When it’s spring in Texas, nearly all natives’ thoughts turn to the gorgeous bluebonnet. The wildflower grows in many areas in Texas but is particularly prevalent in Central Texas.
Last spring, I visited the Highland Lakes Region and took in the sight of thick, nearly indescribably lush bluebonnets, which spread over miles. The area is home to six lakes that feed one into the other in the Hill Country, where bluebonnets grow in abundance.
We began our discovery of The Highland Lakes Region by checking in at one of the state’s most beautiful, nature-centered, pet-friendly resorts.
Canyon of the Eagles is positioned on approximately 45 acres in a 940-acre pristine park owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), a nonprofit utility company. This unique nature resort was built in 1998 as a private-public partnership with LCRA. Nestled in Hill Country, this resort is 18.9 miles from Burnet. Sixteen separate buildings are patterned after 1920s-era homes, with native stone, board-and-batten siding and relaxing porches.
Facilities include 64 guest rooms, a hillside restaurant featuring signature items, a retail and guest service area, 3,200 square feet of conference space with three breakout rooms, the Eagles Nest Board Room, a unique swimming pool and other amenities. Located within the park are a fishing pier along three miles of private lakefront, an outdoor amphitheater, 14 miles of designated nature trails, 34 campsites with water and shower facilities, 25 RV sites, and the popular Austin Astronomical Society’s Eagle Eye Observatory for stargazing. Recreational tours are available through Buchanan Adventure Tours for scenic cruises, bird watching, kayaking, paddleboats, pontoon boats, rock climbing, caving, and other outdoor adventures. Interpretative programs consist of guided educational hikes, cowboy poetry, reptile programs, the Owl Prowl, movies under the stars, and other educational and entertaining programs. Canyon of the Eagles benefits from its favorable proximity to Lake Buchanan and Austin, unique hill country shopping and special attractions, educational and recreational activities, and its private and unique setting.
As we drove to Burnet, the bluebonnets were stunning. I’ve seen them all my life, but never so thick!
The state flower of Texas is the bluebonnet, which begins blooming in late March and early April, marking the advent of spring. Bluebonnets are native to Texas and spill along the highways and pastures from north central Texas to Mexico.
A favorite subject of artists and photographers, bluebonnets are honored with festivals, songs and trails that are held during peak periods across Texas, including in Burnet. Other native species are prevalent in the Hill Country, including prickly pear cactus.
“Prickly pear cactus is everywhere and it’s invasive,” said Canyon of the Eagles President and CEO Cindy Bower. “It grows a red bud on top which we use for drinks, jelly and prickly pear juice.”
“We are one of the ‘Hot 20 Birding Spots’ with black-capped vireo and golden-cheek warblers. The resident eagles are here until March then go north for the summer.”
“We do a lot of group tours here, team building, and there are trail systems all over. For campers, there are heated showers, and the RV space is really catching on. The boathouse serves pizza, the only place on the lake to offer that,” said Bower.
Things to do:
The Vanishing Texas River Cruise explores the scenic views of the Colorado River, where a variety of wildlife, waterfalls, sheer cliffs and bald eagles live. Lake Buchanan is the winter home to migratory western bald eagles. Our river cruise was 24 miles round-trip and is operational from March to November. We had sightings of hogs, dovetail hawks and great white egrets, among others. In November, approximately 35 eagles arrive here only to roost. They don’t build nests; they sleep in trees and fly back to the Northern Rockies and southern Canada. This boat has taken an annual eagle count since 1986.
Established in 1849, Fort Croghan Museum buildings include a hospital, officers’ quarters, enlisted men’s huts, a commissary, adjutant’s office, bakery and horse/mule lots with storage buildings. Fort Croghan covers 617 acres, and was one of the original four forts the U.S. government set up to protect settlers from Comanche and Apache warriors.
The Commemorative Air Force Museum’s Highland Lakes Squadron wing offers a collection of authentic WWII artifacts and a working aircraft hangar, where WWII aircraft are brought back to life. Their mission is to find, acquire, restore and fly U.S. aircraft from the WWII era for education.
Reveille Peak Ranch was next on our Hill Country adventure. A working cattle ranch, it was bought in 1999, and six years ago started doing special events such as Spartan races, scouting programs, weddings and many types of law enforcement training. This almost 1,400-acre outdoor event, adventure and education center is located just outside of Burnet. It includes a 33-feet-deep pond and 20 acres with an earthen dam. This ranch is really big on kids, outdoors and law enforcement.
The Texas wine industry continues to make improvements and we headed out for a premium wine-tasting experience: Perissos Vineyard and Winery, Torr Na Lochs Vineyard and Winery, and the Flat Creek Vineyard were among our tasting stops.
Perissos relies on five growers of Texas estate-grown fruit for their wines. They are open for tastings Friday-Sunday and private tastings can be arranged. Bring kids and dogs for picnics. There are 16 acres of grapevines and 12.5 miles of trellis.
Torr Na Lochs Vineyard and Winery’s name translation is from Gaelic meaning “hill over lake,” and the view is amazing! They are open Thursday-Sunday from 1-5 p.m. and ‘til 6 on Saturday. They like to have live music once a month and special food for Sunset Sundays. Blake and Karen DeBerry are the owners.
Flat Creek Vineyard is an 80-acre estate that offers tastings from international-award-winning wine from Texas-grown grapes while enjoying a scenic view to match!
The Overlook at Canyon of the Eagles Resort affords scenic hilltop dining with sweeping panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country and offers award-winning food. The Trailblazer Grille, located in downtown Burnet, serves traditional Texas food with a modern twist. Definitely stop at the Bluebonnet Café in Burnet; it’s has been around since 1929 with legendary pies and made-from-scratch-every-day soup. The River City Grill is known for pie and happy hour and is located in Marble Falls, where patrons can enjoy dining inside among rustic décor or relax on the deck overlooking Lake Marble Falls.
For complete information, go to burnetcountytexas.org/default.aspx?name=tourism.home.