Surrounded by Solitude: Boerne Lake


Photo courtesy of John Hamilton

John Hamilton, Contributing Writer

With the pandemic posing challenges to students and the public alike, we are all looking for an escape hatch out of day-to-day life. Living in such a large city, it can seem daunting to find small pockets of stillness and quiet, away from the screens that have consumed our lives in recent months. A great place to find this is in the parks, lakes and hiking trails scattered around San Antonio and neighboring cities. This weekend, a quick trip down I-10 to Boerne Lake was just what the doctor ordered.

As I-10 West turns from businesses and land development projects into rolling hills, the routine sounds of city life begin to fade away. It’s a reminder that the wild just beyond city limits serves as a source of relaxation, the challenges of the outside world melting into the background. After a half-hour drive on the open highway, a quick check-in at the park entrance and the purchase of a day pass, you’re ready to recharge your batteries.

Walking into Boerne Lake City Park always feels like stepping into a festival. The smell of barbeque on the charcoal grills is swirled around by the winds coming off the lake, blending with the sounds of Tejano music and laughter. Infectious smiles can be seen everywhere as you get closer to the water. The atmosphere is palpably positive with people offering food, dancing along the shore and swimming in the shallow blue waters carpeted by pale rock and clay. Even just this much of the park can easily serve as a regenerative experience, but for those seeking an even deeper detachment from the hustle and bustle, a trip across the water is well worth it.

If you are able to rent a kayak, canoe or paddle board, getting to the opposite shore can be done in less than ten minutes. Once there, festive sounds are replaced with the gentle lapping of water against limestone cliffs. Gas-powered boats are banned at the park, lending to calmer water and better conditions for fishing if you feel so inclined.

Carried by the wind and water, you can make your way into a more secluded area of the park where a beautiful stage is set for wildlife to perform. Watching a blue heron drop from a treetop to glide over the mirrored water seems like an invitation to move deeper into the creek.

As you paddle down the tree line, the gentle crunching of twigs and leaves under the hooves of deer along the banks, the slaps of fish tails on top of the water and the chattering of birds all pull you into a world far removed from reality. A quick scan of the area reveals a family of raccoons, the mother measuring each step as she clambers toward her babies calling to her with soft coos. It’s easy to get caught in the drama of watching her tightrope across the cliff face. The natural springs drip water off the rocks, making tiny ripples in the glassy water. Even fishing takes a backseat to the calming effects of nature as childlike curiosity takes over.  

Lights from houses disappear with each turn; a bright moon reflecting off the water replaces them. A private oasis reveals itself to those who stay the course: a dam set between the overhang of trees, offering underwater ledges to explore. This area has remained mostly untouched, groups of minnows swimming through the upturned silt and stopping for nibbles at your toes.

The night sky illuminates your venture back to solid ground, stars burning brightly alongside the moon. It’s difficult to keep your eyes off the constellations as you float back, the symphony of frogs and cicadas crescendoing in the reeds along the bank. Bats provide an aerial escort, picking off mosquitoes along the way. Nature has a way of making you want to stay, but ultimately, the sounds of music and conversation begin echoing from the banks of the lake.    

Boerne Lake City Park is a great place to recharge and rejuvenate. Even if civilization has disappeared for only a few hours, the anxiety-melting effects can stay for days. The gate opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. Payment is by car ($15 on weekends), so bringing a few friends can cut down the price. There is limited off-trail hiking available, but a hiking trip would be better spent elsewhere. However, there are not too many spots that offer such a variety of activities. The park is pet friendly, has pits constructed for barbecuing and hosts events throughout the year. If you’re looking for a good first outdoor experience or simply trying to cut down your screen time, Boerne City Lake Park is a great place to start.