Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Marble Falls

By Peter Simek 4.6.22

Nestled into one of the most beautiful stretches of the Texas Hill Country, Marble Falls is the perfect spot to begin an exploration of some of Texas’ prettiest countryside. Named after waterfalls along the Colorado River that were used as landmarks by travelers passing through the region, Marble Falls offers visitors easy access to nearby vineyards, bluebonnet sightings, and an adorable historic downtown.

Regardless of whether your idea of a perfect weekend is a strenuous hike through the backcountry or a long, meandering drive along blue highways, you’ll be glad you took the time to head to this Hill Country gem.

Marble Falls
Photo courtesy of University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, from Austin History Center, Austin Public Library

A Dream Fulfilled and Lost

Although travelers had long used the waterfalls to navigate through the region, the town of Marble Falls was not founded until well after the Civil War. That’s when Adam Rankin Johnson, a Confederate veteran, arrived with the intent to use the rushing Colorado River to power a new industrial center. Johnson purchased land, attracted residents, and even convinced the railroad to expand to his new town. By 1890, Marble Falls boasted a cotton gin, gristmill, tannery, shoe factory, hotel, three general stores, and its own newspaper.

Johnson’s ambitions, however, would never be fully realized. Attempts to harness the power of the falls using dams that would generate electricity continued through the beginning of the 20th century, but the projects never came to fruition. Finally, in the 1950s, a dam was constructed to create Lake Marble Falls. But the creation of the lake also destroyed the natural waterfalls that lent the town its name, and Johnson’s industrial center never materialized. Marble Falls never grew larger than a few thousand people.

Marble Falls
Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

A Gateway to the Hill Country

For nature lovers, the fact that Marble Falls never became a booming industrial center was a blessing in disguise. Today, the town is best known for its rural charm and attractive countryside. The town is also perfectly situated between several state parks and natural attractions. If you find yourself traveling to or through the area, be sure to check out some of the following:

Hidden Falls Adventure Park: With 200 miles of trails, this private park allows visitors to explore the rugged Hill Country via ATV, jeep, motorcycle, or dirt bike.

Longhorn Cavern State Park: Located about 15 miles from Marble Falls, the park is home to a network of caves formed by an ancient underground river. Visitors can choose between a walking tour and a more advanced three-hour spelunking adventure.

Take a Hike: There are plenty of hiking trails near Marble Falls, including the Backbone Creek Hike and Bike Trail, which twists between two of Marble Falls’ public parks, and the more advanced Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, a popular spot for avid birdwatchers.

Wander the Wilderness: Several of the roads around Marble Falls are considered the most beautiful drives in the state, with winding curves that trace up and down the picturesque Hill Country. We recommend Ranch to Market Road 1431, which will take you out west, roughly following the path of the Colorado River.

Continue your Texas travels through one of these other quaint towns.

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