San Gabriel River Lakes- The Bridges of Madis….er Williamson County and the Comanche Bluff Trail- Granger Lake, Granger, Williamson County, Texas

Lake Granger, the one that no one really wanted but the one the government was determined to build. In my story in the last post I talked about the book I read on the history of the San Gabriel River dams. Well here at Granger, just above Laneport is Lake Granger. So I figured I’d check it out. I found on the south shore a pretty good trail, The Comanche Bluff Trail.

Lake Granger is fairly shallow being only 50 feet deep at the dam. But also at the dam under that 50 feet of water is the site of the town of Friendship. Friendship was settled in the 1880’s by Czech farmers who had immigrated to Texas. About 200 farms were also flooded leaving the locals somewhat bitter. But the decision to build the Dam at Laneport forced the citizens to sell their farm lands relocate their cemetery and move away.

Although you can start in Taylor Park proper I always go to the Alternate trailhead to avoid the fees to enter the park. This trailhead is slightly off of the middle of the 5 mile trail with one direction providing a 3 mile out and back, (6 miles total) to the Fox Hollow primitive campground and the other direction yields a 2 mile out and back ,(4 miles total), to Taylor Park and the Bridges of Madis….er….Williamson County. Anyway it provides a full morning of hiking.

Today I first went towards the primitive camping area. this is a nice trail and since it is on the transition zone of the Balcones Escarpment and Blackland Prairie the flora was diverse. This direction is east into the prairie so there are actually mostly hardwood trees instead of cactus and scrub cedars that are so prevalent in Central Texas.

stand of hardwood trees

I figure this will be nice in the fall.

Comanche Bluff is a 512 foot cliff along the San Gabriel River. Problem here is the trail doesn’t quite reach it. But it does traverse a series of bluffs along the south shore of the lake. The trail is moderate, with several steep elevation changes between each of the bluffs. Between the bluffs are sloughs. A slough is a swampy area or sometimes waterfilled area usually the backwater of a lake system.

The majority of the sloughs have been bridged or are usually dry.

Slough along the Comanche Bluff Trail.

The hike then levels out and crosses a prairie with views of the lake.

looking out at the lake from a dry slough
San Gabriel River

The trail hugs the San Gabriel River for the last half mile or so to the campground. Nothing to do but turn around here. going the other way into Taylor Park is where I found the Bridges of Madis…er… Williamson County.

Heading into Taylor Park there are still some hardwoods but it becomes more rocky, with many cactus plants.

In 1921 the remnants of a hurricane parked itself over the area. 39 inches of rain fell causing a massive flood. It washed away everything, Old Friendship also known as Allison Texas, roads, crops, everything even the bridges. Two of the bridges were rebuilt but in 1980 when the lake was flooded the bridges were dismantled and moved to Taylor Park.

http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasHillCountryTowns/Friendship-Texas.htm You can read about this flood and see pictures of Friendship here.

Friendship Bridge

In the 1880’s Texas was buying iron bridges with a wooden plank surface for five hundred dollars. One bridge was placed across Willis Creek at Friendship. After being washed away in the 1921 flood, it was replaced with the bridge pictured above. This bridge was used until the dam was built and the lake flooded. In 1982 it was moved here by the Corps of Engineers. This bridge is passable and part of the trail.

As the trail reaches the two mile turnaround there is another bridge, the Hoxie Haunted Bridge. The Hoxie Bridge spanned the San Gabriel near Circleville Texas. The 1921 flood washed it 300 yards downstream. The contractors building the new bridge brought convict labor gangs from Huntsville Prison to help in the construction. According to local legend one of the prisoners was an extreme troublemaker, and was shot through the head by a prison guard. His body was hung from a tree at the bridge site as a warning to others to do their work and obey the crew and guards. Supposedly, this man haunted the river bottom near the bridge for years as reported by late night travelers and lovers parking nearby. This only occurred on Friday night when there was a full moon. A priest prayed for the convict’s soul, and mysteriously the sightings ended. So today this is known as the Hoxie Haunted Bridge.

Hoxie Haunted Bridge

As you can see the trail doesn’t cross this bridge but continues along it’s side for another tenth of a mile. Taylor Park also has an RV campground but it was closed when I was there due to Covid-19.

So ends the story of the San Gabriel Lakes, the flood of 1921 and the Bridges of Madis….er … Williamson County

One thought on “San Gabriel River Lakes- The Bridges of Madis….er Williamson County and the Comanche Bluff Trail- Granger Lake, Granger, Williamson County, Texas

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