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15 Things You Didn’t Know About the Texas Hill Country

By Texas Hill Country | July 29, 2015

From famous lawn gnomes to haunted highways, the Texas Hill Country boasts a ton of interesting facts and attractions. How many of these did you know?

1.We Have Castles



Three beautiful castles are nestled in the Texas Hill Country.  They are relatively new structures, but they have the feel of their larger European counterparts, especially Falkenstein Castle in Burnet. Smythwick Castle in Marble Falls is the smallest property, and Castle Avalon in New Braunfels is inspired by Arthurian Legend.

2.Ghost Stories Abound


Photo: Flickr/Nicolas Henderson

If you’re interested in the paranormal, just take a drive around the Texas Hill Country. Check out the creepy Dean Man’s Hole in Marble Falls, the haunted Driskill Hotel in Austin, or take a ghost tour of New Braunfels.

3.Dig for Topaz



Topaz is the state gem of Texas, and you can only find it in Manson County. Gem hunters usually find clear or blue-tinted stones close to the surface around granite outcroppings in creek beds and ditches.  Three Mason County ranches offer public topaz hunting:  Bar M Ranch, Garner Seaquist Ranch and Lindsay Ranch.  They charge by the day, and you keep anything you find.

4.Haunted Highway


Photo: Flickr/Adventures of KM&G- Morris

Devil’s Backbone is a popular, scenic drive through the Texas hill country is so haunted, it has appeared in books, TV shows and is the subject of a feature film.  Legend says it is haunted by a Native American cattle herder named Drago, a wolf spirit, a miner’s widow, a wolf, Confederate soldiers, Spanish monks, and an especially creepy apparition that likes to make an appearance on the hood of the cars driving along Purgatory Road.

5.Guinness World for Most Guitar Players- Luckenbach

Photo: Flickr/Shinta Bonnefoy

In August 2009, Luckenback hosted a fundraiser called “Pickin’ for the Record,” which benefitted the nonprofit Voices of Grateful Nation.  The event attracted 1868 guitar players to the Luckenbach dance hall and earned the Guinness world record for the most guitar players gathered at one time to play continuously for at least five minutes.

6.Home to the World-Famous Lawn Gnome


Dirty Bill’s, in Austin, looks like any other dive bar.  The décor, however, paints a different picture. Every wall of this small, dim bar is covered with photographs of Dirty Bill, the resident Lawn Gnome.  He puts Travelocity’s gnome to shame.  This guy met Bill Murray!! Grab a drink and check out photos of his other adventures, and maybe you can snap a photo with this famous gnome.

7. San Fernando Cathedral


Photo: Flickr/Nan Palmero

The San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio is the oldest church in Texas and oldest cathedral in the United States.  This beautiful structure attracts plenty of tourists, but it is still an active Roman Catholic, and thousands attend the weekly Mass.

8.Texas Blind Salamander



If you live in Central Texas, you have definitely heard about this endangered species.  This extremely rare salamander can only be found in the water-filled caves of the Edwards Aquifer near San Marcos.  The survival of this small amphibian is threatened by pollution and overuse of water, but conservation efforts are helping maintain a small population.

9. Distilleries are the New Wineries

Photo: Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery’s Facebook

The Texas Hill Country is becoming widely known for its vineyards and wineries.  Did you know we also have award-winning liquors? Stop by Garrison Brothers for some top notch whiskey or head to Dripping Springs for the new Deep Eddy Vodka tasting room. The Hill Country is home to some impressive rum, tequila, and liqueurs too.

10.Oatmeal Festival and Fun Run



Oatmeal is a tiny, unincorporated community in Burnet County.  It has a 20-foot water tower painted to resemble a box of oatmeal.  This community and the nearby city of Bertram have celebrated an annual Oatmeal Festival since 1978.  The festival includes a dance, pageant, parade, a 3.3 mile run, and of course, plenty of oatmeal.

11.Mystical Enchanted Rock



This huge, pink granite rock in Fredericksburg attracts hikers and campers year round.  Many visitors don’t know about the native legends surrounding it. Local Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche tribe folklore describes its magical and spiritual powers.  According to these legends native tribes were invisible to Anglo settlers when they hid on the top two tiers of the rock.  Locals believe it was the site of Comanche and Tonkawa sacrifices and is haunted by the spirits of warriors.

12.Maroon Bluebonnets on UT Campus


Photo: Flickr/sarowen

The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas, and they are a common sight during the cool spring season. Have you ever seen a maroon bluebonnet? Some of these interesting flowers sprouted up on the UT campus, much to the dismay of students and staff.  Anything maroon on the University of Texas Austin campus is considered sacrilege.  Many Longhorns believe these maroon bluebonnets were the work of some Aggie pranksters.  This bluebonnet variant is called Alamo Fire and was developed by Texas A&M horticulturists.

13.Canyon Lake Gorge


This is a gorge for the new millennium.  It is about 1 mile long, hundreds of yards wide, and up to 50 feet or more deep.   It was carved through Texas Hill Country limestone in 2002, when the Guadalupe River flooded and a huge amount of water went over the spillway from the Canyon Lake reservoir.  The gorge provides valuable data, because it exposed rocks strata as old as 100 million years showing fossils and a set of dinosaur tracks.  It also formed a new ecosystem for wildlife with a series of pools fed by springs and waterfalls.

Living History at Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farm


Photo: Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms’ Facebook

Have you ever wondered what it was like to live on a 19th century Texas farm? Take a walking tour of Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms in Austin to see village square stores, homes and three farms where re-enactors tend crops, work animals and perform chores.  The farm also features a Tonkawa Indian campsite.

Golf and Music



Country legend Willie Nelson owns a nine hole golf course adjacent to his recording studio and condos.  It spans the hilltops near the Pedernales River, and it is operated by golf pro Fan Szal. If you have an extra $3 million in your bank account, you can own this piece of Texas history.  It’s been on the market since 2013.