Most parks around Austin have reopened, but actually getting in one lately can feel like trying to get a reservation at the most popular restaurant in town.
Day-use slots fill up quickly at state parks. Barton Springs requires a reservation (unless you go between 6-8 a.m.) and the Barton Creek Greenbelt is too crowded for comfort.
So where have I been getting my dose of Mother Nature? Lately, the far reaches of Bull Creek.
I used to slosh through Bull Creek when I was 8 or 9 years old, once cut a massive gash in my foot there during a day camp and had to be carried out, and got engaged on its banks when I was 33. The key these days is walking far enough up the creek that your only company is the tiny frogs, nesting sunfish and giant spiders.
If you park along Winding Ridge Boulevard, just on the west side of Capital of Texas Highway (the park has multiple entrances), you can walk down to the creek and wade upstream a quarter of a mile. Even on a busy Saturday, you probably won’t find many others beyond the area closes to the road. Look closely – up on the right bank, you can see the rusting hulk of an old, old car. Keep going and you’ll find plenty of big boulders to climb. The rock skipping’s great. So’s the fish watching.
If you want to kayak or canoe, you can access West Bull Creek from Lakewood Drive just north of FM 2222. Be careful where you walk – most of the land along the road is private property, and it’s marked No Trespassing. But if you turn left along the guardrail and follow the narrow trail toward the FM 2222 bridge, you can get to the deeper part of the creek. Put in boats under the bridge and paddle downstream, toward the fire station and County Line restaurant. Or wade through shallow water for a cool hangout spot upstream. (Again, stay in the creek; don’t wander onto privately owned land.)
Downstream, the creek widens and you’ll emerge into a large cove that opens onto Lake Austin near the Pennybacker Bridge.
We took our Alumacraft canoe there recently, and loved jumping in the water and practicing getting back in the boat in deep water. We also saw a snake, so keep an eye peeled.
You never know what you’ll find. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the area lately, and have spotted a turtle the size of a pecan, a heron hunting for food and lots of minnows. The best part? Stretching out in a Pam-sized rut carved into the limestone bed and reveling in the feeling of water rushing over my skin.
For more information about Bull Creek District Park, go to https://austinparks.org/bull-creek/.