The Pedernales River begins from springs in Kimble County and crosses several hill country counties before it empties into Lake Travis. Running through a wild landscape filled with Live oak, Ashe juniper, cypress, and mesquite, the level of the river water rises and falls dramatically depending upon the seasonal cycles of rain.
Historically, the river was essential to the life of Native Americans, Spanish explorers, and European settlers. It was also very important in the life of President Lyndon Johnson, who was born and died, just steps away from the bank of the river. Today, the Pedernales is an important tributary for Lake Travis, and is a provider of hill country recreation. One pleasant spot along the river is Pedernales Falls State Park.
As parks go, this one is quite recent. Established as a park in 1971, the land had originally been a part of the Circle Bar Ranch. The park takes up over 5,000 acres of Blanco County, and is one of the fine natural resources in the hill country.
The major attraction is, of course, the falls. The falls are created by Pedernales River cascading down and over limestone rocks, and while it is in no way comparable to Niagara Falls, it is a quiet and scenic spot. There is a nice observation deck where it is possible to look out over the falls and the entire area; however, most people walk down the steps from the observation area down to the water, where they climb on the rocks in and around the falls. Since the Pedernales, like most rivers in the hill country, are prone to flash flooding, visitors are warned to be vigilant to changing weather conditions. Being out on the river during a sudden flash flood has taken lives in the past. Since the park considers the area around the falls particularly dangerous, it does not allow swimming, wading, or tubing. The large park does, however, have ample areas for people wishing to take part in those activities further downstream. The river also provides great opportunities for anglers, especially those wanting to hook catfish.
The river is not the only attraction in the park. Hiking, sightseeing, photography, and birdwatching are other popular activities which lure visitors to the area. Both modern and primitive camp sites are available for those who wish to spend one or more nights in the park.
Despite the fact that the park is relatively close to both Austin and Johnson City, once inside the solitude of the park, you feel like you are a million miles away from everything. That is a common feeling at so many places throughout the hill country.