When William Barton – better known as “Uncle Billy” Barton – settled along the banks of Spring Creek in 1837, he settled in a Wilderness. Deer and bison abounded. The limestone hills supported thick stands of cedar, oak and other trees. And the water flowing from natural springs was pure and cold. These springs cut a deep, narrow channel to the Colorado River, which linked Barton to the small town of Waterloo and the rest of the infant Republic of Texas.
More than a century and a half later, the springs (which now bear Barton’s name) are a link not only to the contemporary world, but to the past. Barton Springs and Barton Creek, which meanders through portions of Travis and Hays counties, form an island of nature in an ocean of urban development.
Inside this natural area, you can still spot a white-tailed deer bounding through the dense undergrowth. You can hear songbirds, and rest in the shade of oaks that were here before Barton himself. For awhile, at least, you can escape the hectic present and retreat to the past. Few major cities can boast of such a natural refuge so close to the heart of downtown.
This natural area is a potent symbol of Austin’s environmental well-being, and an important contribution to its quality of life. Vocal and informed residents are quick to take a stand against any perceived threat to the Springs and the surrounding greenbelt.
We hope to help describe the natural resources of the Barton Creek watershed and the recreational opportunities the watershed provides. We also hope to explain the threats to this special place and how it should be protected – and how you can help maintain the watershed for future generations.
Use this site as a starting point. We can tell you, we can show you, but to appreciate fully the land and life of the Barton Creek watershed, you must experience it yourself. So go ahead. Maroon yourself on an island of nature and explore this Hill Country oasis.