Prehistoric limestone, fascinating fossils and dinosaur footprints — see all that and more on a short hike at Canyon Lake Gorge.
By Carmela Cantu, Conservation Intern
If you’re taking a break from landscaping this month and looking for inspiration in nature, a quick trip to the Canyon Lake Gorge is a great short hike close to San Antonio.
It’s a refreshing break from the long line of waiting cars at Canyon Lake dam, and a chance to take an educational dive into the story of Central Texas hydrology.
A week of heavy rain in summer 2002 resulted in historic floodwaters flowing over the Canyon Lake spillway just below the dam for the first time. The event ripped out a 64-acre ravine and with it, an unexpected wonder: Cretaceous limestone, fossils, dinosaur footprints and even preserved ripples from the ancient ocean floor.
These and other well-marked features are visible from a self-guided one-mile footpath winding uphill from the visitor check-in towards the Canyon Dam. The path is mostly shaded, with signage pointing out native trees and shrubs like beautyberry and yaupon holly growing wild without irrigation.
In between, pleasant overlooks allow you to step out to the edge to view the scope of geologic time on display. On a recent summer day, puffs of clouds wandered overhead — a hint of the epic storms that opened this space more than 20 years ago.
For those of us partly reliant on an underground aquifer for our water supply, the hike reveals a special treat: the visible faults, fractures and seeps of the Trinity Aquifer.
Exposed and resembling a vast chessboard of wet cracks, springs and waterfalls along the canyon floor, the view provides a rare but welcome opportunity to see how an aquifer’s underground permeable rock cavities can soak up, store, and move rainwater in Central Texas.
The self-guided hiking tour of Canyon Lake Gorge is available Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (last entry is at 2 p.m.) Entry fee is $5 per person.
For those wanting to a closer look at the canyon floor, you must sign up for a guided tour.