This is Texas. Not what you would expect to find, is it? But sixty foot waterfalls can be found here with a little persistence and some solid hiking shoes.
The spring-fed water of Gorman Falls flows into the Colorado River not too far north of Lake Buchanan. On Route 183 you’ll know you’re close when you have passed both the Kifaru Exotic Animal Auction and the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Lampasas. If you’re not in the market for a rhino or eternal life, keep driving.
Colorado Bend State Park is of course named after the Colorado River, engineered to feed the manmade lakes that water people in the hill country surrounding Austin and rice and power plants as it approaches the Gulf of Mexico. In Colorado Bend State Park the river is sweet and calm, great for boating when there is more of it, but even today still amenable to kayaking and swimming.
The falls are about 1.5 miles from the parking lot through a hike that is short on shade but heavy on steep, slippery inclines. We passed some professional grade couch potatoes heading down to the falls in plastic flip flops, and I am certain that both their marriage and their backsides were bruised by the end of the day. Fortunately the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has rigged up guide wires for the last 100 feet of the descent, but even still plan on bringing decent shoes.
Once you’ve scrambled your way down to the falls, you would be remiss to turn back around and head uphill. Keep walking just 20 feet or so past the scenic overlook and you can wade into the Colorado itself. Once it has entered the river, the water flowing from the falls stays crisp and cool for a few yards. We stayed there for over an hour watching Henry chase dragonflies and Monarchs, and spotting the swallow-tailed, cherry red Summer Tanagers.
Swimming is not allowed in the falls, but you can sneak one in at the springhead, a little over a half mile upstream. The day we went was a scorcher, so we chose to save the spring swim for another trip. This time maybe we’ll launch our kayaks at the campsite and paddle to the falls.
I hear there is a cabin next to the springhead itself. I’m going back to find that cabin. And when I do, I’m going to swim the springs at night, listening for the sound of the falls in the distance and thinking of how truly lucky I am, here in Texas.
Gorman Falls is in Colorado Bend State Park, about two hours northwest of Austin.