I was sitting on a large rock, surrounded by water, that I had waded out to take pictures of my son and his friends as they jumped from the 30′ cliffs at Devil’s Watering Hole. The water, a constant 68 degrees year round thanks to Valley Spring Creek, felt icy when you first stepped in, but as the overhead sun beat down it quickly felt refreshing. This wasn’t my first time to sit on this same rock, catching pictures of my kids as they bravely hurled themselves off the cliff face. Our last visit had been in September, when the temperatures reached 99 degrees and the popular Hill Country swimming hole was filled with swimmers, and the kids had to stand in a line to jump. Now, on the first weekend in February, we had the place to ourselves.
We were spending the weekend at Inks Lake State Park for my oldest son’s 17th birthday, and he had invited a few close friends to make the trip with us. I felt a little funny when I included a swimsuit on their packing list to their parents, but knowing the expected highs were in the 80’s, I was sure the boys would want to swim. It wasn’t our first swimming trip of the year, either. A month earlier we had spent New Year’s Day splashing at Barton Springs Pool in Austin, where we had attended the annual Polar Bear Plunge, meant to be just a quick in and out, but the warm day kept us playing in the water for hours.
Before our swim, we had attempted a hike of Devil’s Backbone, the 3 mile trail that traverses across Valley Spring Creek’s waterfalls before spilling into the lake. The rocky trail runs around the top of the Watering Hole, but it was hard to keep the boys from climbing up and down the rocks to play in the small falls, and we abandoned the hike just before reaching the bird blind at the end.
The boys were probably a little hiked out anyway. The day before we had driven down to Fredericksburg, an hour south to Enchanted Rock, where the boys hiked to the summit while we stayed somewhat lower, hiking the Echo Valley Trail.
Inks Lake State Park sits on Inks Lake, a small lake on the Colorado River, just south of Lake Buchanan, and about an hour northwest of Austin. The park offers both RV and tent camping sites, as well as several little “limited use” cabins, which we had stayed at the two previous nights.
The cabins are sparsely furnished with two bunk beds and a table and chairs. They are BYOS, Bring Your Own Sheets. The overzealous heaters in our cabins kept us toasty hot, with the cinderblock cabins seeming more like an oven at times. Each unit comes with a fire ring, picnic table and grill.
A park store sells essentials such as Inks Lake SP t-shirts, ice and a myriad of camping supplies, to those who don’t have the time to run into the Walmart in Burnet. They also rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards for the lake.
While boats run up and down the main body of the lake, paddlesports and swimmers have a large area just downstream from Devils Wateringhole as wake free.
Wildlife abounds around the park, with me making the drive in on Friday night at a snails pace, afraid of one of the many deer hanging out along Park Road 4 would step in front of my car. An early morning walk on Saturday offered me a chance to see the flock of white pelicans that were staying on the lakes for the winter, before heading back up north to their breeding grounds. I was honked at by a flock of resident Canadian geese, who favor the lake and live here all year, dining on handouts from campers as much as the fish in the lake. On Sunday, as we hiked along the rocky outcroppings of Devil’s Backbone, we spotted several of the chubby little ground squirrels that are so unique to this part of Texas.
Many of the state parks have fans, and the Friends of Inks Lake Group works to support the park and staff, and various educational activities in the park. One of the ways they provide for this is by selling firewood and fire starters around the park. Make it one of your first stops, as the wood sells out quickly on the weekends.
Things To Do in Burnet
Longhorn Caverns State Park takes you down under the Texas Hill Country into the caverns! Click HERE to read more.
Vanishing Texas River Cruises go out onto Lake Buchanan searching for Bald Eagles that winter on the lake each year. Click HERE to read more.
My daughter will tell you that the banana ice cream from Happy Scoops, made on sight and with real bananas, is worth the drive to Burnet! Click HERE to visit their facebook page.
Canyon of the Eagles Resort is one of our favorites! Click HERE to read more!
Inks Lake State Park
3630 Park Rd 4 W, Burnet
Click HERE to visit their website.
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