Onion Creek, Texas, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||24 fpm|
|Max Gradient||300 fpm|
|Onion Ck nr Driftwood, TX|
|usgs-08158700||150 - 1500 cfs||II-III(IV)||00h20m||0 cfs (too low)|
For the first two miles of the run, this stretch of Onion Creek is fairly uneventful, consisting mainly of a few small rapids and wave trains until you get to Barber Falls (see description below.) Both drops of Barber Falls (Winterburg's Freeze and Teardrop Falls) are runnable at a wide variety of levels but increase significantly in difficulty at higher flows. When the first two miles of the run are prime (above 1000 cfs), the falls become much higher-consequence. Typically the falls are ideal between 200-500 cfs, with a first-timer sweet spot at approximately 250 cfs. The remainder of the run below the falls is uneventful, with a couple of boulder gardens and small waves.
Distances and gradient measured using GIS tools in 2015.
Ruby Ranch Road Put-in:
In the past, shuttle vehicles for this stretch could not be left at or near Ruby Ranch Road. Local landowners were known to threaten boaters, call police, and even vandalize vehicles, so it was impossible to do this run without a wheelman. Texas Whitewater even suggested that you should be dressed and ready to jump out of the vehicle and immediately put in.
More recent beta from paddlers suggests that this is no longer the case and that vehicles can now be safely parked in the right-of-way of Ruby Ranch Rd. The Northeast (river left, downstream) side of the bridge seems to be a good place to park, because a fence clearly dilineates the right-of-way, and the bridge guardrail is shortest on that side (making it the closest legal parking spot to the creek.) Paddlers should still be as discreet as possible and avoid venturing outside of the right-of-way.
Landowner issues at Barber Falls:
The landowners at river left are militantly opposed to kayakers, and in the past, they have fired warning shots, looked at boaters through a rifle scope from a distance, yelled and threatened boaters from the bank, and filed false police reports claiming that boaters were firing guns in the creek bed. In all of these cases (some of which were captured on video), the Hays Co. Sheriff's Dept. (who was either called by the boaters or by the landowners, depending on the incident) showed up and reassured the boaters that they had a legal right to paddle Onion Creek. In several cases, the landowners were admonished by law enforcement, but thus far, insufficient evidence has existed to press charges against them. PLEASE BE CAUTIOUS OF THESE LANDOWNERS. Video all encounters, but do not speak to them or engage them in any way. If trouble arises, call the Hays Co. Sheriff’s Dept. Video all conversations with law enforcement, and above all else, be respectful. Law enforcement is on our side.
NOTE: If you choose to paddle/portage upstream from the takeout to huck Teardrop Falls, stick to the creek bed and do not trespass.
The easiest takeout is on the northwest (river left, upstream) side of the bridge, but because of the aforementioned landowners, vehicles should not be parked here. Park in the grass along the highway right-of-way on the southeast (river right, downstream) side of FM 1626. To avoid landowner issues, do not venture outside of the highway right-of-way or the creek bed when taking out.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
Winterburg's Freeze is a six-foot, river-wide pourover. While much smaller than Teardrop Falls, it is much more dangerous and should be approached with caution. This feature can be scouted (and portaged) on river left. It is a good idea to scout this rapid to ensure that no strainers or debris are blocking the route. While the center line may look like the most inviting route, avoid running center or river left at low water. A rock shelf has fallen into the base of the drop and slants upstream, creating a possible subsurface undercut/pin hazard on these lines. The best line is far river right. A solid boof on the river-right line should get you past the feature, but even this line will hand out a mean piton to those who fail to keep their nose up. At higher water, the pourover can be very retentive, so care should be taken when running it (as with any pourover.)
Teardrop Falls is a clean, 18-foot waterfall that drops into a deep pool. This beautiful waterfall can be run as low as 150 cfs and up to 1500 cfs, but high-water huckers should be aware of the powerful hydraulic at the base of the falls. Up to 500 cfs, the line is pretty apparent. At higher flows, boaters have gone far right over the shelf, thus avoiding the strongest part of the veil. Safety should be set prior to running the drop (this can be done on river left.) While a deteriorating shelf is a concern, the pool is very deep, and the falls can be styled with big boofs or by going deep. However, at lower levels, be sure not to land too flat, as an 18-foot drop is high enough to cause a sore back or even a more long-term injury.