Despite its name, Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park is a slice of swimming hole heaven, where Texans have been doing cannonballs and backflips off of a granite overhang into the water for decades.
A small dam on the Colorado River, ancient volcanic rock, and the superb efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have combined to create a pristine paradise for beating the summer heat. I made the trip to Inks Lake State Park to hop in the hole myself and see what all the hubbub was about.
Devil’s Waterhole is a deep pool tucked away on an eastern branch of Inks Lake where Spring Creek merges with the Colorado River. This shady, secluded spot is surrounded by old-growth forest and gargantuan hunks of granite that create a hideaway from the rest of the park.
Inks Lake is the second lake in the chain of Highland Lakes that begins with Lake Buchanan and ends with Lake Austin. Inks Lake State Park lies along the southeastern shore of the lake and has some of the best hiking and swimming areas in the Highland Lakes.
Only 3.4 miles off of Texas 29, Inks Lake State Park is highly accessible. It is roughly 13 minutes from downtown Burnet and fewer than 30 minutes from downtown Marble Falls. Once you leave the highway, Park Road 4 takes you along the contour of Inks Lake, highlighting Hill Country grandeur along the way.
Admission into the park is $7 for ages 13 and older and free for kids 12 and younger — a great deal for a day of fun. Or, you can be a good Texan and grab a Texas State Parks Pass, which covers everyone in your vehicle at all state parks for one whole year.
Once in the park, you can drive to the doorstep of Devil’s Waterhole. On a busy weekend, you might want to arrive early to grab a convenient parking spot, but on a weekday, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a space.
The trail to Devil’s Waterhole is a short but scenic trek along the lakeshore. Cedars and oaks stretch their branches overhead and patches of prickly pear poke through the tall grass along the path. Within 5 minutes, you’ll find yourself at splashdown. Toward the end of the trail, exposed granite dominates the hillside, leading to a much longer trail system that continues around the lake via Devil’s Backbone Nature Trail and Valley Spring Creek Trail.
While Devil’s Waterhole might sound ominous, the story behind the name is relatively ridiculous. According to local lore, an old landowner used to have to cross the creek every once and awhile near the waterhole and his wagon would often get stuck in the treacherous terrain. Cursing and hollering could be heard in the distance while he worked to free the wheels. His foul-mouthed frustrations gave rise to the name Devil’s Waterhole.
Once I arrived, I could see why this is a prime Highland Lakes destination. The shade of the surrounding trees, cool water, and copious amounts of granite high-dives create the right mix of relaxation and exhilaration. Kids were goading each other into backflips while parents relaxed on inner tubes or pop-up chairs, the roles occasionally reversed.
Although plenty of people were enjoying the ambiance, it never felt crowded. Everyone was able to tuck away into their own corner or mingle along the shoreline. This is the sort of ideal setting I think everyone wants when they plan a day trip, whether it's a group of buddies seeking a place to hang or a family camping excursion, Devil’s Waterhole fits the situation.
I spoke with Kristin Kulas, who was visiting with her husband and daughter from the Dallas area. According to Kulas, Devil’s Waterhole appeared in a search for the best swimming holes in Texas, and they chose to spend the weekend camping at Inks Lake State Park.
“So far, it’s great!” she said. “Anywhere the dog can swim.”
Kulas' dog, Nala, was playing in the water nearby, while her husband, Ivan, used a GoPro to film their daughter’s first time in the water.
Sara Sanchez, a local from Burnet, has been coming to Devil’s Waterhole for years. She and her friends and family were enjoying one of many trips to the popular swimming hole.
“It’s amazing out here,” Sanchez said. “We’ve brought the kids out here for years, even when we lived in Houston!"
After chatting and taking in the scenery, there was only one thing left to do: jump.
I swam across the creek and climbed up the slick granite. The reigning high-jump champions and inner-tube quarterbacks gave me pointers as I took my position. The main granite structure offers roughly three tiers of jumps at about 5 feet, 10 feet, and 20 feet. I chose the 10-foot jump, but looking back, I regret not going all the way to the top. (I guess it's an excuse to go back!)
Some of the kids pointed out a bull's-eye in the water to aim for to avoid any subsurface stones, and I leapt in.
After a quick moment of hang time, I plunged beneath the surface and popped up from the depths. The instant splash into cool water fought off the oppressive heat of a Texas summer. I could hear the gang of back-flipping bandits behind me shouting, “He did it in jeans!” My feet never touched the bottom.
Before leaving, I spoke with Nathaniel Nouri, the Inks Lake State Park assistant superintendent. Nouri recently transferred to Inks Lake from Lake Corpus Christi State Park, a move closer to home. He grew up in Comfort in the western Texas Hill Country and often went camping, fishing, and hunting in the Highland Lakes with his family.
Nouri has been taking the leap into Devil’s Waterhole since he was a kid.
“Everybody has something that calls to them,” he said. “This is my kind of paradise.”
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Inks Lake State Park is located at 3630 Park Road 4 in Burnet County. Visit its webpage or call 512-793-2223 for more information.
- No lifeguards are on duty at Inks Lake State Park, so be extra cautious if you plan to swim.
- Wear shoes if you're jumping from the granite — the rock gets hot!
- The park is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. to day visitors.
- Make an online reservation to camp in the park.
- A fishing license is not required in Texas State Parks if you’re casting a line from a pier or a bank.
- The park rents out kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards.
- You can explore 9 miles of hiking trails.