Posts Tagged ‘Skinny Dipping’

Steve B. submitted this item, which was an article he wrote a couple of years ago. Comments are welcome.

The rain is pouring down outside and I have a smile on my face, because I know that this much rain will get Barton Creek flowing again.  It’s been about four months since the last swim of a great season of swims and hikes we had along upper Barton Creek in Austin, TX.  We are fortunate indeed to live in a city where not only are there many parks and greenbelts, but top free is legal for women anywhere in the city and skinny dipping has a long and continuous tradition on the upper reaches of Barton Creek greenbelt within the city limits.  Barton Creek is the drainage that flows through Barton Springs, the jewel of Austin in Zilker Park, not far from downtown.  Upstream from Barton Springs, the greenbelt trail follows the creek upstream and southwest for approximately seven miles before ending at private land. The main trail follows the north side of the creek along the upper reaches of the park, but the trail may cross the creek several times if you start from Barton Springs.  There are several access points along the creek, but even these are one to two miles apart.  When water is flowing in the creek, deep pools that are perfect for skinny dipping form behind small cataracts in the creek.  Often these pools are a mile or more from the nearest access point and require a thoughtful hike in, limiting the intolerant types and effectively eliminating gawkers.

Picture a limestone cataract in the creek, 75 to 100 feet across, with one to three foot deep channels worn down through the rock from the water’s frequent passage.  The surface of the rock has been smoothed over to give the tops of the rock an  appearance like molded clay.  Hence the name of the falls, Sculptured Falls.  The smoothed tops of the rock usually are above the water line and provide a place for sitting and sunning.  On the far south side of the creek, a larger slopping area of smooth rock provides a place for a group to gather and spread out towels.  A harder, bumpy outcrop of rock also on the south side of the creek forms a 6 foot high ledge that folks can dive off into the 10 foot deep pool.  The area over your head varies in size with the season, but when the water is flowing it covers about 50 feet wide by 200 feet long.  Water will remain in this pool (smaller in size) all year fed by a small hillside spring, but flow over the falls stops if occasional rains do not continue to feed run off into the creek.  The rains usually come in early Spring and may keep the flow going for a few months into early Summer.  During the blistering Texas Summers the creek usually dries up and may remain so until the rains come again in the Fall with the cold fronts from the north.  Swimming is possible sometimes well into December if the north winds remain intermittent.  As the winter progresses, water temperatures and average air temperatures are too low for a casual swim and splash in the creek.  Dedicated swimmers can be found year around however, downstream at Barton Springs, where the water temperature remains at a constant 68 degrees all year!

Hill Country Nudists have planned hikes and swims into Sculptured Falls every year for many years.  Before HCN, the Naked Freedom Boosters of the old Manor Apartments back in the 70’s and early 80’s kept the traditional nude use going at the creek.  I’m sure it was used nude decades ago, long before there was a greenbelt under city jurisdiction.  Now the city manages the greenbelt as part of the Austin Public Park system and as such can police the area for park violations.  Top free is legal anywhere in Austin and well accepted along the creek and at Barton Springs itself.  Nudity, although not legal, is tolerated if discrete.

Sculptured falls is about as isolated as any location along Barton Creek.  It is a one mile hike from the nearest access point on Scottish Woods Trail, in Westlake Hills subdivision (with very little parking) and a mile and a half from the more popular Gaines trail head access point at highway 360 and Loop 1 where there is plenty of parking along the turn around loop.  Our nude swims have not been an issue or reason for complaint in recent memory.  Generally, if we set up for our swim by about ten in the morning, it sets the tone for the day.  Hikers that show up later have the choice of staying or moving on to another location along the creek.  It’s been interesting to watch the reaction of some folks that have made the one mile plus hike into Sculptured Falls and find that we are already using the swimming hole nude.  Often there is a slight hesitation and quick conference between hiking partners, but they usually stay, occasionally joining us for a nude swim.  This spot is unquestionably the nicest spot on the creek, and folks are reluctant to take a lesser spot when they have already hiked in that far.

Hill Country Nudist have always acted as stewards of the upper Barton Creek Area, sponsoring club cleanups of the area starting in the early 90’s.  An article in the local paper documenting how much trash was hauled out of the creek area by HCN may have embarrassed the city into cleaning up the heavily used falls areas on a more regular basis.  We always encourage members to pack out what they pack in and pick up trash from thoughtless creek users as well.  Hill Country Nudists intends to maintain the skinny dipping tradition on the upper reaches of Barton Creek.