Monthly Archives: August 2014

Nothing cools you off on a hot summer day like a spring-fed swimming hole. Krause Springs in Spicewood (404 Krause Spring Road, Spicewood, 78669) is one of the best around! Located about 35 miles west of Austin off State Highway 71, Krause Springs has 34 springs that feed a man-made pool and a natural swimming area.


You can visit just for the day ($7 age 12+, $5 ages 4 – 11, free for ages 0 – 3) or camp overnight ($14 age 12+, $6 ages 4 – 11, and $14 per RV camp site). Credit cards are not accepted at this time so bring cash. Guests sign a liability waiver upon entering.


When we arrived, we took a look around the lovely garden near the office.


We thought this caterpillar was pretty interesting.


Next, we walked along the paths and saw many picnic areas surrounded by beautiful trees.


From the path, we could see the manmade pool. It is fed by very cold spring water (68 degrees according to their web site). Get ready to get chill out!


As you walk, you will be able to observe some of the springs flowing near the pool.


The boys were ready to jump in! This pool has a shallower section (about 3 feet) and a deeper section (about 8 feet).


Here’s a view of the swimming hole from an overlook.


After swimming in the manmade pool for about an hour, we were ready to head down to the swimming hole.


The stairs closest to the manmade pool are a little steep. There’s another set of stairs farther down the path.


The swimming hole has both sun and shade. It was gorgeous!


The waterfall surrounded by maidenhair fern was stunning. I haven’t seen anything else like it (in Texas at least)! The boys were fascinated by the “rainbow” that was created by the sun shining through the water as it fell. They played in this area a long time. We thought that the water here was not quite as cold as it was in the manmade pool above. When you are swimming, be aware that the natural swimming area has an uneven surface on the bottom. You can go from shallow to deep in one step.


The rope swing was extremely popular.


One thing to be aware of while enjoying the natural swimming area is that it is very slippery. Not only did we see a few people slip, my 12-year-old son hit the ground pretty hard near the end of our visit. That took the wind out of his sails. Definitely wear sturdy shoes that can keep you stable both in the water and out. To leave the swimming hole we went back up these stairs, which were less steep.


We walked some more along the paths trying to find the second waterfall fed by the springs. From the map, we could tell it was slightly northeast of the swimming areas.


We found plenty of springs!


After some stubborn searching by this mom who wouldn’t leave without seeing the second waterfall, we finally located it. We couldn’t find a way to walk down the hill to get closer to it, so I took this picture with the zoom lens of my camera. (Yes, it’s a little hard to see.) With our mission accomplished, we were ready to head back to Austin after a quick stop at Opie’s to pick up some BBQ for dinner.


Austin Active Kids Opinion: One of the prettiest swimming holes we’ve ever seen, just come prepared with sturdy shoes.
Outing Time: We stayed 2.5 hours but we might have been there longer if we’d have brought more food and drinks with us. Krause Springs could easily be a half-day or full-day outing. Since it’s got a campground, you could even stay overnight!
Don’t forget to bring cash for the admission fee since credit cards are not accepted. ($7 age 12+, $5 ages 4 – 11, free for ages 0 – 3) or camp overnight ($14 age 12+, $6 ages 4 – 11, and $14 per RV camp site)
It’s very important to bring sturdy shoes that can keep your feet stable in and out of the water.
There aren’t any lifeguards at Krause Springs. Swimming safety gear is a must for children still developing their skills. Also pack floats, sunscreen, hats, towels, and plenty of snacks and drinks. You could even bring along a picnic and take advantage of the many picnic tables provided.
While this is definitely one of those beautiful swimming holes I’ve ever seen, I would be hesitant about taking children under age 5 without the helping hand of at least one other adult. If your children are younger or still developing swimming skills, it’s probably a good idea to have a plan for how you will keep them monitored safely. Also, the natural swimming area is just that–natural. Don’t be surprised if you see fish, turtles or even a snake.
Summertime office hours are 9 am – 9 pm and the springs are open year-round. Here are some FAQs from the Krause Springs web site. It’s helpful to know ahead of time that Krause Springs has a “no dogs” policy.
Before you go, you might want to read Top Tips for Families Visiting Krause Springs by R We There Yet Mom? Here are more descriptions of Krause Springs from Austin Post, Austinot and CultureMap.
This 2012 Daily Texan article describes some of the history of Krause Springs.


Red Bud Isle, an off-leash dog park, is a unique and fun place for beloved canines and dog-savvy families to run off some energy. The 13-acre park is located at 3401 Red Bud Trail, just below Tom Miller Dam, where Lake Austin ends and Lady Bird Lake begins. The island was created in 1900 from the rubble of a dam that collapsed during a major flood.


When we arrived on a weekend morning around 9:30 am, the parking lot (which has about 20 parking spaces) was completely full. Because the boys really wanted to visit, we found street parking about 1/3 mile away on Lake Austin Blvd. near LCRA Redbud Center. (Parking meter rates apply 7 days per week.) Walking across the bridge on Red Bud Trail to the park was a little scary and we don’t plan to do that again. In other words, if the parking lot is full, the best thing to do is wait in line with other cars until spots open up or come back another time. This Austin American-Statesman article from 2012 describes the parking challenges.


After our nail-biting walk across the bridge, we arrived at the park a little rattled. Of course, we saw an empty parking spot when we got there!


Our border collie was thrilled. She had fun interacting with the many other dogs.


The boys wanted to take a look along the water’s edge.


It’s really beautiful.


I especially loved this tree….


….and was amused to see a fishing rod holder from the old days, when Red Bud Isle’s primary function was as a low-key and relaxed fishing hole for locals.


The boys were charmed by this adorable 7-week-old puppy named Moose.


Moose is getting socialized at a young age!


This stunning bald cypress tree was the City of Austin’s “Large Tree of the Year” in 2009 (and there’s a plaque to prove it).


The root-filled southern edge of the island is very scenic. It’s tempting to balance on the tree roots, but be careful…one of my sons fell in when he took his mind off his balancing act momentarily.


If you have time, follow some of the offshoot paths along the trail. They will take you toward the water and you will find lots to explore!


Austin Active Kids Opinion: Red Bud Isle is perfect for dogs and the people who love them, as long as you can find parking!
Outing Time: 45 minutes to an hour
Outing Distance: The trail on Red Bud Isle is about 1/2 mile, plus there are little offshoot paths back and forth to the water. Since we couldn’t find parking in the parking lot, the walk to our car parked on Lake Austin Blvd. was 1/3 mile each way.
Red Bud Isle is open to the public 5 am – 10 pm. Talk to your children ahead of time about safety around dogs they don’t know. If your kids or dogs are skittish around new doggie friends, then this is probably not the outing for you. The function of Red Bud Isle is as a dog park. Only make plans to visit if you feel confident that everyone in your family will be comfortable interacting in this atmosphere.
While plenty of dogs enjoy swimming at Red Bud Isle, their human companions are prohibited from joining in the fun. (That doesn’t mean people don’t do it.)
Read more about Red Bud Isle from Austin Explorer, Do512Family, Austin Top 50 Fun in the Sun and Free Fun in Austin.

If packing a lot of equipment and staying overnight are not in the cards for you but you’d still like to have a Texas state park experience, give Blanco State Park a try. This 104-acre park is located on US Highway 281 in Blanco, about 50 miles west of Austin. (The address is 101 Park Road 23 but use 29 Main Street, Blanco, TX, for GPS.) The primary feature of the park is the beautiful Blanco River.


Blanco State Park opened in 1934. You can read more about the park’s history here.


The Civilian Conservation Corps helped create the infrastructure for the park during 1933-34, including this pavilion.


Before jumping in the water, we wanted to explore the Caswell Nature Trail (shown on this park map).


The trail has its own parking area and this picture shows where to enter.


There is some shade on the trail, which is under 1/2 mile long.


When you are halfway along the trail, look for this access point heading down. Your return trip is closer to the river.


Check the events calendar for trail walks with a master naturalist. We had just missed one scheduled for the previous day.


After we finished the trail, we headed toward the eastern section of the park to explore the river. Many families were enjoying picnics and activities along the riverbank.


We then walked back toward the western side of the park, which is visible when you driving along US Highway 281. This area has a dam and a “pool” (pictured below). While the water in the pool is very shallow, the water above the dam is pretty deep. Trees along the riverbank provide some shade when you swim in that area.


Austin Active Kids Opinion: Blanco State Park is easy to get to and easy to enjoy, too!
Outing Time: About 2 hours (not including driving to Blanco) but you definitely could stay longer.
Outing Distance: About a 1/2 mile
Blanco State Park is open 8 am – 10 pm for day use visitors. Office hours are 8:15 am – 4:45 pm. To pay the entry fee for day use after 4:45 pm, look for the “iron ranger” which is a red steel post that says “pay here.” It’s on your left as you drive in, on the side of the headquarters building. The admission fee is $4 per adult. Kids 12 and under are free.
There are no lifeguards on duty at Blanco State Park. Make sure to bring your children’s swimming safety gear as well as floats, inner tubes, hats and sunscreen.
Pack plenty of snacks and drinks, especially water. There are several picnic areas throughout the park so you can bring a picnic along if you’d like.
Pets are allowed must be on-leash.
Tube and canoe rentals are available at the park.

Read more about Blanco State Park from CultureMap,, and Hill Country Outdoor Guide.