Monday, April 16, 2012


Vanishing Texas River Cruise ~ Lake Buchanan, Texas

Lake Buchanan, the upper-most lake in a 7-lake chain, offers a Texas experience like no other.  The Texas Eagle II of the Vanishing Texas River Cruise, takes crowds on 2 hour cruises seeking wintering Bald Eagles, waterfalls, and gorgeous Texas landscape. Cruises are uniquely tailored to the season and lake levels, so a different experience is had depending on what time of the year you cruise.

In March, the lake levels were down and the Bald Eagles were heading north, so we were scheduled to go on the "History of Old Blufton Tour".  My kids and I were pretty excited to go on this tour, as the website told us we would get to see the remains of a town that had been submerged by Lake Buchanan!
Guests clamber aboard the Texas Eagle II and find a spot in the enclosed portion or the deck up above.  You are welcome to bring a lunch, snack, and drinks aboard or you can pre-order a Captain's Lunch.  As we set off, we hear all about the surroundings and history of Lake Buchanan.  Our guide, Cliff, was so incredibly knowledgeable - we actually moved inside so that we could sit closer to him to hear his stories.  Having been a guide for several years on this cruise, he had some amazing stories that entertained both my 11 year old and my 9 year old.

One story in particular - why the cruise is named the 'Vanishing Texas River Cruise' - resonated with us.  Texas has undeveloped areas (still?) that is quickly disappearing as land gets divided up and sold off.  The Old Western ambiance is fading and the originators of the VTRC felt it important that we keep the history alive.  The cruise does a remarkable job of pointing out islands, bluffs, and areas of the lake that "use to be" something.
 After about a 30 minute cruise, we disembarked and walked a short distance to see the ruins of Old Blufton.  In 1937, the townspeople of Blufton were asked to move their entire township.  Once the Buchanan Dam was completed and Lake Buchanan filled, where Blufton stood would be underwater.  Knowing the building of the dam would bring jobs and much needed electricity to the Hill Country, the town of Blufton collectively moved and what remains is covered underwater when we are not in a drought.

My children were anxious to see the town, so we kept up with one of the tour guides as we walked over to the ruins.  She told us amusing stories of characters that lived in the city, including one of a man who left his mother in the now-underwater cemetery!
 Artifacts litter the remaining slabs.  You can make out a horseshoe, a screw, and bits of ceramic pieces.  As this is a historic site, you are asked to not remove anything from the island.  I think it adds to the charm of the history of Old Blufton.
 What remains are the wells and foundations of The General Store, the Hotel, the grist mill, and the cotton gin complete with equipment.  As the guides tell the stories, you can picture what each of the buildings looked like and the hustle & bustle of Old Blufton.
 You are free to wander the area, poke your head down the well, and ask for more stories.......
 My children were fascinated, asking our guide questions the whole walk back, and were the last to get back on the boat.  This is a fantastic trip to take children who are curious about history.

As we cruised back, we tried to picture the area circa 1937.  We imagined how hard it must have been to have to move an entire city up hill and then have to see where you used to live covered in water.  It opened up great discussion that day.  And my son later told me, it was one of his favorite things he did all Spring Break! (Score one for momma!)
I am anxious to try a summer cruise, where if the water is high enough, the cruise takes you up the Colorado River to see bluffs, waterfalls, world-class birding (March-Oct).  And during the winter, I'd love to see the Bald Eagles our guides kept telling us about on their American Bald Eagle Cruises (Nov-March).  With so many options of things to see, this is a fantastic year-round activity that the whole family can enjoy.

Many of the nearby lakes host a variety of activities such as boating, jet-skiing, camping, picnicking, hiking, and more. (Boat License Canada)

Make it a day by taking a tour of the Longhorn Caverns State Park after a cruise.  Check our review here.

More Fun Things to do in the Hill Country:

Texas Travel Facts for Vanishing Texas River Cruise:
Location: 443 WaterWay Lane Burnet, Texas
Hours: Cruises are run 3-4 times a week at 11 am - Call for a reservation: 1-800-4-RIVER-4
Admission: Adults - $20.00 
                  Children 2-12 - $12.00
                   Senior/Teen - $17.50
Recommended Time: 3 hours (cruise is 2 hours - get there 1/2 hour in advance)
Good to know: Wear comfortable, rubber-soled shoes as there is a bit of walking; take your camera, lunch, and sunblock; you can purchase a box lunch in advance; there is a small gift shop

I was invited to participate in a Cruise and was provided one free ticket.  I was not financially compensated for this post.  All opinions of The Vanishing Texas River Cruise are strictly my own based on my experience.  


Steve said...

Cool! Kind of like discovering the lost city of Atlantis, only without having to get wet!
But seriously...cooler than the bubble place?

MiMi said...

I wanna go I wanna go I wanna go!! That looks so fun!