Beauty At the Bend

To find wildflowers and a magnificent waterfall in the Texas Hill Country, go where the road ends.
Les Thomas

A big part of the adventure of visiting Colorado Bend State Park in the Texas Hill Country is getting here. The directions are simple. Head northwest from Austin for 110 miles, and drive until the pavement stops.

That'll take you to the end of the blacktop road beside the one-store town of Bend, Texas. The last 10 miles to the park lead down a twisting gravel road where cars raise plumes of dust like stagecoaches.

They don't make roads like this one anymore. And they don't make country doctors like old Doc Doss either. Grateful patients put up a monument near the Bend General Store honoring the pioneer physician. He rambled these roads for 40 years delivering babies and healing the sick, and he "wore out three Ford cars" in the process.

Probably it was duty and service that drove him. But in springtime, maybe it was the wildflowers. Bluebonnets blanket the hillsides in late March and early April, making the journey along State 16 and Farm Road 501 through Llano to Bend one of the most spectacular spring drives in Texas.

In the midst of limestone canyons stretched along the Colorado River above Lake Buchanan, the park preserves a stunning natural wonder of its own. Park manager Cory Evans leads the way down a steep 3/4-mile-long trail to Gorman Falls. The creek that feeds the falls splashes from a 60-foot-high cliff. It showers clusters of ferns and spills into clear pools formed by travertine dams. In order to protect the delicate ecosystem around the falls, access is limited to guided tours on weekends.

The lush green oasis looks like a cave that had its roof lifted off to reveal its hidden beauty. In the rising heat of the afternoon, I feel the cool refreshing air surround me, and I listen quietly while the water and the birds and the insects sing the heavenly music of spring.

Colorado Bend State Park: P.O. Box 118, Bend, TX 76824; (915) 628-3240. Admission: $3 ages 13 and up. Gorman Falls tours are offered on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. Tickets are $3 adults and $2 ages 6-12. Wild cave tours are offered every weekend. Contact the park for tour reservations and information. Canoeing is popular on the Colorado River. Anglers flock to the park when sand bass come up the river from Lake Buchanan to spawn from late February through March. The park has campsites with limited facilities. If you don't want to rough it, Llano (35 miles southwest) offers a variety of lodging options, including Best Western, (915) 247-4101, and family-size suites at Hill Country Suites, (915) 247-1141. Don't miss the brisket, sausage, and pork chops (priced by the pound) cooked over an open pit at Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano.

This article is from the March 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.