Gallery of Images from McKinney Falls State Park
just southeast of Austin near the Ausin-Bergstrom International
Airport, McKinney Falls State Park is a 744 acre park operated by
the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The park offers camping,
hiking trails, picnic areas, and swimming in Onion Creek. In addition
two 8 foot waterfalls have been carved into the exposed bedrock
that can range anywhere from a trickle to a 20 foot torrent. Park
admission is $2/person and gates are open from 7am to 10pm.
The park is located 13 miles southeast of the State Capitol in Austin
off US Highway 183. Take McKinney Falls Parkway, off US 183 South,
straight to the park entrance.
visited McKinney State Park on a Sunday morning in late November
hoping that the crowds would be small and the weather nice enough
to capture a few interesting shots. Arriving around 11am, I paid
my admission fee and received a nice map of the park. There are
several camping and picnic areas, but I was mostly interested in
visiting Onion Creek and the waterfalls. I parked near the lower
falls and hiked down to the river.
The first thing
I noticed was the exposed bedrock. Running for hundreds of yards,
the bedrock was carved with thousands of holes and shallow valleys
- evidence of massive water flow in the past. Being careful not
to trip, I made my way down to the river above the falls to see
what gives this park its name.
lower falls area is made of carved bedrock with Onion Creek trickling
through the bottom. There's plenty of rocks to photograph. The water
levels were quite low from the lack of recent rain, though it was
pretty easy to imagine the entire area covered in water. Flash floods
are common in Central Texas, and so this would be a bad place to
stand when it starts to rain. If you want proof of the power of
moving water, check out the bent iron rods located just above the
lower falls. These rods once held a diversion dam to power a flour
mill. However the dam and the mill were washed away in a flood in
the late 1800's.
The falls themselves
aren't terribly impressive since there was little water flow. However
most of the creek bottom was exposed revealing snaking channels
in the bedrock. Unfortunately some of the most beautiful shots were
spoiled by floating trash.
I was tempted to crawl down to the base of the falls to pick up
the debris, but a lack of available paths and the high possibility
of falling into the creek encouraged me to stay high and dry. After
taking several photos and visiting the flour mill ruins I then hiked
back up the bedrock face in search of a path downstream. After about
a hundred yards I discovered a trail that lead down the bank and
into a field of loose stone.
of flooding was everywhere including trees growing at strange angles
and scattered debris along the banks of the creek. It is pretty
impressive - a creek that is only 20 feet wide and 2 feet deep can
swell to a raging torrent several hundred yards across and 20 feet
deep in a matter of minutes. It would be interesting to capture
such an event on film, if it could be done safely. There is an observation
deck near the upper falls that might provide a good view point for
such an event. Something to keep in mind next time it rains.
hiking below the lower falls I decided to head back upstream to
check out the homestead ruins. Located just above the lower falls,
the rock structure is the remains of Thomas McKinney's home from
the 1850's. While the structure is closed to the public, viewing
is possible from all directions. The stone texture of the ruins
gives some interesting shots and the open windows provide framing
opportunities. It is a shame I wasn't allowed inside to photograph
the structure up close, but ultimately its probably a good idea
to keep people away in order to preserve the structure.
I finished photographing the homestead I crossed back over the lower
falls to check out the visitor's center. This small facility contained
a short interpretation of the history of the land including a brief
geological lesson on how the bedrock was formed (80 million years
ago there was a volcano...). A tiny gift shop and an observation
deck overlooking the upper falls was also open. At this point the
crowds were picking up, and there were too many people climbing
over the upper falls to get a good shot, so I decided to pack up
and head home.
20 minutes from downtown Austin, McKinney Falls State Park offers
a decent range of photographic opportunities including ruins, bedrock
structures, and small waterfalls. Depending on the season other
subjects such as birds and wildflowers are also common throughout
the park. Admission is just $2/person and is the park is open year-round,
though the park may be extremely busy during the spring and summer