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Texas Hill Country Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Marble Falls


Photo by TXDOT

FALLING WATER

Early 19th Century travelers marveled at the Colorado River cascading 20 feet over ledges that look like marble but actually were formed of granite and limestone. Locals donated rock quarried from nearby Granite Mountain to build a new State Capitol when the old one burned. In return, they received a narrow-gauge railroad that hauled nearly 16,000 carloads of granite to Austin for the monumental project. These stories and others unfold at The Falls on the Colorado Museum, housed on the first floor of the 1891 Granite School building. Photographs in the museum collection show many views of the river, the falls, and the role they played in the lives of area citizens before the dam was constructed. Today you can see part of the falls, just upriver from the Highway 281 bridge, when the Lower Colorado River Authority lowers the lake level. Lake Marble Falls has become a popular spot for fishermen, boaters, sailors, and water skiers. Landlubbers enjoy exploring the town’s downtown, where historic buildings house restaurants, antiques stores, boutiques, art galleries and a theater. Nearby attractions include Flat Creek Estate winery and Balcones Canyon National Wildlife Refuge, a protected habitat that supports two endangered bird species, the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. Visitors can hike nearly seven miles of trails with scenic overlooks and photo blinds. 


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In 1854, a Kentucky transplant to Burnet County, Adam Rankin Johnson, saw the falls and dreamed of building a town near the site. But the Civil War intervened, and Johnson, who attained the rank of general in the Confederate Army, was blinded by a rifle ball and also held captive by Union forces. Johnson returned to Burnet County after the war and in 1887 he established Marble Falls, named for the natural landmark. His wife and children gave the blind general daily reports as the town took shape. Johnson also realized the potential of the Colorado River’s water power, and that of the pink-colored rock at nearby Granite Mountain. In 1951, the Max Starke Dam was built and the river impounded, creating hydroelectric power and Lake Marble Falls.