Texas Hill Country Gem
Canyon of the Eagles Resort, nestled in a private nature park, is an idyllic launching point for water-related activities, wildflower viewing, cave exploring and wine tasting
Very few places can compare in scenery with the Texas Hill Country in the springtime, particularly when there has been a favorable winter season with early spring rains. The countryside is blanketed with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, and at many points along the roads, vehicles are stopped while admirers photograph the wildflowers. Few places in the country can compare to this state’s springtime visual show.
There are plenty of excellent places to enjoy nature’s display in the Hill Country. One that is off the beaten path, yet a gem of a destination for RVers and nature lovers, is Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park and Resort. As the advertisement says, “Where the road ends, the adventure begins!” This 943-acre nature preserve and resort is located on Lake Buchanan at the end of a rural road about 15 miles northwest of Burnet and 45 minutes west of Austin. Don’t know Burnet? Burnet (pronounced “burn it”) is about 35 miles west of Interstate 35 along State Highway 29. Three miles west of Burnet take Farm Road 2341 north to its end. It dead ends at the Canyon of the Eagles Resort. Now for the adventure.
Canyon of the Eagles gets its name because American bald eagles make their winter home in the surrounding area, and the “canyon” refers to the steep cliffs of the Colorado River, which was dammed in 1938 to form Lake Buchanan. One of the six lakes formed by dams managed by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Lake Buchanan at 22,000 acres, has the largest area at normal pool of all the LCRA lakes. The other lakes — Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls, Lake Travis and Lake Austin — along with Buchanan, make up the region called the Central Texas Highland Lakes. Some references note that a seventh lake, Lady Bird Lake, is part of the Central Texas Highland lakes, but all are managed by the LCRA, whether it is six or seven.
The resort and nature park are maintained for the flora and fauna of the area with the developed portion occupying a small percentage of the 943 acres. There are 14 miles of hiking trails throughout the property, providing close-up opportunities to view its wildlife and wildflowers. The park is situated on a bluff overlooking Lake Buchanan and its vantage point affords some beautiful sunsets, so much so that there is a vista called Sunset Point.
Amenities at the resort include 61 guest rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, an excellent eatery called the Overlook Restaurant, a gift shop, meeting facilities, a park store, 34 campsites from rustic to improved, 24 RV sites with full hookups and an amphitheater. There is also a boat dock with 3 miles of lake frontage. One unique attraction at the resort is the Austin Astronomical Society’s Eagle Eye Observatory. A section of the park’s 943 acres is set aside to accommodate two large telescopes. Once a month the Austin Astronomical Society has a public “star party” for viewing the nighttime sky. The remoteness of Canyon of the Eagles makes an ideal locale for this facility. Guests at the resort have access to the observatory, and they can even bring their own telescopes.
One of the resort’s campgrounds, Tanner Point, has 10 primitive wooded campsites with views of Lake Buchanan. Another is Chimney Slough, which has 24 improved sites in a well-shaded woodland setting. The RV park can accommodate large rigs and trailers up to 45 feet in length. Some of its 24 sites have lake views, but all have 30/50-amp electricity, water and sewer. Only the RV site renters may utilize the resort’s amenities, such as the swimming pool and recreation room. All campers have access to the restaurant, hiking trails, and to the camp store and lake. The resort is pet friendly but pets must be on a leash while on trails and in public areas.
Programs at Canyon of the Eagles include guided educational hikes and talks, reptile demonstrations, sessions with a cowboy poet, Owl Prowls and movies under the stars. Birdwatching is a popular pastime since the endangered black-capped vireo and the golden-cheeked warbler make the area their home. At the park store on the shore of Lake Buchanan, one of the local concessionaires, Buchanan Adventure Tours, provides rental kayaks, paddle boards and canoes, and offers guided birdwatching and geo-caching trips, hiking and fishing.
Within an hour’s drive of the resort many other activities are available to visitors to the Hill Country. Whether it is water-related activities like fishing or boating, sightseeing or wildflower watching, cave exploring, investigating restaurants and wineries, or shopping, there are plenty of things to do. The nearby towns of Burnet, Marble Falls, Bertram, Lake Buchanan Dam and Tow have a multitude of activities to discover.
Exploring Lake Buchanan is one of the most popular activities of the area. The Vanishing Texas River Cruise dock is a short drive from Canyon of the Eagles. The two-hour cruise aboard the double-decker boat Texas Eagle takes passengers into Lake Buchanan and through the canyons of the Colorado River when the lake levels are high enough. The route passes sheer cliffs and waterfalls, the most notable is Fall Creek Falls. Wildlife may be seen along the banks, and shore birds and an occasional osprey or eagle could make an appearance. If the water levels are too low for an excursion into the canyon, then a unique opportunity may present itself. Before the lake was formed, there were a couple of communities forced to relocate to higher ground. One of them was the Bluffton community. Remains of part of the original town are visible on an island exposed during low water in the lake. The cruise (reservations recommended) will make a stop for visitors to get a glimpse at Old Bluffton if lake levels prevent the Texas Eagle from going upriver through the canyon.
Fishing for striped bass, largemouth bass or catfish is another popular way to enjoy being on Lake Buchanan. A boat ramp is located at Burnet County Park, but not at Canyon of the Eagles. Experienced fishing guides are available to make for a more profitable and rewarding excursion on the lake. During the spring season, the striped bass get a lot of attention from anxious anglers and their guides. Two of the best guides on Lake Buchanan are Ray Williamson and Clancy Terrill. Both are experienced and know the lake and the quarry.
Within the resort much of the landscape is prime wildflower country. But the route to Canyon of the Eagles along FR 2341 is also excellent bluebonnet viewing. Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, white prickly poppy, larkspur and phacelia may also appear during the spring wildflower season. But just about anywhere in the Hill Country, wildflowers are prolific if the growing season has been to their liking.
Burnet is considered one of the best places in Texas for viewing wildflowers and has been designated by the Texas state legislature to be the “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas.” And because of the town’s location and designation, an annual Bluebonnet Festival is held on the second weekend of April. It draws an average of 30,000 visitors.
For visitors wanting to go deeper into the Hill Country and Texas state parks, the Longhorn Cavern State Park would be a good place to begin. Longhorn Cavern is located south of Burnet in Burnet County and is classified as a scenic park. The cave was formed by the downward action of water on the limestone dissolving it and creating underground streams, over thousands of years, which cut through the solid rock beneath the limestone. The unique result is the Longhorn Cavern, which has many legends associated with it. Among them is one that suggests that the outlaw Sam Bass hid a valuable cache of stolen money inside the cave. Another says that Texas Rangers rescued a kidnapped girl from Indians in the cave. But the cave has been used as a shelter since prehistoric times. Cherokee Indians used the cave and Confederates made gunpowder in the cave during the Civil War.
The state park offers guided tours lasting approximately one hour and 25 minutes. They occur at regular intervals in the constant 68-degree cavern. The hike is a 11/4-mile round trip. Much of the stone work at the park was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and there are displays about the CCC in the original administration building.
The Overlook Restaurant at Canyon of the Eagles offers a wide assortment of special dishes in addition to its views of Lake Buchanan and colorful sunsets. While exploring more of the Texas Hill Country, be sure to drop in at some of the local restaurants in Burnet and other small towns around Lake Buchanan. At the southern end of the lake is the town of Buchanan Dam, and the Tamale King restaurant is noted for its great Mexican dishes. It is located west of Burnet on Highway 29. Marble Falls, south of Burnet on U.S. Route 281, has a wide variety of restaurants and shopping opportunities. It sits on another of the Lower Colorado River Authority lakes — called Lake Marble Falls.
There are some 30 wineries in the Texas Hill Country, mainly because of the favorable soil and growing conditions. Fall Creek Vineyards first opened in 1975, making it the oldest winery in the Hill Country. It has award-winning brands and offers wine tasting, tours and hosts special events.
Another Hill Country winery is located south of Burnet near Inks Lake. Perissos Vineyard and Winery boasts theirs is 100 percent Texas home-grown and also has won numerous awards for its wines. The name is not a family name, but “perissos” is a Greek word found in the Bible that means “exceeding abundantly, beyond what is expected, imagined or hoped for.”
For the extreme athlete to the curious outdoorsman, the Reveille Peak Ranch has much to offer guests and visitors. The ranch covers 1,300 acres with the dominant feature of the landscape being the granite Reveille Peak. Outdoor activities include 62 miles of diverse trails for mountain biking, running and hiking. Visitors can stroll through the Texas wildflowers or watch for ospreys or painted buntings, or fish in the private lake for black bass and bream. The ranch hosts group events and individuals. The RV park is reserved for participants in events.
Reveille Peak overlooks Inks Lake and Lake Buchanan and the view from the top of the granite peak is a wide panorama of the Texas Hill Country and these two lakes. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised at the landscape of the ranch with its incredible display of springtime wildflowers.
Other opportunities for outdoor recreation are available throughout the Texas Hill Country. Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park has 14 miles of trails through its predominantly live oak and juniper woodland with a scattering of grassland areas. A “Guide to the Hiking Trails” booklet is available at the resort and gives good detail of the trails in the nature park. In addition to trail length, the booklet provides information on the endangered species that may be spotted along each trail. However, some trails may be closed during parts of the year due to the protection of endangered species.
A visit to Canyon of the Eagles will provide guests a great place to stay while exploring the Texas Hill Country, particularly during the spring wildflower season. But anytime during the year there is something going on at the resort. The attractions and outdoor recreational opportunity on and around Lake Buchanan will add to the enjoyment of a Hill Country visit.
Getting to Canyon of the Eagles is easy. From Burnet and Highway 29, take FR 2341 north for about 15 miles and at the end of the road, the adventure begins.
If You Go
Buchanan Adventure Tours
San Marcos, Texas | 512-353-3946
Canyon of the Eagles
Burnet, Texas | 512-334-2070, 800-977-0081 for reservations
Ray Williamson | 512-825-8746
Clancy Terrill | 512-633-6742
Longhorn Cavern State Park
Burnet, Texas | 877-441-CAVE
Reveille Peak Ranch
Burnet, Texas | 512-755-4417
Vanishing Texas River Cruise
800-4-RIVER-4 | 512-756-6986