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Canyon Lake Gorge reveals ancient geology and dinosaur tracks

When the rainwater of two storms filled Canyon Lake in 2002, it raged over the spillway and cut a deep gouge into the land.
When the rainwater of two storms filled Canyon Lake in 2002, it raged over the spillway and cut a deep gorge into the land.

One summer nearly 20 years ago, two storms swept through the Texas Hill Country. Canyon Lake filled up, and the water raged over the spillway, cutting a deep gorge into the land.

That new gorge revealed millions of years’ worth of geology for the first time, including dinosaur tracks left there millennia ago.

The site is now called Canyon Lake Gorge, and when visitors walk through it, they're walking through history.

"By the time you get down to the bottom of the gorge, which is a mile and a quarter, you're at give or take a few million years, 111 million years ago," said Jaynellen Kerr, a natural resource specialist with the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority. "You're walking through a million years.”

Kerr said when geologists first surveyed the area, they were taken aback.

"They said, 'We've got to get the people out here. This is amazing. This is like being within the Earth,'" she said.

Canyon Lake Gorge Drone Video

On Saturday, the GBRA opens up a visitor’s center below Overlook Park. After the 10 a.m. grand opening, a new self-guided walk trail will open along the gorge’s north side.

"In the gorge, you can experience dramatic gorge vistas, we have water flowing through the gorge. We have several sets of waterfalls, big lagoons, big pools of water," Kerr said. "So you'll see the water actually surface water and then it'll just disappear and be ground water and then back again to surface water. And that's where we teach about how our aquifers work and how the water flows through the limestone."

There's also the Hidden Valley Fault, which is about 2,600 feet throughout the gorge, Kerr said.

While guided tours have been available by appointment, the visitor center will officially open Saturday morning to show the gorge to more people.

"We will be offering, of course, the three-hour (tour) and then the new tour is a 90-minute tour. And then we'll have the new Overlook self-guided hiking trails,” Kerr said.

The grand opening is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The site will be open Tuesday through Sunday after its grand opening. For more information, visit canyongorgetours.com.

Kathleen Creedon contributed to this story.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii