I moved to Texas with my family from Michigan when I was 4 or 5, and when we got here, my dad bought a copy of a book of interesting places to visit around Central Texas.
Pretty quickly we stumbled into Pedernales Falls State Park. I can remember many trips to the park, a 45-minute drive west of Austin, to wade in the river and cook burgers on a grill. According to family legend, I once spotted a snake while swimming and ran so fast to get away that I actually walked on water.
I still visit the park a few times a year, and my husband and I made the trip this past weekend. Instead of going to the falls, which looks like a giant dropped a massive slab of limestone on the ground and then poured water over it, we spent our afternoon at the swimming area downstream. (Back when I was a kid, swimming was allowed at the falls, and you could slide on your rear end down the slab. The area is now closed to swimming.)
At the designated swimming area, we hiked down a hillside to a sandy, cypress-lined stretch of riverbank. We arrived just as a family hastily vacated a prime spot beneath some trees after spotting a snake. We don’t mind snakes, if they’re non-venomous, so we tossed down towels and plunged into the green water.
Upstream, kids clambered over boulders and leapt into pools. Downstream, a couple of anglers cast a line. We just floated around, drifting over to inspect the gnarled knees of some cypress across the river and drifting back to check out the nippy little fish just below the water’s surface.
Repeated flash floods have shaped the cypress trees here. Some are broken midway up; all lean downstream, as if a huge wind had blown their billowing skirts to the south. We nestled on the smooth wood of their roots and drank in the warm sun.
Reservations are recommended, but I went online Friday and was able to get a day pass for Saturday afternoon. Entry fee is $6 for ages 13 and older. Since I have a Texas State Parks pass, we didn’t have to pay.
The park is located at 2585 Park Road 6026 in Johnson City. For more information or to reserve a pass, go to https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/pedernales-falls.