A Hill Country Paradise
There are few places in Texas – alas, the world – that capture the balance of beauty and nature so well as this Hill Country Lake region of Central Texas.
It could be called the Shire of Texas, or perhaps Eden, because the Earth and nature are in such perfect harmony. The wildlife, the rolling oak-covered landscape, and the peaceful, easy environment combine to bring that comfortable, magical feeling that only special places can bring to you.
The “Water Recreation Capital of Texas”, Canyon Lake, is located just forty miles north of San Antonio, 50 miles from Austin, and twenty minutes from New Braunfels, and offers beautiful Hill Country scenery and a massive lake that encompasses nearly 80 miles of shoreline and 8,300 acres of water, surrounded by tree covered hills and vacation and residential developments to fit everyone.
There are five communities located around the shores of Canyon Lake. On the north side, there are Hancock and Canyon City. The Canyon Lake Marina is located on the north shore in the Canyon Park in Hancock. Two Yacht Clubs are also located on the lake. The communities of Startzville, Sattler, and Spring Branch also surround the lake area.
Canyon Lake, and its primary water source, the Guadalupe River, are famous statewide as the perfect recreation area getaway, offering plenty of family adventures including camping, RVing, water-skiing, fishing, boating, parasailing, and jet skiing. Development around the lake offers lodging, ample restaurants, prime vacation/residential property, water activities and a great place to land for a Winter Texan season.
White tailed deer and other wildlife abound, finding sanctuary in the residential neighborhoods. Many are fed regularly by local residents and become very tame.
Centrally located, Canyon Lake is perfect for “Day Trips” to Gruene, New Braunfels, San Antonio, Fredericksburg and Wimberley. Or visit one of our local vineyards for an afternoon of wine tasting.
The lake, formed by a rolled earth fill dam 6,830 feet long, is used for flood control, water conservation, and recreation. Construction of the dam was started on June 27, 1958, and impoundment of water began on June 16, 1964.
The construction of the dam and subsequent growth of the area surrounding the lake are among the most significant developments in twentieth-century Comal County history. Since its development, the area has grown by leaps and bounds, significantly causing a recreation boom that shows no sign of weakening. After the lake was filled north central Comal County became one of the largest population centers in Central Texas and the focus of a resort and tourist industry that rivaled manufacturing and agriculture in importance to the county economy.
Residents and tourists supported a variety of new businesses and service industries that transformed the former farm and ranch communities of Sattler and Startzville into thriving commercial centers and occasioned the new town of Canyon City.
A visit to this spectacular area, whether for a weekend or a winter season, will provide you the ultimate Hill Country adventure. You’ll find the people friendly, the area beautiful and the lake one of the best in Texas. Enjoy Canyon Lake!
Canyon Dam Walkaway
Canyon Lake is also well-known for being one of the few lakes with a dam whose service road is open to the public. You can walk to the top of the dam and see the water from a completely different angle.
It was temporarily closed beginning in 2018 due to public safety concerns, particularly for people with disabilities. However, the community banded together to form the Dam Community Alliance and raise funds to improve the service road. It reopened in mid-2019 and has since become a popular local hangout.
Canyon Lake Gorge
Building ecosystems has little to do with building office towers or highway systems. Think about it. While it may take a decade to build a major expressway loop around Dallas or Houston or San Antonio, imagine how long it took for Nature to carve out the Grand Canyon. Miracles don’t happen overnight!
Nature, it seems, is a strange and sometimes unpredictable thing, and recently formed Canyon Lake Gorge in Central Texas is evidence to the fact.
In July of 2002 Nature released a watery deluge on the hills and valleys that surround manmade Canyon Lake. The rains were hard and many and lake levels rose steadily in spite of open flood gates on Canyon Dam. A well designed and never used spillway served its purpose. Lake waters crested the spillway as designed and within 48 hours Nature demonstrated its destructive and creative powers both at the same time.
Below the spillway — up until the afternoon of July 4, 2002 — stood a valley covered in mesquite and oak trees. It sat behind the spillway that was built as a safety valve for Canyon Lake, a popular recreation spot in the Texas Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin.
The torrent of flood waters stripped the valley of all soil and vegetation, exposing rock formations, fossils and even dinosaur footprints. Since then, the canyon has been accessible only to researchers to protect it from vandals, but in October it opened to its first public tour.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, ecosystems can be as small as a
backyard pond or as large as the Earth. They could have been created when
dinosaurs roamed or as recent as three years ago.
“It exposed these rocks so quickly and it dug so deeply, there wasn’t a blade of grass or a layer of algae,” said Bill Ward, a retired geology professor from the University of New Orleans who started cataloging the gorge almost immediately after the flood.
In the wake of the tremendous loss from the heavy rains which filled the
Guadalupe River watershed, allowing the lake to flow over its uncontrolled
spillway, the one-mile gorge was carved into the limestone. Roaring down the spillway at a peak flow of just under 70,000 cubic feet of water per second, the water carved a gorge hundreds of yards wide and 50 or more feet deep back one mile to the Guadalupe River channel.
Researchers immediately closed the area to protect the uncovered limestone gorge and the new ecosystem it represented. But a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, the protected area is being opened on a limited basis to the public and plans are underway to construct walk trails and observation points along the gorge when visitors can view the natural wonder without disturbing the fragile limestone.
Dr. Carter Keairns, Texas State University, geologist and Dr. Bill Ward, a retired geologist on the Citizens Board and the Gorge Scientific Committee, served as guides for the first tour. Keairns pointed out fossils, dinosaur tracks and even a fault line that was exposed by the raging water.
“The three-toed prints were probably made by a theropod dinosaur,” said Keairns. “The theropod, walking on hind legs with a stride of about nine feet, was perhaps 30 feet in length. These tracks are similar to the ones found in Glen Rose, Texas, which shows that there was a dinosaur presence in the state.”
Individuals wanting to tour the gorge need to contact the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. The Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, which has a lease from the Army Corps of Engineers to manage the 64-acre Canyon Lake Gorge site, will begin offering limited public tours of the canyon Saturday, continuing year-round on the first Saturday of the month.
Early demand for the 3-hour tours is so high they are booked for at least six months. Rhoad said the authority hopes to train more docents so dates can be added.
Visitors will not be allowed to hike the canyon on their own because the brittle limestone is still breaking from the canyon walls.
For those of you who enjoy hiking and exploring new places. Overlook Park is a 1-kilometer loop trail that is suitable for hikers of all skill levels and for the entire family.
You can also take a slow walk and take in the breathtaking scenery. The scenery includes the chance to observe birds in their natural habitat as well as a view of the river far below. From April to September is the best time to hike this trail.
Because it is a forgiving trail for people of all skill levels, including those traveling with children, there is usually some traffic, but not a lot.
Canyon Lake Marina
This Marina, conveniently located next to Cranes Mill Marina, provides you with two different options. Renting boats allows you to participate in some of Canyon Lake’s most popular activities.
You can choose from a variety of boats to simply relax on the river or to participate in water activities such as water skiing. Kayaks, ski boats, tritoons, wave runners, and paddle boards can all be rented!
Fishing on Canyon Lake
For fishing enthusiasts in the area, there are several guided fishing tours available. The fishing and angling are excellent all year, but largemouth bass angling is the specialty. Largemouth bass fishing is best in the spring, fall, and winter.
White bass and striped bass are also popular. Angling for redbreast sunfish is a popular family activity!
Canyon Lake Boat Parade
If you’re in the Canyon Lake area in December, the boat parade will add some extra fun to your holiday cheer. In 2022, the Canyon Lake Yacht Club’s annual Parade of Lights celebrates its 40th anniversary.
This is a Yacht Club tradition in which decorated boats tour the lake and add a splash of celebratory glitz. The show is traditionally opened by the Yacht Club’s Green Dragon, which is well worth seeing.