TEXAS HILL COUNTRY IMAGES
Texas Hill Country Images is a collection of photographs made in the region known as the Texas Hill Country. The Hill Country covers all or parts of 28 Central Texas counties and is made up of three Level IV ecoregions: the Balcones Canyonlands, the Llano Uplift, and the Edwards Plateau Woodland. Though over 98% of Texas is privately owned, the Texas Hill Country has many state parks and natural areas, as well as preserves maintained by local municipalities or private organizations, including:
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
Located in Burnet, Travis, and Williamson Counties in the Balcones Canyonlands of the Texas Hill Country, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is being preserved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an Internationally Important Bird Area conserving the habitat of the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. Most of the Refuge’s 27,500 acres are not accessible to the public. The three parts that are open are Doeskin Ranch and the Shin Oak Observation Deck in Burnet County, and Warbler Vista in Travis County. While Warbler Vista primarily consists of thick stands of cedar trees (Juniperus ashei), Doeskin Ranch consists of a variety of habitats, including cedar brakes, open grasslands, and riparian areas along Cow Creek.
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Cibolo Nature Center
Located within the city limits of Boerne in Kendall County in the Balcones Canyonlands ecoregion of the Texas Hill Country, Cibolo Nature Center is made up of four distinct ecosystems: tallgrass prairie, riparian forest, live oak savannah, and spring-fed marsh. But the centerpiece of the property is Cibolo Creek. One of the more beautiful spots in the Texas Hill Country, the creek flows beneath a canopy of tall cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) which are home to an abundance of wildlife. Cibolo Nature Center hosts a wide variety of educational programs for both children and adults geared toward conservation and sustainable living and has preserved the historic home of Dr. Ferdinand Herff on the original Herff homestead.
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Colorado Bend State Park
Located in San Saba County in the Edwards Plateau Woodland ecoregion, Colorado Bend State Park lies along a large bend of the Colorado River in the northern part of the Texas Hill Country. Colorado Bend boasts the second highest waterfall in the state of Texas, Gorman Falls. Gorman Falls may range from a slow trickle during dry spells to a raging torrent after heavy rains. Spicewood Springs Creek is popular during the summertime thanks to its tranquil pools of water and many small waterfalls which run through a canyon and empty into the Colorado River. The karst landscape is also home to many caves, and spelunking is one of the many activities avaliable at Colorado Bend. Other popular activities include fishing, kayaking, and hiking along the many miles of trails in the park.
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Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Located in Llano and Gillespie Counties in the Llano Uplift ecoregion of the Texas Hill Country, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is one of the most popular parks in the state of Texas. Its main attraction, the Enchanted Rock batholith, covers over 60 square miles of the Texas Hill Country, although most of it is hidden from view underground. In the spring, wildflowers such as Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and others are abundant along Sandy Creek, and cacti such as the claret cup cactus and the prickly pear cactus bloom among the granite boulders. Most visitors to the park can be found climbing the Summit Trail, which leads to the top of the Enchanted Rock dome, to take in sunrise or sunset. The view from the top of the Rock is perhaps the best in the entire Texas Hill Country.
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Garner State Park
Located in Uvalde County in the Balcones Canyonlands ecoregion of the Texas Hill Country, Garner State Park may be the most popular park in the state of Texas. Named for John Nance Garner, Vice President of the United States from 1933 to 1941, Garner State Park is best known for the cool waters of the aptly named Frio River, which provides refuge from the hot Texas weather every summer for thousands of Texans. Favorite pastimes at Garner include floating the river in tubes, swimming, camping, and the nightly dance held during the summer months. In the fall, the green foliage of the towering cypress trees turns to rust as the temperatures grow cooler, providing beautiful displays of fall color along the river.
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Honey Creek State Natural Area
Located in Comal County in the Balcones Canyonlands ecoregion of the Texas Hill Country, Honey Creek State Natural Area is not open to the public. The Natural Area is adjacent to Guadalupe River State Park and is only accessible by guided tours led on the weekends. Due in part to the lack of public access and in part to the stewardship of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Honey Creek State Natural Area is in pristine condition. This along with its diversity of vegetation and terrain are its most outstanding features. Tours take visitors from rocky limestone hills down into the canyon where the tranquil waters of Honey Creek runs over moss covered limestone rocks along cypress lined path on its way to the Guadalupe River.
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Inks Lake State Park
Located in Burnet County in the Llano Uplift ecoregion of the Texas Hill Country, Inks Lake State Park is one of the more developed and heavily visited parks in the Texas Hill Country. The main attraction is Inks Lake itself, one of the five Highland Lakes of Central Texas, which were created by various dams along the Colorado River. Inks Lake is a constant level lake, meaning that no matter how low the water level of the Colorado River may be Inks Lake’s level is maintained the same. Wildflowers such as Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), Texas paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa), and many others abound in the spring, growing in pockets of soil among the Valley Spring gneiss rock. Devil’s Waterhole along Spring Creek is a popular spot for swimmers during the hot Texas summers.
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Lost Maples State Natural Area
Located in Bandera and Real Counties in the Balcones Canyonlands ecoregion of the Texas Hill Country, Lost Maples State Natural Area contains one of the largest remaining colonies of bigtooth maple trees (Acer grandidentatum) in the entire state of Texas. The name Lost Maples is a nod to the fact that the maples are remnants of larger populations of the trees which existed many years ago. Today, they are found protected on canyon walls and down along the waterways of the southwestern part of the Texas Hill Country. Autumn sees the maple leaves turn every color imaginable, from rust to gold and scarlet red to blazing orange. Each year, visitors come from all over to enjoy the fall foliage in the park, which in addition to bigtooth maples also includes sycamores (Platanus occidentalis, Texas red oaks (Quercus buckleyi), and lacey oaks (Quercus laceyi).
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McKinney Falls State Park
Located in Travis County in the Balcones Canyonlands ecoregion of the Texas Hill Country, McKinney Falls State Park is one of the many parks in the Austin metro area providing recreational opportunities to the public. Its location on Onion Creek makes it a popular destination during the summertime, and the pools located below the two waterfalls in the park are often filled with swimmers. One of the oldest bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees on public land in the state of Texas, named Old Baldy, grows here along with many other cypress trees on the banks of the creek. The remains of the home of the park’s namesake, Thomas F. McKinney, still stand in the park, along with the remnants of a grist mill that McKinney operated on Onion Creek. McKinney was one of the original American colonists of Texas, known as the Old 300, the first group brought to the state by the man known as the Father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin.
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Pedernales Falls State Park
Located in Blanco County in the Balcones Canyonlands ecoregion of the Texas Hill Country, Pedernales Falls State Park is situated on the Pedernales River, which is its focal point. The park is named for the cascading falls which roll over 300 million year old polished limestone from the Marble Falls formation, which runs along the edge of the Llano Uplift. The Llano Uplift caused the layers of limestone to tilt, and this is visible today along the banks of the creek near the falls. Further downstream the river’s waters are deeper, more tranquil, and lined by the huge bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) that are characteristic of the Balcones Canyonlands. As with all swimming holes in the Texas Hill Country, Pedernales Falls State Park is quite popular during the summer months.
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