Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

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Panorama version of the Thomas Evans mural of Enchanted Rock owned and commissioned by the city of Austin for the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.. 1999, Oil on canvas (9 panels) 9' x 109' overall. Use mouse to control view--left click and hold then move left or right.

.by IRA KENNEDY

Enchanted Rock embodies the paradox of delicate beauty and rugged harshness. 
It is here wetland and desert species meet. 
Here too, for over 10,000 years, people have met to celebrate the seasons
and ponder this awesome creation of nature.


         In the spring, when the creeks are full and the rocks and hills flourish with flowers--and in the fall, when leaves turn golden-brown and the cool winds clear the air--the place is easy to love.  But in the winter, when the granite slopes are icy-slick, and in the summer, when they seem to hold all the fire of the sun, The Rock can be uncommonly harsh.
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This billion-year-old granite is the hard core around which the land mass of Texas formed.  This is the geologic center of Texas.  From almost any place in the park you can see examples representing the whole evolution of plant life--from lichen (the slowest growing plant on earth) to mosses, to ferns, to herbaceous plants, to shrubs and finally trees.
Here you will find native plants, like the Basin Bellflower, which are not only unique to this area, but almost non-existent elsewhere.          Here, too, are bedrock monos (stone grinding pits in granite boulders) and patches of lithic scatter (tiny flakes of flint left by Paleolithic Indians).  These traces of ancient campgrounds attest to mankind's long tenure and attraction to this place--the holy mountain of the Hill Country.    The Center of the World, in the middle of nowhere.
         But you can't see the best of this place from the road, or even from the summit of  The Rock itself.  You have to get up close and on foot to experience this open-air natural museum in its proper light.
         When hiking or backpacking at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, remember, like an animal in hibernation, the rugged, harsh side of nature is here, always.  However, with a few provisions and sensible precautions there is far less to fear in the wilderness than on the streets and highways of civilization.

          The first hazard, and one most on the minds of recreational hikers, is rattlesnakes.  The best defense is caution.    Don't run in the woods, walk.  Make a little noise and they'll move aside.   Don't step over logs or boulders unless you can see what's on the bottom on the other side.  Step on the log or boulder and look down for snakes.   The snake you don't see is usually the one that bites you.  Despite frequent visits over the last 25 years, I've never seen a rattlesnake at The Rock.
         The greatest danger to hikers anywhere in Texas is dehydration and heat stroke. wpe44.jpg (9856 bytes) Distances in nature are deceptive.  What appears to be a short stroll often turns out to be an ordeal, especially to hikers who start out with little more than a soft drink or been in their hands.  Alcohol actually accelerates dehydration.  And soft drinks are wet but not thirst quenching.
         For a day hike in the summer, a half gallon of water per hiker is recommended.  Or, assume a water intake of one gallon every tem miles for extended hikes.  Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, slow motion, nausea, drowsiness, loss of appetite, dry mouth, difficulty in breathing, the inability to walk, and finally, fainting.
         Drink water, even if you're not thirsty, because thirst, or the lack of it, is no indication of dehydration.  Wear loose fitting clothing as it slows down the rate of evaporation and actually helps cool the body.
         Once, I foolishly found myself dehydrated in a rugged, remote area in Burnet County, far from water.  My tongue was swollen, my saliva was like chewing gum.  I stopped periodically, removed my shirt, twirled it in the air and put it back on.  The shirt, considerably cooled, lowered my body temperature and enabled me to reach my destination.
         Prolonged rests under such conditions are risky, particularly near midday.  If you must stop, don't lie down, especially in rocky areas.  The surface temperature of the earth can be as much as 30 degrees cooler one foot off the ground.
         When hiking at Enchanted Rock apply sunscreen and always wear rubber soled, not leather soled, shoes.  Dehydration and improper footwear account for most of the accidents in this area.  Take along a first-aid kit with band-aids to cover blisters, and tweezers to remove cactus spines.    A little food, such as a trail mix of peanuts, raisins and M&M's is also essential.  On extended hikes a lightweight hammock is an excellent addition to any backpack.
wpe4C.jpg (11476 bytes)         Hiking maps are provided at the park headquarters.  Take One.  You should always have a map of the area you are entering.  The loop Trail, which encircles the major granite outcroppings, is longer than it appears on the map.  There are shorter trails which are more interesting and strenuous enough for the average hiker.
         Most visitors climb to the summit of Enchanted Rock and if you've never been there it's well worth the hour-and-a-half it will take round-trip.  The summit is really spectacular at night, but it's easy to get disoriented in the dark if you aren't familiar with the terrain.
         The east face of Enchanted Rock, by way of Turkey Peak Pass, is by far one of the most photogenic of Enchanted Rock's thousand faces.  For a longer hike take the trail through Echo Canyon then follow the creekbed which meanders eastward between Freshman Mountain and Buzzard's Roost, then return by way of Sandy Creek.  That route is particularly beautiful a few days after a good rain.
         For a short excursion try the trail up the south side of Little Rock.  To the west of the trail, about midway up, there are numerous rock shelters that are interesting to explore and they offer a welcome relief from the heat.  The park is a photographer's paradise and in that respect Little Rock is far more rewarding than the Summit Trail.
          Wildlife photographers, or hikers wanting quiet solitude, are well advised to strike out for Walnut Spring Creek or the area northeast of Buzzard's Roost.  Most visitors (over 350,000 annually) confine themselves to Enchanted Rock or Little Rock, consequently most wildlife, except for the ever-present buzzards, make themselves pretty scarce in those areas.
         If you plan on camping at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area make your reservations months in advance (Park Information Phone Number - - 915-247-3903, for reservations and information).  Day visitors need not make reservations, however, you should plan ahead.  Park visitation has reached the point of saturation.  There are only so many parking spaces and once they're full, you will be turned away.  For a day-visit be sure to arrive well before 11 a.m., otherwise you will have to wait until 4:30 p.m. or later.
         Please remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints.  This ancient sacred site is now a state natural area, where everything from rocks to plants are protected by law.   And by your kind cooperation.


Photos by Ira Kennedy. Copyright 1998. 
This page is produced by teXfiles.com and is not associated with Enchanted Rock State Natural Area or the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
To contact the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's Enchanted Rock State Natural Area webpage click here: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/enchantd/enchantd.htm