Day Trips: Tonkawa Falls City Park, Crawford

Historic waterfall is still a prime swimming hole

photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Tonkawa Falls City Park in Crawford was once a favored campsite for the native Texas tribe that ranged around Central Texas. Today it is a popular swimming hole when the seasonal creek is running.

According to local history, during the Depression in the 1930s the town of then around 500 was given a choice by the Civil Works Administration of funding for a park or a sewage plant. The town chose the park.

Local men desperate for a paying job cleared the brush from the 35-acre wooded area and built a caretaker’s house, community center, and rock picnic tables, and cut steps into the rock wall down to the water’s edge. The modern park also includes an RV park and the high school sports stadium.

Tonk Creek tumbles about 20 feet off a rock shelf into a large limestone bowl that is a natural swimming pool. About half of the basin is a grassy area perfect for spreading a blanket. Fearless teenagers jump from the cliffs into the chilly water.

Workers clearing the debris around the waterfall found burial sites and petroglyphs left by the Tonkawa residents. When the creek is reduced to a trickle in late summer, some of the art is visible on the rock walls.

The Tonkawa were a loose confederation of clans united against more powerful tribes. Sworn enemies of the Comanche, the tribe allied with the Anglo immigrants and served as scouts for the U.S. Army and Texas Rangers. For their allegiance to the settlers, the Tonkawa were banished to a reservation in Indian Territory.

Tonkawa Falls City Park is on the east side of Crawford off FM 185 (8540 E. Fifth St.) about 20 miles west of Waco. During peak periods there is an admission fee. The city posts notices when the water level or quality is unsafe for swimming at

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Day Trips: Tonkawa Falls City ParkCrawford, Tonkawa Falls City Park, Crawford, Civil Works Administration

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