Reopens at McKinney Falls
Two floods and eight years later, see new exhibits and flood-resistant improvements.
After closing its doors in 2013 due to extensive damage from a Halloween flood, the Smith Visitors Center at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin reopened in October 2021.
“After years of diligent work by our state parks and infrastructure staff, we are excited to once again open the doors of the Smith Visitors Center,” says Justin Rhodes, Texas state parks deputy director. “This facility will serve as a gateway for visitors to familiarize themselves with the unique cultural and natural resources found in the heart of our capital city and provide much-needed meeting space for a variety of user groups coming to the park.”
On Halloween 2013, the Smith Visitors Center was flooded by the rising waters of nearby Onion Creek. At the peak, 40 inches of water saturated the building, ruining electrical systems, interior walls and materials and interpretive exhibits. Staff worked diligently to clear the building and prepare it for future repairs. Before repairs could begin, the building flooded again in 2015.
The remodeled visitors center was designed to make the facility more flood-resistant. These efforts include elevating electrical and HVAC systems above flood lines and using water-resistant materials in new exhibits and wall construction.
McKinney Falls received an El Camino Real grant from the Texas Department of Transportation, which helped fund new interpretive exhibits.
“These new exhibits give a more complete story of the park and include interactive displays showcasing the El Camino Real trail, cultural resources from Thomas McKinney’s (the park’s namesake) time and a bat cave highlighting the importance of dark skies,” says Tommy Cude, McKinney Falls State Park superintendent.
TPWD Staff; Top: Sonja Sommerfeld | TPWD; Inset: Sumaiya Malik