Day Trip: Bull Creek
With only a five-hour window to enjoy a late spring Thursday last week, The Bearded One and I wanted to find someplace close, free, wet and relaxing. Last summer, we’d heard great things about swimming holes on Bull Creek but were unable to experience them because of a little thing called “drought.” Finally spending an afternoon on – mostly in – Bull Creek made me so grateful for the rain we’ve received lately.
Bull Creek, beginning in North Central Travis County, runs 12 miles into Lake Austin. The creek was used as a thoroughfare for early 19th century settlers, whose wagon tracks are still visible in parts of the limestone creek bed, according to the Bull Creek Foundation. Bull Creek District Park is an Austin City Park, composed of 48 acres that feature picnic tables, volleyball and basketball courts, barbecue pits and a 3.5-mile Bull Creek Greenbelt. On this particular day, we decided to pass the park, forego the hiking and just head straight for the creek.
We ventured to a small parking area on the western side of 360 just south of Spicewood Springs Road. From there it’s a short walk to a fair-sized falls, complete with a rope swing. I was surprised by the size of the waterfall. I was expecting Bull Creek to be a trickle of water with a few pools, not the series of charming small waterfalls it turned out to be. For many, this first falls/swimming area is perfect … the water is deep enough to jump into, there are flat rocky areas for sunning and it’s beautiful. If you’re trying to see or be seen at Bull Creek, stay right here. We kept walking.
Click to view our slideshow of beautiful Bull Creek.
We walked along – and under – the edge of the rocky bluff next to the creek. We walked through plants as tall as I am. We walked over mossy rocks and through the most adorable miniature waterfalls, some of which looked like scaled models of tropical terrain. Someone recently told me about Bull Creek, “There are some areas right now that look absolutely prehistoric,” and we agreed with that sentiment several times on our walk.
When we got to the part of the creek where we could see and hear highway again, we decided to turn around and walk back upstream through the creek itself, which was one of the best experiences I’ve had in Austin so far. Bull Creek is the kind movie location scouts are looking for. When you ask the collective consciousness to imagine a creek, Bull Creek is what comes to mind. It’s clear; its limestone bed is covered in pebbles and rocks. It twists and turns and falls into itself. Walking through the middle of it, with the water pushing against us, gave us a vantage point usually reserved for the kind of adventurous child that doesn’t exist anymore. I know it made me feel like a kid again, at least.
We walked upstream until my thighs screamed for rest, stopping at a bend where the smooth rock created a waterslide. Next to it, someone had piled stones to create two small pools. We sat in the larger pool, we let the water throw us around on the slide, and then I laid face down in the shallow water, just watching it rush into and around me. I thought about the water creating the landscape around me, and I felt small and content.
Many times that afternoon I felt like I was in a mediation garden, an effortlessly beautiful place, impossibly just 15 minutes from our home. I could almost hear the creek saying, “Oh, this old thing? I wear it when I don’t care how I look,” while we drooled.