage above is clear: no swimming. There is a swimming area downstream by another trail, but danger lurks here, for this is not a water park. This is a place to marvel, relax, and breath in negative ions.

Life is Better Outside: A Deeper Look into Pedernales Falls State Park
Photo: Robert C. Deming

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