When you think of a state park, you think of a place where people go to escape the city and the pressures of daily life. But, in Texas, there is actually a state park where you can escape the city and stress, but still be in the city itself. I’m not talking about a state historical site, but a real state park with woods, water, fishing, scenic views, hiking and biking trails. As you might expect, that park would be found in Austin, a city which prides itself on keeping it “weird.”
McKinney Falls State Park is located on Austin’s southeast side. The park is named for Thomas McKinney, who came to Texas in the 1820’s, and years later, established a homestead, bred race horses, and built a flour mill along Onion Creek. Historical remnants of his life are still present in the park, in the form of his home and his horse trainer’s cabin.
There is an interpretive center, and the park also provides activities you would normally expect in a state park. There is camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, sightseeing, and many nice places for a picnic. In addition, however, you’ll find biking trails (so important for Austin’s active biking community), a dining hall which may be rented, an amphitheater, and wireless internet access.
In this, the beginning day of Thanksgiving Week 2009, under clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70’s, I was delighted that the park was crowded with school children, who, it appeared to me, were learning to fish for the first time. It was obvious, as lines, hooks, and fishing bobbers, were strewn among the limbs of the bald oak cypress trees lining the banks of Onion Creek. While I saw no fish being brought to shore, it looked like everyone was having a great time, me included.
For those living in Austin, Texas, there are advantages, not the least of which, is being able to “get away” without having to leave the city itself.