Thursday, July 14, 2011

Visiting Lake Buchanan in the Highland Lakes Region of Texas

Visitors that come to visit the central Texas cities of Austin and San Antonio may not realize they are in for a special treat! The beautiful Texas Hill Country is a short, picturesque drive away from both of these major cities and make the perfect side trip to enjoy the gorgeous lakes, rolling hills in the countryside and small town charm of the Highland Lakes region.

The Landscape

This area of Texas is beautiful and is far different from the dusty, dry Wild West images that tend to be conjured up when one thinks of Texas. The rolling hills are populated with cedar trees and grasslands, and the small, quaint towns boasting local artisans, antique shops and local cuisine are scattered throughout the region. In the springtime, guests to the Texas Hill Country are treated to an explosion of color as the famous Bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brush wildflowers burst into bloom, covering the landscape. The geography of this region also forms the underground aquifer that supplies drinking water to all surrounding areas and also provides water for agricultural production. The Colorado River cuts through the region and also supplements the local need for water. In 1940’s and 1950’s, the Lower Colorado River Authority completed a series of dams and man-made lakes, the Highland Lakes, for flood management, to regulate the water supply and to generate electricity. The surrounding communities experienced the bonus of now having recreational lakes to enjoy fishing, swimming and boating, and also brought local tourism to the area. This is a relaxed area that is quite enjoyable for vacationing, as it is very accessible from major urban areas, yet removed enough to enjoy the best that nature has to offer.

Natural Wonders

The Texas hill country is situated on granite, an extremely resistant type of rock. Underneath the surface, the limestone that lies below this area of Texas formed magnificent caverns. A walk into one of these caverns is truly a walk into another world. One of the more unusual caverns is Longhorn Caverns that houses an exceptionally large chamber that was once used as a speakeasy featuring live music during the Prohibition era of the 1920’s. The caverns here were formed by running water, creating unique, curvaceous passageways that are truly special. Another unique protrusion of granite rock is known as Enchanted Rock. This granite dome rises 425 feet into the air, and visitors can climb to the summit to experience sweeping views of the Texas Hill Country. Visitors to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area will also be treated to a moderate hike through the meandering, Cedar-lined pathways that provide shade along the hike, and hikers may cross paths with Texas wildlife, like the famous armadillo.

A Day At Lake Buchanan:

Lake Buchanan is the largest of the Highland Lakes, covering over 22,000 acres. For visitors that want to enjoy a day at the lake, perhaps visiting the Highland Lakes region as a day trip, Lake Buchanan offers a fun-filled day. Guests driving in from Austin along Highway 281 can stop at the Bluebonnet Café, famous for its generous breakfasts and mouth-watering pie, for a tasty breakfast before continuing on to enjoy the lake for the day.

Visitors have their choice of a number of boat rental companies, where motorboats, Jet skis, pontoon boats, kayaks and canoes can be rented for a couple of hours or by the day. Many rental locations also have water skis and inner tubes. A great option for day guests would be to rent their boat of choice, and then make their way across the lake toward the confluence of the lower Colorado River and Lake Buchanan. Close to the mouth of the river lies Fall Creek Vineyards, an award winning vineyard and winery. Guests can leave their boat on the shore, bring their picnic lunch and take a short walk to the vineyard to sample wine with their picnic lunch on the outdoor patio. After leisurely wine tasting and enjoyable lunch, visitors can head back to the lake for some more play time before returning the boat.

Fall Creek Falls on Lake Buchanan
In the evening, consider winding down the day with a guided river boat tour with Vanishing Texas River Cruise. The Sunset Cruise takes guests on a guided tour of beautiful views of waterfalls, towering cliffs and lots of local wildlife along the Colorado River Canyon. The cruise culminates with breathtaking sunset views that vanish over the lake horizon. Dinner with live, local musicians is also an option on this cruise, an enjoyable finale for a fun-filled day at the lake.

Tracey Louis is a former innkeeper at Lake Buchanan. She likes sharing this hidden gem with visitors, and works with the Burnet County Tourism office to promote the area. For more information on upcoming events at The Highland Lakes on Facebook or on Twitter.

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