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A Guide to Austin's Greenbelts

Mar 10, 2008
On the eastern edge of the Edwards plateau lies one of Austin's greatest treasures: the Barton Creek Greenbelt. After millions of years, the runoff of rainwater carved a canyon into the plateau, and created one of Austin's treasures.

The most popular of Austin's greenbelts, the Barton Creek greenbelt is just shy of 8 miles long, and covers 809 acres. The greenbelt runs from Zilker Park downtown, to the rocky entrance of Camp Craft Road, just off of the Capital of Texas Highway, with several entrance points in between. Austinites looking for outdoor activities head to the greenbelt every day of the year.

The creek running through the middle of the greenbelt has attracted people to its waters for several years. The Tonkawa and Apache tribes were drawn to the abundant fresh water, as were other Native Americans for thousands of years. William Uncle Billy's Barton settled in the area in 1837, and what was known as Spring Creek came to be known as Barton Creek.

Today, many are still drawn to the waters of Barton Creek and its several popular swimming holes, most looking to escape the harsh Texas sun. Though the busiest of the swimming areas is Barton Springs pool in Zilker park, places such as Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls offer not only cool waters, but beautiful sheer cliffs and a more secluded setting as well. The pool at Gus Fruh park gathers crowds of families with young children and dogs because of its section of ankle-deep water, and a younger crowd that enjoys its long, deep section that makes for good swimming, and a rope swing for the more adventurous types.

Closer to Zilker park lies Campbell's hole, with its pebbly beach, and rumored to be visited by Robert E. Lee, and outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. During seasons of heavy rainfall, the current is strong and water level is high, which allows tubers to ride the creek through the city, a recreation usually only achieved out of town on much larger rivers.

The Barton Creek greenbelt also offers many trails throughout the area that differ in size from tight, rocky ledges to widths one could deem drivable. The trails wind through sycamore groves, along the creek bed, through limestone bluffs hiding many caves, and deep into forests of juniper and oak trees. Walkers, runners, and mountain bikers all share the same paths through an oasis that lies within walking distance of Mopac, while seeming very far removed.

The serious runners ascend the Hill of Life, the steepest hill on the trail, known to make runners stronger, and its rocky surface preps them for off road races. The limestone cliffs of the greenbelt beckon rock climbers from around the city, with at least six different areas, such as Seismic Wall, New Wall and Great Wall, set up as climbing zones, with routes bolted into the side of the rock.

The greenbelt is known for having a very sensitive ecosystem, and drinking alcohol within its borders was outlawed in 1997 by the Parks and Recreation department since the park staff picked up 18 cubic yards of garbage a week, with 75 percent of the trash turning up as beer bottles and cans.

Concerned citizens have done a good job at keeping city growth at bay by forming groups such as the Save our Springs Alliance to protect the quality of water coming off of development in the fragile Barton Springs watershed. Though the population of Austin is increasing dramatically, the Barton Creek Greenbelt has been relatively unharmed by the city's rapid development, and welcomes all Austinites, new and old, to come play.
About the Author
Ki is an Austin realtor. He helps buyers and sellers interested in Austin real estate . He website has a free search for buyers of the Austin MLS along with information on condos in downtown Austin.
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