Where is the spring in Spicewood Springs?

12:00 a.m. Saturday, July 15, 2017 Local
Environmental scientist Nathan Bendik explains the flora found near Spicewood Spring. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Where is the spring of Spicewood Springs?

Way out northwest near U.S. 183, where Spicewood Springs Road turns into McNeil Drive? Or along the narrow, rugged Bull Creek canyon, through which that road winds from U.S. 183 to Loop 360? Maybe up on the mesa where Spicewood Springs Road leapfrogs over to MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1)?

None of the above.

The tiny spring is in the vast Shoal Creek watershed to the east, where Spicewood Springs Road turns into West Anderson Lane at MoPac.

It can be spied without trespassing by taking the namesake road west from MoPac to Ceberry Drive, the very first right after the freeway. Park nearby on Starline Drive, then walk back to the bridge over a small creek on Ceberry. Looking downstream, you’ll see among the water plants and lush underbrush a tiny limestone structure, a man-made house for the spring named after the many spicewood trees that cloaked this valley.

Several months ago, we received permission to examine the site with representatives of the Shoal Creek Conservancy along with two environmental scientists, Nathan Bendik and David Johns, who work for the city of Austin. They explained why the cool, clear water drips here and how the plants that have grown up around it, as well the legal human intervention that once pumped water up the banks for yard irrigation.

We had first learned of the location from history advocate Richard Denney, who wrote up an explanation of its importance to Native Americans and early settlers.

So, Spicewood Springs Road, which follows an ancient trail across the northwest hills, doesn’t really go to the spring; it starts there. It goes to Bull Creek. In fact, it is most likely meant to link up with Bull Creek Road, best known recently as its orphaned stretch near Shoal Creek that runs along the land slated to become the Grove at Shoal Creek.

I’ve noticed that Spicewood Spring has started showing up on Google Maps. The grotto must have a living advocate.

MORE ADVENTURE: Strike out into hidden Zilker Park.

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