If you run or bike on the downtown hike and bike trails, you’ve likely already discovered the pretty but incomplete loop that circles alongside Ladybird Lake east of I-35 to Pleasant Valley rd and the Longhorn dam. But few people know that a spectacular landscape exists just beyond the dam.
Beyond the Longhorn Dam and the highly controlled downtown lake is the still-flowing Lower Colorado River and a well-protected wild landscape filled with beautiful views, deer, and wild birds. These sites — all part of the undeveloped 362 acre Roy G. Guerrero Park — are just a couple of miles East of I-35. They run adjacent to the Eastern most leg of the Hike and Bike trail.
Although untamed and tricky to enter (head through the softball fields and then turn towards the water), the park is filled with trails that are ideal for running, walking, or mountain biking. A new inland trail is well-manicured and easy to navigate. The spectacular river trails are much more wild and rewarding. They glide between valleys and bluffs with amazing views of the flowing river. With minimal development on the other side of the river, and a wildlife sanctuary when you get close to 183, it’s roughly two mile of unspoiled and undeveloped beauty in the middle of Austin.
About a mile in from the dam is an amazing surprise: a stunning sandy beach on a bend in the river. A mildly popular site for families and picnicking couples, it is peaceful escape from the surrounding city.
While few people today stop to see the park as they circle the trail, new paths and facilities will likely increase the popularity of Roy G. Guerrero Park. While today the land remains mostly undeveloped, the Austin City Council initiated work to develop areas of the park in 2009 as part of a 1998 Bond referendum. The new development is underway and will include two multi-use sports fields, open areas, parking, driveways, lighting, a group picnic plaza and pavilion, a memorial to Roy G. Guerrero, trails, a playscape, restroom facilities, drainage improvements and public art. Fortunately, it appears that the plan will preserve hundreds of wild acres adjacent to the Lower Colorado.
Photos Copyright 2011 Paul J. D’Arcy