Blunn Creek Preserve
On a landscape formed by an active volcano millions of years ago, Blunn Creek Preserve is located north of St. Edward’s Drive. The creek runs through the 38-acre preserve near St. Edward’s University campus as it travels about 1.5 miles through Travis Heights and into Lady Bird Lake. The communities that have surrounded Blunn Creek have done a lot to maintain the waterway as a site for recreation and nature. Blunn Creek became a preserve in 1972, and till this day struggles to maintain its ecosystem.
Backstory and Context
Over 8 million years ago, an active volcano occupied the place we now call Austin, Texas. The volcano had multiple eruptions which created Blunn Creek. Because of all the volcanic silt, most of the soil at Blunn Creek Preserve are silty clays or clay loams over weathered chalk or limestone, making Blunn Creek very susceptible to erosion.
On October 4th of 1879, Austinite Joseph Blunn was driving home in his horse and buggy when he was caught in a flash flood. Joseph Blunn and his horse drowned in the creek due to the extreme weather conditions. Ever since then the creek was known as Blunn Creek, and still the name sticks.
In the 1930s, William Henry Stacy set aside the lower part of Blunn Creek, running from Big Stacy to Little Stacy Parks, from development. In 1952, a developer named Lynn Storm purchased the the upper part of Blunn Creek, intending to build condominiums. In 1972 Jean Mathers and the Travis Heights Neighborhood Organization (now known as the South River City Citizens) banded together in order protect the creek from construction that could pollute the land. The group of citizens persuaded the city to buy the land back and turn it into a recognized preserve.
In September of 1982, voters approved a bond proposal called Proposition 14 that gave $1.8 million to be used to preserve and maintain Blunn Creek. 27,138 people voted for the bond and 10,622 people voted against it. It was a record-breaking turnout for voters in the city.
In 1995 the Texas Department of Transportation installed a sewage pipe that catches runoff from Ben White/US 290 at Congress. The pipe’s runoff flows into Blunn Creek and East Bouldin Creek. A study conducted in 2018 concluded that the water at Blunn Creek is unsafe due to large amounts of fecal bacteria.5 The runoff is believed to be the cause of the bacteria in the water. This is one of the many issues that Blunn Creek faces today.
Measures still need to be taken to prevent further polluting the water. An example is a spill that occurred in 2015 where an estimate of
10-50 gallons of petroleum material spilled just 100 yards away from
Blunn Creek.1 If petroleum material had gotten into the water there would’ve
been a serious threat to the aquatic life that resides in the creek.
Luckily measures were taken to protect the creek but it wasn’t the first
spill nor the last to threaten the ecosystem of Blunn Creek.
Another one of the issues Blunn Creek faces in the present, besides the pollution in the water, is the massive amount of the invasive plant species, ligustrum in the preserve. Volunteers and groups such as South River City Citizens, Blunn Creek Partnership group, and Austin Parks Foundation, help remove the ligustrum from the creekbed and plant native grass and wildflower seeds.
Blunn Creek Preserve has many trails great for hiking. It is a very beautiful site, and the trails are well maintained, though they are too steep and bumpy for strollers or wheelchairs. If you do choose to walk at this preserve be sure to leave your dogs at home. In 2013 Texas Wildlife Preservers started setting up coyote traps in Blunn Creek due to coyotes becoming more “outgoing” towards people and their pets because of the animal's lack of resources and the heat. 6 It is encouraged to avoid these trails at night and keep the animals home.
1. Price, Asher. "Austin seeks oil spill source." Austin American-Statesman (TX). Published May 23, 2015. Nexis Uni. https://advance.lexis.com/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:5G33-T9H1-DY7P-S2YP-00000-00&context=1516831
2. Barnes, Michael. "BLOG: Out About: Untold Austin Stories: Blunn Creek Preserve." . Published July 10, 2012. Nexis Uni. https://advance.lexis.com/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:564M-CBB1-F03R-N1TV-00000-00&context=1516831
3. Barnes, Michael. "Blunn Creek Preserve offers serenity." Austin American-Statesman (TX). Published July 15, 2012. Lexis Nexis.
4. Blunn Creek Restoration Project. Landmark Wildlife Management. . . http://www.landmarkwildlife.com/blunn-creek-restoration-project/.
5. Mary, Huber. "Fecal material in creeks, group says Austin American-Statesman." Austin American-Statesman. Published August 31, 2018. Lexis Nexis.
6. Barragan, James. "Tensions over coyote trapping split Austin neighborhood." Austin American-Statesman (TX). Published August 10, 2013. EBSCO Host. https://login.ezproxy.stedwards.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tih&AN=2W63111684405&site=ehost-live&scope=site
7. The Creek, the Watershed, and the Partnership. Blunn Creek Partnership. . . http://blunncreekpartnership.ning.com.
8. Brinsmade, Louisa. "TxDOT Hopes for the Best." The Austin Chronicle. Published 1995. https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/1995-07-14/533766
9. 2013. . http://www.austintexas.gov/blog/blunn-creek.10. Blunn Creek Wilderness Foundation archives folder from the Munday Library at St. Edward's University