Bastrop, known as ‘the heart of the lost pines’, is among the oldest towns in Texas and has a long and fascinating history. Since its earliest settlement, Bastrop has been a central gathering place along the lower Colorado River where the river crosses the Old San Antonio Road (known as “King’s Highway”). Folks visiting Bastrop today may be surprised to learn that its earliest known origins were as a meeting ground for the Tonkawa and other Southwestern Indians. At the turn of the 19th century, this area along the river served as a gathering place where Spanish soldiers resided temporarily, subsequently becoming a permanent dwelling place for settlers. In 1827, Stephen F. Austin asked Mexican officials to name it after his longtime friend, Baron de Bastrop. The town was officially established as a Texas town in 1837.
On that same scenic bluff east of the Colorado River, Bastrop’s historic downtown district brings on its small town charm, southern hospitality, and continues attracting travelers from all around. Bastrop offers an abundance of indoor and outdoor activities. Whether you’re ready to shop, stroll through the Bastrop Museum and Visitor Center, or are interested in hiking, bird-watching, fishing, or floating through the tranquil river setting, rest assured—you’ll feel welcomed, relaxed, and have plenty to experience, by land and by river.
There are many beautiful vistas and parks along the riparian corridor of the Colorado River in Bastrop. These parks serve as event venues for all ages. Fisherman’s Park is one of the most popular places located in downtown Bastrop. Venturing to this thoughtful outpost blanketed with native pecan and oak-shaded trees is a must. Travelers will find picnic facilities, a kiddie splash pad, a playground, a scenic nature trail, and river access for boats, kayaks, and canoes. The Patriotic Festival and NatureFest are held here annually in July and November, respectively.
The mighty Colorado River, originates south of Lubbock near Lamesa and is the longest flowing river source in Texas. It runs exclusively in Texas and flows calmly through the heart of Bastrop. For many years, Jami Smith-Hachley, owner of Rising Phoenix Adventures Tours (RPA), has served Bastrop through charity, events, and has guided paddling adventures to the community and water enthusiasts from around the globe. Jami shared, “So many travelers now are showing more interest in recreation activities and appreciating time spent outdoors. Through a consortium of local, regional, and state-wide agencies, RPA has helped create two Colorado River paddling trails: Wilbarger and El Camino Real. ” The RPA team found ourselves in the midst of educating our community and visitors the importance of using public spaces and recreational resources to engage the human spirit, Smith-Hachley stated.
These two paddling trails converge in Bastrop and offer water activities for all experience levels:
- Upriver from Bastrop, the Wilbarger Paddling Trail (named after Josiah Pugh Wilbarger), is a wide, slow-moving 14.3-mile trail. This river journey takes approximately 4 – 8 hours depending on water flow and provides the opportunity for picnic stops and enjoying the vegetative and wildlife habitats along the way. This trail starts in Utley, Texas near the west end of Bastrop County and pulls out at the popular tree-canopied Fisherman’s Park.
- The El Camino Real Paddling Trail begins at Fisherman’s Park and concludes at Bastrop County Nature Park. This 1.5 – 4 hour paddling excursion moves slowly along for 6-miles offering an enjoyable and serene nature experience. As the river winds downstream the view is enriched with limestone outcroppings and high sandstone bluffs and cliffs. Frequent sand bars and islands provide suitable resting areas. The takeout is easy to spot because of the large sandbar where many folks swim and picnic on the small “beach.”
Whether you are looking to have a self-guided paddling trek down the Wilbarger or a relaxing guided tour down the scenic El Camino Real, Rising Phoenix Adventures Tours has the water equipment needed.
The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling every fiber andJohn Muir
cell of our bodies, making them glide and sing.
Museum & Visitor Center of the Bastrop County Historical Society
904 Main Street
Bastrop, Texas 78602
Museum (512) 303-0057
Visitor Center (512) 303-0904
Rising Phoenix Adventures Tours & Events
1409 Chestnut Street
Bastrop, TX 78602
For more information about river paddling go to: TPWD.texas.gov/fishboat/boat/paddlingtrails
NOTE: The consortium of local, regional, and state-wide agencies that helped create two Colorado River paddling trails included: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, City of Bastrop, Bastrop Economic Development Corporation, Bastrop Visitor Center, Rising Phoenix Adventures, Environmental Stewardship, Pines & Prairies Land Trust and the Lower Colorado River Authority.