According to park staff, it was because of canoeists on the river that the park was obtained by the state. At the time, the state parks department was considering 600 acres of riverfront real estate for a park. Landowners vigorously opposed opening the river to recreational use.
In 1975, a legislative delegation of about 22 canoes made the nine-mile trip from Edge Falls Road to the Spring Branch crossing downstream from the present park to see for themselves if the area was worthy of being a state park. When the group got back to their cars parked at Edge Falls Road, all but the cars with red legislative license plates were gone. An angry landowner had the Kimball County sheriff tow the cars.
One of the more powerful members of the canoeing group is reputed to have told a local in no uncertain terms that they could expect to have a state park on the river whether they wanted it or not. In the next session, the Legislature directed the parks department to purchase the land on the river. The park opened in June 1983.
Not only did the park give canoeists access to about a 20-mile stretch of the river that runs through tall limestone canyons and wide fertile valleys, but it gives hikers, campers, swimmers, and the stressed-out a garden retreat. It also gives anglers a chance to chase the feisty Guadalupe bass, Texas' state fish, which lives only in Central Texas.
"A lot of things make the park special," says Park Ranger Joan Nitschke. It doesn't take long to see what those things are.
Besides providing access to the river for 350,000 Texans a year, the park is home to the rare golden-cheeked warbler and the Honey Creek Cave salamander.
The road leading into the park crosses the almost forbidding live oak and juniper savannah which have made the Hill Country famous and can be stifling in the August heat. Once in the park, the shade of paradise begins to get thicker as the road passes the three camping areas: one area for walk-in tent camping, one area with water, and one area with water and electrical hookups.
The narrow two-lane road ends in a large parking lot which fills on weekends with the cars of fun seekers. Hidden from view from the parking lot by a thicket of trees and a sloping bank with a picnicking area, the river makes a wide turn below Swallow Bluffs, a tall limestone cliff pockmarked with hundreds of tiny caves.
The river begins as a wide ribbon of water with pools deeper than an average man. As it rounds the bend, the river deposits its load of sand to make a swimming beach. After it completes the turn, the cypress tree-lined river rushes over a series of rapids before settling back under its glassy surface beneath a canopy of tall trees.
Adjacent to the Guadalupe River State Park is the Honey Creek State Natural Area, a pristine ecosystem that looks more like East Texas than the Hill Country. The fragile environment is only open by guided tours on Saturdays, 9-11am.
Once part of a cattle ranch, the Honey Creek area was purchased in 1980 by the Texas Nature Conservancy. The property was deeded to the parks department to allow it to revert to its original grasslands with a scenic stream dotted by pond lilies and lined with palmettos and trees draped with Spanish moss. The area includes Honey Creek Cave, the longest known cave in Texas.
For canoeists, the upper Guadalupe River, divided into the upper and lower by Canyon Lake, might be the ultimate of Hill Country rivers. The spring-fed river supports a near-constant flow of 150-200 cubic feet per second, ideal for negotiating the twists and turns.
The river begins its flow to the coast west of Kerrville. The Friends of the Guadalupe River have published an excellent map (for sale at the state park) of the 82-mile upper portion of the river between Center Point and Spring Branch. Nitschke says a perfect day trip on the river is the eight miles from Sultanfuss Crossing at FM3351 between Bergheim and Kendalia to the state park.
For information on river conditions, call the park at 830/438-2656. Campgrounds and canoeing companies along the upper river include: Comfort Canoes, 830/995-3486; Bergheim Campground, 830/336-2235; Guadalupe Canoe Livery, 830/885-4671; or Bigfoot Canoes, 830/885-7106. For camping reservations at the state park, call the central reservation system at 389-8900.
Coming up this weekend...
Free stargazing at Southwestern University's Fountainwood Observatory in Georgetown begins at 8:30pm, May 1. During the summer months the viewing moves to 9pm on the first Friday of the month. 512/863-1242.
Mayfair/Airshow/Artwalk in Georgetown celebrates spring, May 1-3. 512/930-3535.
Heritage Festival in San Marcos includes historic homes tours beginning at C.M. Allen Parkway. and East Hopkins. May 2-3. 512/353-1258.
Folkfest at New Braunfels' Conservation Plaza off US337 offers hands-on fun, music, and food, May 2-3. 830/629-2943.
Cow Camp Cookoff in San Saba tests the cooks' skill with a variety of dishes from brisket to pecan pie, May 2. 915/372-5141.
Ft. Bend County Czech Fest in Rosenberg honors the local heritage with music, kolaches, goulash, and antiques, May 1-3. 281/341-8286.
Arsenic and Old Lace returns to the Bastrop Opera House for a month-long run May 22-June 27 at 7:30pm, dinner also available. 512/321-6283.
Dinosaurs at Sunrise Mall invades Corpus Christi with eight robotic dinosaurs. The exhibit at 5858 S. Padre Island Dr. is put on by the Museum of Science & History, through Aug. 3. 512/883-2862.
Texas Crab Festival in Crystal Beach always happens on Mother's Day weekend and is always a lot of fun on the beach, May 8-10. 409/684-3345.