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Flint rocks and falls on the Pedernales River

Flint rocks and falls on the Pedernales River
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ The Pedernales River spills over stones, creating the falls for which the Pedernales Falls State Park is known.

Pedernales Falls State Park, 80 miles from La Vernia, occupies almost 5,200 acres in Blanco County, 8 miles east of Johnson City, Texas. Before this land was acquired from private owners in 1970, it was the Circle Bar, a working cattle ranch. In 1971, the park was opened to the public.

Rocks in the park have a history going back more than 300 million years; the very name, “Pedernales,” is a Spanish term for “flint rocks.” One of the earliest recorded events in this area was a proposal to the Spanish government in 1750 by a Spanish missionary to establish a new mission site for the Lipan Apaches who lived along the Pedernales. The earliest settlement on the Pedernales River was Johnson City, founded in the late 1870s.

The beginning and the end

The Pedernales River rises from springs in the southeastern corner of Kimble County near the city of Junction and flows northeast for 106 miles, crossing Gillespie, Blanco, and Hays counties, finally joining the Colorado River before emptying into Lake Travis in Travis County. It can go from a placid stream to a raging torrent, collecting and moving rainfall along its route, carving deep canyons and ravines into the resistant rock, washing away the shale and limestone. The most spectacular part of the Pedernales is when it cascades over these limestone formations at the “falls.”

Things to do

In addition to picnicking, swimming, wading, and fishing, there are 19.8 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, plus 14 miles of backpacking trails. There is also a 10-mile horseback-riding trail. This rugged trail is rocky with some steep slopes, and requires riding experience. You must take your own horse; water troughs are located at the trailer parking area and at the midway point of the trail.

The camping area offers 68 campsites with water and electricity, fire rings, barbecue pits, showers, and bathrooms. Hike-in primitive camping also is available in one area along the river. No open fires are allowed here, but the use of a small propane stove is permitted. If you are just visiting for the day, there are day-use facilities close to the designated swimming area with parking, picnic tables, barbecue pits, and restrooms.

The falls are the main attraction and may be viewed from a scenic overlook at the north end of the park. Although the park is not known for fishing, catfishing is good after a river rise. Wildlife within the park includes white-tailed deer, coyotes, rabbits, armadillos, and an array of other critters.

What many visitors come to see are the birds. More than 150 different species have been seen in the park and one-third of them are permanent residents. To the north of the Park Headquarters, off the main park road, is a protected bird blind area. Here you can sit and watch a wonderful array of bird species in their natural habitat. One of our favorites was the male Northern Cardinal sometimes simply called a redbird because it is so easy to spot with its bright red plumage and sweet song. It is a quiet and relaxing place and about the only manmade sound you will hear is the clicking of your camera.

And there’s more!

The park store at the headquarters building office offers ice, snacks, and souvenir gift items for sale. Interested in geocaching? There are more than 20 caches within this park. Pedernales Falls participates in the annual Outdoor Family Workshops, offering families an opportunity to learn how to camp. This year’s workshop begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, and ends at noon the following day. Camping gear, including tents and cots, is provided. All you have to take are sheets, blankets, pillows, food, and drinks and a desire to learn more about how to camp. There will be classes in fire building, outdoor cooking, and geocaching. This is a wonderful and inexpensive way to introduce the joys of the great outdoors to families. The cost for this weekend is $65 for a family of up to six. No pets are allowed for this event. There are 18 spaces available in the water and electricity camping area; reservations are required.

For more information, visit the park website and click on “activities” at the top, and then click on “Texas Outdoor Family.”


Check the website for fees, upcoming programs, and weather conditions. Don’t forget to use your Texas Park Pass for great discounts. Have an incredible time!

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at

Pedernales Falls State Park

¢2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636; 830-868-7304

¢Reservations: 512-389-9800



Flash floods can occur on the Pedernales River with little or no warning. The water in the river can rise from a placid stream to a raging torrent in a few minutes. The rains in late May this year actually closed the park for two days. If you are in the river area and notice the water beginning to rise, you should leave the river area immediately.

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