McKinney Falls State Park in south Austin, is a 744.4-acre park acquired in 1970 from private donation and opened to the public in 1976. The headquarters of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are near this location. Few locals realize it is only a short drive of 13 miles from the capitol building, making it one of Austin's best kept secrets.
Wildlife to be observed and photographed includes white-tailed deer, raccoons, armadillos, squirrels, and numerous birds (checklist available).
The Park's History
The park is named for Thomas F. McKinney, who came to Texas in the early 1820s as one of Stephen F. Austin's first 300 colonists. Sometime between 1850 and 1852, McKinney moved to Travis County and his property on Onion Creek, where he became a prominent breeder of race horses with his own stable and private track. He built his large two-story home, stone fences, and the first flour mill in the area with slave labor.
Preserved in the park are the ruins of his trainer's cabin and the stabilized ruins of his own homestead. Camping, hiking, mountain biking, road biking, picnicking, fishing, and wildlife observation are other activities. Swimming is now allowed in Onion Creek; call 512/243-1643 for current creek conditions.
Park facilities include screened shelters with bunk beds (no mattresses); campsites with water; campsites with water and electricity; walk-in water sites (200 yards in with a picnic table, a fire ring, a grill, and water in area); picnic sites; an interpretive hiking trail, approximately 3/4 mile long; 3.5 miles of paved trails; 4 miles of multi-use trails for hiking and mountain biking; an interpretive center with an exhibit room and audiovisual room; a sponsored youth group area; and a group camp which includes the screened shelters located next to the dining hall; the dining hall (capacity 80) may be rented separately for day use. There is also an amphitheater that seats 50 people.
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