Canyon Lake Gorge
It took Mother Nature millions of years to lay down Glen Rose limestone during the Cretaceous Era.
A good part of her handiwork washed away in July 2002, when up to 67,000 cubic feet of water-per-second flowed over Canyon Lake’s spillway for six weeks following extensive flooding in the Guadalupe River basin. The flood wiped out everything in its path. All that was left was a deep scar in the limestone.
The result — carved mostly in just three days — is one of the area’s most-riveting natural wonders, Canyon Lake Gorge. Approximately one mile long, hundreds of yards wide and up to 50 feet deep, the land below the Canyon Lake Spillway features:
- dramatic vistas
- Hidden Valley Fault (within Balcones Fault Zone)
- geologic formations
- beautiful lagoons and waterfalls
- Trinity Aquifer
- biologic succession
- numerous seeps and springs
- 110 million-year-old dinosaur tracks
- extensive marine fossil diversity
- hydraulic dynamics of Glen Rose Limestone
Hill Country geology is characterized by flat-lying limestone layers of Early Cretaceous age that are about 100 million years old. Most of the limestone in this area is either the Glen Rose Formation or the overlying Edwards Group. The gorge is cut into the Glen Rose Formation. During the Cretaceous period, a shallow sea covered most of Texas. At one point in time, the seashore likely extended as far north as the gorge spillway. It was on the northwestern margin of the ancestral Gulf of Mexico. The sea was shallow, varying in time from a few inches to tens of feet deep.
Dinosaurs possibly walked along the shore, leaving prints still visible in the gorge and at nearby Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country. No one is certain for sure which dinosaurs actually left these tracks 100 million years ago, but paleontologists believe they were left by Arcrocanthosaurus, a bi-pedal, three-toed carnivore two-thirds the size of Tyrannosaurus Rex. There are Sauropod tracks in the spillway as well.
One of the gorge’s most famous feature is Hidden Valley Fault, the only exposed fault zone of its type in North America. A portion of the gorge follows the fault, one of many that form the Balcones Fault Zone, which runs 180 miles across numerous counties in Central Texas. When the gorge was cut during the 2002 flood event, the face of the fault was exposed, providing the first opportunity for geologists to see its “inner workings.” This view of the fault has led to a clearer understanding of how water flows through a faulted-and-fractured limestone formation.
Tours highlight the Power of Water theme to increase visitors’ appreciation of:
- Canyon Reservoir Project and Canyon Lake Gorge through partnership efforts between Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Gorge Preservation Society
- geology of Central Texas
- hydrogeology, especially the interconnectedness of groundwater and surface water
- interrelationship between humans and the physical environment
- process of biologic succession and common plants and animals found in natural communities of the gorge
- appreciation of and respect for natural environment.
For the protection of this unique 40-million-year-old time capsule, only guided tours are available and must be booked in advance.
The three-hour tours are physically demanding and participants must carry their own bottled water. Backpacks are strongly recommended.
Do’s and Don’t:
- Walk carefully! The gorge is a part of nature, with uneven surfaces, loose rocks and sudden drop-offs.
- Stay with your group. If you wander off, the tour’s off.
- Take photos, but pay attention to where you’re standing and stepping.
- Don’t remove anything from the gorge. It’s okay to pick up fossils and rocks for a closer look, but put them down when you’re finished. All items in the gorge are protected by federal law.
- No kicking rocks, displacing fossils or stepping on new life.
- Tell your guide if you feel dizzy or sick.
Canyon Lake Gorge is overseen by Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, which works with The Gorge Preservation Society, a local community-based organization. Its mission is to promote the enjoyment and conservation of the gorge by encouraging responsible, quality access opportunities through academic partnerships, economic initiatives and citizen involvement.
2075 FM 2673, Suite D
Canyon Lake, TX 78133
For more information, visit canyon gorge.org or call 830-964-5424.