Sites Unseen

These Hill Country river cruises explore a vanishing Texas, from ghost towns to bald eagles

These Hill Country river cruises explore a vanishing Texas

Vanishing Texas River Cruises boat Lake Buchanan
Set sail on Lake Buchanan and uncover sites previously unseen. Courtesy photo

Eagle season is in full swing, and a trip around Lake Buchanan in the Hill Country with Vanishing Texas River Cruises offers an opportunity to catch sight of one of these majestic birds in their natural habitat.

Situated a little less than an hour-and-a-half drive west of Austin, the 22,000-acre lake, and surrounding Highland Lakes region, serves as a feeding and breeding ground for migrating bald eagles from mid-November through the end of February. VTRC runs three- and four-hour cruises for eager eagle-spotting adventurers, with the last of the season being offered on February 23.

While it may not necessarily have been the norm, Shawn Devaney, owner and captain of VTRC, fondly recalls a spectacular eagle sighting. “We cruised by Burrows Bluff, and at one time we had 37 eagles flying over the boat,” he says. “It was unbelievable.”

Don’t worry if you can’t make one of their eagle trips. The varied wildlife and the beautiful scenic vistas of the area make their other cruises just as worthwhile. Herons, egrets, cormorants, hawks, vultures, kestrels, ospreys, and owls all frequent the area, a picturesque landscape of waterfalls and cliffs.

Along with their signature Scenic Wilderness cruise, VTRC’s most popular trip is the Freedom Flight, created in partnership with the nonprofit Last Chance Forever Bird of Prey Conservancy. The focus of this educational cruise is to release rehabilitated birds back into the wild, and a portion of each ticket goes toward rehabilitation efforts.

VTRC also has a relaxing sunset cruise where you can enjoy dinner on board, a winery cruise that takes you to Fall Creek Vineyards, and a history cruise centered on visiting the ruins of Bluffton, a ghost town from the 1800s that emerges from underwater during drought.

Over 35 years with VTRC hasn’t diminished Devaney’s enthusiasm for his work. He says getting to take people out and cruise around around is still the “ultimate dream job” and that there has been “plenty of great memories of good times.”

Whether you’re a birder, photographer, or simply someone looking to enjoy the Hill Country on a getaway from the city, joining a VTRC journey is a unique way to take in Texas nature.

And for travelers who’d like to have the boat all to themselves, private charters are available for booking, and VTRC is happy to work with customers to plan outings for weddings, anniversaries, retirement parties, and other special events.