On my way to Pedernales Falls State Park I stopped briefly at the Blanco River State Park in Blanco. You could do a free 10-minute quick drive-through, or pay the nominal park fee. I opted for the drive-through, since the park is primarily for camping, fishing and swimming.
The striking feature is the color of the river. It’s difficult to capture it well, but it is representative of the color of all of the rivers and creeks I saw in the Hill Country…a sort of transparent to translucent green jade. I was later told by Gil (Jill) one of my lodging hosts, that the color of the creeks and rivers changes, and that she thinks that the water reflects the color of the trees on the banks, which change over the course of the year.
Anyway, here are just a couple of quick snapshots of the Blanco River that I jumped out of my car to get. They don’t really show how deep the jade color is, but they’ll give you an idea.
Pedernales Falls is another story…really more of another planet. It’s a 6-mile drive into the park to get to the short trail to the falls. In CT, six miles is likely bigger than the entirety of any park, itself. Before I saw it, I was thinking, “Oh…picturesque water falls, lazily flowing over some rocks.” Pedernales Falls is not that kind of falls. To me, it was a little unnerving.
You begin by looking down over the falls area, which is expansive. The falls area…on this dry day…was probably a couple/few-hundred yards wide and stretches out in both directions as far as you can see. From high up on the viewing area, it looks like a series of fairly smooth, gradually sloped and descending rock ledges, interrupted by pools and ponds of water. Peaceful enough.
Here are a few individual images and one panoramic image of the falls from the viewing area. They really don’t capture what you are seeing, but it’s the best I could do.
If you’re a little adventurous (which most people are), you can take the single narrow stone stairway down onto the rock ledges and explore them to your heart’s content. The first thing is, you don’t realize how vast the ledges are until you are walking on them. The second thing is, once you’re down on the rock ledges, which look fairly smooth from the viewing area, you realize that they are actually full of all different size and shaped smooth shallow holes, worn in from the water over the millennia…basically stone Swiss-cheese…and that there are cracks and drop-offs all over the place, so you have to watch every step you take.
And as you begin to explore, it’s very easy to lose track of where that single narrow stone stair trail is, that dropped you onto the ledges, since there are no signs. But, all of the rock and water textures and features continue to draw you further out onto the rocks. And you wonder where the falls are. You wonder where all of the water is that created all of the holes in the ledges and that left pools and ponds of water behind. A part of me was a little disconcerted and a little anxious, but it’s probably mostly just my nature.
Here are a few random photos from down on the ledges. They don’t at all capture the Swiss-cheese texture, unfortunately. But, the enormous boulder that’s jammed into the huge hole in the cliff face might make you wonder how it got there.
Other visitors are also wandering around on the ledges. They don’t seem the least bit concerned. Eventually, I decided to begin to head back to the stone stairway. Because of all of the holes and cracks and drop-offs, it takes time to carefully pick your way back, especially since you lose track of just how far you have wondered.
And then, I couldn’t find the stone stairway. It’s just one, narrow, unmarked opening in a steep slope covered with brush and boulders. Again…there’s no sign. They couldn’t put up a little sign? A sign would probably get washed away, so I understand the logic.
I ended up combing back and forth over the slope a few times before I found the exit stairway. That was a little nerve-wracking, because I’m thinking about flash-floods, despite it being a dry day. That’s just how my mind works. I’m a worrier.
I was also wondering how anyone could get quickly off the ledges in the event of a flash flood, since I only saw the one narrow exit. Once back up to the viewing area and on the short trail back to the parking lot, I bumped into a young man who told me that he grew up in the Hill Country and that as a Boy Scout, he had taken trips to the falls, where he was cautioned that it’s a fine line between when it’s safe to be down on the ledges, and when it is not…if there is water flowing over them. Because, if a flash flood starts, the water could be eight feet deep and surging in about ten minutes.
In the end, I was glad that I was able to explore the ledges on a dry day, despite no dramatic falls to view. The ledges were interesting enough to explore.