Austin is certainly one of Texas' most scenic cities. And, as compared to other cities its size across the country, Austin offers residents and visitors an ample array of outdoor recreation venues. But, perhaps none of these are as surprisingly scenic and "wild" as McKinny Falls State Park. Located within the cities of Austin, McKinney falls is home to its namesake waterfall, as well as the confluence of Onion and Williamson Creeks, numerous bald cypress trees and a massive amount of limestone hills and cliffs. These elements conspire to enrich the state park's natural beauty. The fact it is located within one of the nation's largest cities is simply amazing -- and convenient.
The land the park is situated on was originally part of a Mexican Land Grant. Thomas F McKinney, for whom the falls and park were named, purchased that land that today comprises McKinney State Park in 1839 (McKinney originally came to Texas in 1820 as one of Stephen F Austin's original colonists.). Over the last half of the 19th century, McKinney made his homestead on this parcel of land. Following McKinney's death in 1873, his ranch and homestead were divided and sold to numerous individuals. The portion which later became McKinney Falls State Park was purchased by James W Smith in 1885. Smith's grandson, JE "Pete" Smith donated the land for the park to the state in 1971. The park opened to the public in 1876.
Due to the combination of convenient location within Texas' capital city and astounding natural beauty, McKinney Falls has been popular with visitors since its opening. The remains McKinney's homestead and horse trainer's cabin are popular sites within the park. Smith Rock Shelter, a limestone overhang used as a shelter by Native Americans from 500 BCE until the 1700s. Another popular site inside McKinney Falls State Park is "Old Baldy," the 103-foot, 500-plus-year-old bald cypress tree, which is considered one of the oldest bald cypress trees in Texas.
Camping, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, swimming and wildlife observation are all popular activities in McKinney Falls State Park. (NOTE: Swimming is allowed in Onion Creek. Visitors interested in swimming are urged to call ahead of time to check the current creek conditions.)
All visitors, whether there specifically for wildlife observation or not, are most likely to encounter an array of splendid flora and fauna. Deer, raccoons, armadillos, and squirrels are just some of the mammals present within the park. Dozens of bird species abound within McKinney Falls State Park as well, including Painted Buntings, cardinals and Mockingbirds. Again, the park is also home to a myriad of fauna, including bald cypress trees, live oak trees, pecan trees, bluebonnets, and a variety of other wildflowers and trees. Prickly Pear and Pencil cacti are also found within the park.
For those looking for an overnight trip, McKinney Falls State Park offers primitive camp sites, screened shelters, and improved camp sites. Restrooms, showers and dump facilities are found throughout the park. There is also a hike-and-bike trail and amphitheatre. And, there is a group dining hall located near the amphitheatre.
McKinney Falls State Park is located at 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, Austin, 78744. To make reservations or check creek conditions, call 512-243-1643. The park is open seven days per week, 12 months per year. Park gates open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. Entrance is $6 per day for adults - children 12 and under are free. While there are plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities within McKinney Falls State Park throughout the year, the busiest months are March through November (spring, summer and fall).