Bend: It Is What It Is
by Clay Coppedge
Colorado Bend State Park
BEND - Long time
Central Texas fishermen might remember Colorado
Bend State Park as the site of Lemon's Fishing Camp, famous for
its full-throttle white bass run every spring.
Back in the day, it was not unusual for anglers to catch 100 or more
"whites" in one afternoon during the run, which generally begins in
late February and goes until early April.
The area that was Lemon's has, since 1987, been open to the public
Bend State Park, revealing treasures beyond the yearly bonanza
of spawning white bass: majestic waterfalls, limestone caves, cooling,
soothing travertine pools and a bounty of wildlife, including bald
eagles in the winter.
Here, the Colorado River flows wild and unimpeded by dams, framed
by the canyons it has created.
The most dramatic site in the park and the most
popular with visitors is Gorman Falls, a 60-foot waterfall
tumbling over a cliff and misting a stand of maiden hair ferns and
other lush, tropical vegetation.
Gorman is one of the few waterfalls that actually gets bigger over
time instead of diminishing. The same quality that makes that possible
also makes the area extremely sensitive.
These falls are comprised solely of travertine, otherwise known as
calcium deposits. The top layers of the deposit are extremely fragile
and are easily damaged. One misguided hiking boot could do it.
Colorado Bend is so fragile and unique that scientists studying Gorman
Falls for possible inclusion in the state parks system recom-mended
against it be-cause, well, they kept finding stuff.
Biologists found a pure strain of Guadalpe bass surviving, even thriving
in Gorman Creek. Archaeologists laid hands on Indian artifacts in
redeposited limestone above the falls. Golden-cheeked warblers and
black-capped vireos were nesting all over the place, and there was
the eagles' winter home to consider.
All in all, the falls and the land surrounding it was way too fragile
for public use, the group reported. Park ranger Dave Paddie believed
strongly the area was too beautiful not to share with the public.
He is credited with changing the department's collective mind, leading
to its opening as a state park 15 years ago.
park rangers worry about the delicate layers of travertine, the bounty
of wildlife and archaeological treasures, the park has suffered little,
if any, from the 70,000 people a year who visit. Part of that is because
visitors are not allowed to hike to the falls or explore any of the
park's caves except on tours guided by park rangers. The tours are
given every weekend year-round.
Beyond that, visitors are on their own here, free to discover and
enjoy the park but - other than the falls and the caves - on its own
"It is what it is," Byrd says of the park. "It's a primitive area.
There's not a lot of amenities like water and electric. We've got
chemical toilets and potable water in the area. If you don't like
it at least a little bit wild, this probably isn't the place for you."
Even veteran hikers tend to get gushy about the 12 miles of hiking
and biking trails Colorado Bend offers. Former park superintendent
Robert Basse once said hiking the trails in Colorado Bend is like
"driving out of West Texas and, in the blink of an eye, discovering
you're in Jamaica." The scenery has also been likened to "a scenic
postcard from the lush jungles of Costa Rica."
For all that, Colorado Bend is pure Hill Country: stands of live oak
and juniper, thick with wildflowers in the spring, whitetail deer
all year long and, every spring, the white bass moving up the Colorado
River to spawn.
Though Colorado Bend is as wild as it has ever been, white bass numbers
are down, according to Byrd. He says the numbers have fallen off dramatically
since striped bass were introduced into: Lake
"It takes three or four days now to catch the same number of fish
we used to catch in a day," he says.
The park is about 30 miles west of Lampasas
where the Colorado River bends on the border between Lampasas and
San Saba counties. Its relative isolation combined with a bit of an
identity crisis has kept visitation numbers below what might be expected
from a park with so much natural beauty.
"We get people here who say they thought it was in the Big Bend area,"
says Peggy Breshears, the park's office manager. "We're nowhere near
Colorado or Big Bend, but that's sometimes what people think of when
they hear the name."
Bend State Park