Vanishing Texas River Cruise Explores Lake Buchanan
A trip on Lake Buchanan with Vanishing Texas River Cruise puts you next to waterfalls, local wildlife, and winged Winter Texans. Yes, you might meet some friendly human visitors on your cruise, but the migrating bald eagles that call Lake Buchanan home are the main attraction.
Winter is eagle season in the Highland Lakes, when the majestic birds migrate south to the Colorado River in search of food. One of the best ways to view bald eagles in the Highland Lakes is on an Eagle Season Cruise from November to March with Vanishing Texas River Cruise.
Capt. Shawn Devaney said the quality of an eagle season depends on weather in the North and Midwest.
“If it’s real, real cold and freezing in the Midwest and North, it will force migration farther south,” he said.
Along with eagle cruises, you can expect scenic treats year-round on the Vanishing Texas River Cruise boat, Texas Eagle II.
The boat has a capacity of 120 passengers with restrooms, air conditioning and heating, and two decks. The lower cabin is enclosed with large windows and can seat 93 passengers. The upper deck is open-air with a covering.
Started in 1981, Devaney joined Vanishing Texas River Cruise in 1982 and purchased the business in 1999. Though he’s traveled Lake Buchanan thousands of times, he still marvels at the way the body of water changes on each outing.
“You never know what you’re going to see,” he said.
A recent outing provided one such example. During the morning’s cruise, a variety of wildlife was spotted including egrets, herons, and wild hogs. Between trips, a storm moved through the area and dropped rain for the first time in months. The next cruise went to the popular Fall Creek waterfall, where water was flowing all the way across the edge of the cliff after moving sparsely just hours before.
The waterfalls, bald eagles, and Spanish goats that climb the cliffs are the most popular highlights of the tour, Devaney said.
The area is especially popular with birding enthusiasts.
“We see all kinds of birds,” Devaney said, “birds that are not even supposed to be in our area.”
His knowledge and enthusiasm are passed along to cruise passengers, making each trip unique and exciting.
Vanishing Texas River Cruise offers a variety of cruises depending on the season and water levels. When booking a cruise online, the company will let you know which cruises are available along with any circumstances that might cause a cancellation.
(Check the Lake Buchanan level when booking a cruise)
• Freedom Flight Cruise — Offered about once each quarter. Length: 2½ hours. In partnership with Last Chance Forever bird of prey conservancy. Rehabbed birds of prey such as owls, hawks, and bald eagles are released back into wild.
• Scenic Wilderness Cruise — The original cruise. Length: two hours 15 minutes. This 18-mile journey goes up the Colorado River to spot regional and migrating birds, waterfalls, wildlife, and cliffs. The cruise depends on the lake’s water level, which must be 1,010 feet and above. Operates March 1-Nov 14.
• Eagle Season Cruise — Offered November-March. View bald eagles in their feeding and breeding grounds during their migration south for the winter. Guests are encouraged to help spot eagles in trees or the air. Tour length varies. The shortest cruise is two hours, another is three hours, and the longest is four hours and includes lunch.
• Sunset Cruises — This cruise follows the same route as the Scenic Wilderness Cruise. Length: two hours 15 minutes. This has a dinner option and live music on board. On return, passengers view the setting sun. Offered Memorial Day through Labor Day. The cruise operates at all water levels and departs at 6 p.m.
• History Cruise of Old Bluffton — This cruise is operated when water levels are 992-1,004 feet. Length: two hours. Built along the banks of the Colorado River in the mid-1800s, Bluffton was submerged in 1937 when Lake Buchanan was dammed by the Lower Colorado River Authority. During a drought, when lake levels are low, the town site reappears, and the cruise takes passengers to view its remnants.
• Lake Buchanan Cruise — Cruise by the wildlife refuge of Garrett Island, around Shaw Island peninsula, and see the formation of White Bluff. View regional and migrating birds as well as local wildlife while the tour guide talks about the lake and its history, geology, and folklore. Length: two hours. Operates at a lake level of 1,004-1,020 feet.
• Special events — Charter a private cruise for weddings, rehearsal dinners, corporate events, or any special occasion.
The cruise office is located on the eastern shore of Lake Buchanan at 443 Waterway Lane in Burnet. To get there from Burnet, travel west from the intersection of U.S. 281 and Texas 29 for 3 miles to FM 2341. Turn north (right) and go 12 miles to Ed Low Drive. Turn left, travel about one-quarter of a mile then go left on Waterway Lane for about a third of a mile past a house with a tree in the driveway. Then, take an immediate left down the hill to the cruise parking area. Book a reservation at vtrc.com or call (512) 756-6986 or toll free (800) 474-8374. You also can plan a day on Lake Buchanan with kayaks by visiting captainshawnskayaks.com.
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