Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: General Entry

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: September 12, 2019

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is on Sandy Creek and Ranch Road 965 at the Gillespie-Llano county line, eighteen miles north of Fredericksburg. The 1,643-acre park is roughly triangular, and Enchanted Rock is near its center. The first owners of this land were Anavato and María Martínez, to whom a headright certificate was issued on March 16, 1838. They sold it to James Robinson in 1841, and he in turn sold it to Samuel A. Maverick in 1844. Maverick, believing that Enchanted Rock might prove to be a source of mineral wealth, had part of the property surveyed in 1847, and it was patented to him by the state on September 22, 1851. Maverick's widow sold the property to N. P. P. Browne in 1880–81; on February 19, 1886, Browne sold it to John R. Moss, who sold it to J. D. Slator later that year. Two ranching brothers, C. T. and A. F. Moss, bought the property from Slator in 1895 and in November 1897 partitioned it between them, except for Enchanted Rock itself, which they held in common. Eventually C. T. Moss acquired his brother's holdings, and in 1927 C. T.'s son Tate inherited the property and opened it to the tourist trade. On October 26, 1946, he sold it to Albert Faltin, who later sold a half interest to Llano rancher Charles H. Moss, C. T.'s grandson. Charles and his wife, Ruth, managed and eventually acquired full title to the property but decided to sell it in 1978. Moss first offered it to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, but the agency could not pay his price. The Nature Conservancy, a private concern based in Arlington, Virginia, bought the property for $1.3 million on March 1, 1978, and agreed to act as interim owner until the state could take over, thus guaranteeing that the area would not be opened to private development. United States secretary of the interior Cecil Andrus told Governor Dolph Briscoe that a federal land and water conservation grant would be made available for purchase of the area when matched by state funds, and the Nature Conservancy deeded the land to the state on March 7, 1978, with the agreement that Moss would continue to operate it until June 1 of that year.

Besides Enchanted Rock itself, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area includes Turkey Peak and Enchanted Rock Cave among its natural features, as well as a wide variety of native flora and fauna. Among the more than 400 species of plants in the park are live oak, Texas hickory, blackjack oak, cedar, American elm, honey mesquite, and pecan trees; lily yucca, prickly pear, barrel cactus, strawberry cactus, and pencil cactus; and about 100 species of mosses, lichens, and liverworts. Animals found in the park include white-tailed deer, armadillos, bobcats, raccoons, black rock squirrels, red foxes, cotton rats, four kinds of hawk, turkeys, great horned owls, turkey vultures, copperheads, diamondbacks, cottonmouths, bull snakes, checkered ribbon snakes, and spotted whiptails. The park also contains some 114 archeological sites, at which various Indian artifacts have been unearthed. The area has long been a favorite destination of hikers, campers, rock-climbers, hang-gliders, and other outdoor enthusiasts from around the state. In 1977 an estimated 50,000 people visited the area; the park drew 30,000 visitors in three months when it reopened in March 1984 after eighteen months of renovation. With $1.9 million in improvements made during those months, in 1986 the park had a new headquarters building, a visitors' center, fifty-two tent sites, sixty primitive campsites, forty picnic sites, and numerous hiking trails. Nearby places of interest include the towns of Fredericksburg and Llano and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Historic Park.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (Austin: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 1983). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Martin Donell Kohout, “Enchanted Rock State Natural Area,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/enchanted-rock-state-natural-area.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
September 12, 2019