While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »

MCKINNEY FALLS STATE PARK

Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl

MCKINNEY FALLS STATE PARK. McKinney Falls State Park is at the confluence of Onion and Williamson creeks, on Scenic Loop Road thirteen miles southeast of the state Capitol between Interstate Highway 35 and U.S. Highway 183 in southeastern Travis County. The land was once covered by a sea, which was broken by the eruption of now-extinct Pilot Knob, located just south of the park. The area was inhabited by Indians as early as 6000 B.C.; the rockshelters along Onion Creek were used as campsites by ancestors of the Tonkawa Indians 2,000 years ago. The first landowner was Santiago Del Valle, who purchased a large tract of land, including the site of the present park area, in 1832. The park is named for Thomas F. McKinney, who bought part of the Del Valle tract in 1839 and established a home there. James Wood Smith bought the McKinney homestead in 1885 and used the land for grazing cattle and for farming; his grandchildren, Mr. and Mrs. J. E. "Pete" Smith and Miss Annie M. Smith, donated 638 acres to the state of Texas as a park in 1970.

The park was opened to the public in 1976. Among its recreational facilities are camping and picnic sites, playgrounds, and a hike-and-bike trail. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, quail, squirrels, armadillos, raccoons, and a variety of songbirds inhabit the park. Among the chief attractions are the waterfalls on Onion and Williamson creeks and the Smith Rockshelter.

Swimming was banned at the park in 1981 because of high levels of bacteria in the water. The ban was not lifted until 1993, when the Austin City Council approved an agreement for testing the water safety. During the twelve-year ban, the number of visitors to the park fell from 6,000 a day to 1,500. Park officials hoped that the reopening of the swimming facilities would prompt an increase in tourism. In 1993 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was planning to build a climbing facility at McKinney Falls State Park. The 14,000-square-foot facility, which would be funded through donations and grants, would be large enough to accommodate 200 to 300 climbers at a time. The complex might relieve overuse of natural sites such as the Barton Creek greenbelt and Enchanted Rock. It would also provide a site for programs involving youth at risk, as well as a training area for rescue teams.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, June 21, 1993, Paul Anthony Prause, "A Capital Park: Austin's McKinney Falls," Texas Parks and Wildlife, June 1990.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, "MCKINNEY FALLS STATE PARK," accessed July 08, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/gkm04.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 6, 2020. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...