Layers of limestone, up to 1,000 feet thick in some places, underlie Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. In Spanish, “Balcones” means balconies and is a reference to the limestone terraces clearly visible in many parts of the refuge. They were formed more than 60 million years ago when central Texas was a shallow sea thriving with primitive fish and other wildlife.

Arrowheads and chipped rocks serve as reminders of the aboriginal people who hunted and gathered here for thousands of years, depending on bison, deer, small game and wild harvests. By the late seventeenth century, Apaches and Comanches moved onto the Edwards Plateau and defended their territories until overwhelmed by the thousands of settlers who migrated to Texas after 1848, at the end of the Mexican War. 

Isolated communities cropped up in today's Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge by the end of the 1800s. These "cedar cutters" and cotton farmers earned a subsistence living until the late 1940s, when a ranching economy took hold. Paved roads soon drew visitors to the reservoirs formed by Colorado River dams. 

As you drive the refuge perimeter, you'll pass by weathered, leaning homesteads. Imagine the stories of the families who cultivated the land and sent their children to one-room schoolhouses. When exploring, please leave all artifacts where you find them and help preserve a cultural legacy.