Friends of McKinney Falls State Park

Become a member of Friends of McKinney Falls today! Click here to Sign Up as a TPWD volunteer!

To become a member of the Friends group please sign up as a Texas Parks and Wildlife Volunteer by clicking the link above. This will give you access to volunteering in a State Park!

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

We work shoulder to shoulder with Park Staff to decide what projects have the highest priorities as well as how best to achieve those goals. The variety of projects are as diverse as the wildflowers in springtime. Ideas are filtered through committee heads and are presented and discussed at general meetings which happen monthly. Some opportunities are showcased below.

Interpretive Volunteer, Sean, during a Native American hike for the public in the Rock Shelter.

Interpretive Volunteer, Sean, during a Native American hike for the public in the Rock Shelter.


According to the Austin ISD website: "Austin ISD is the fifth-largest school district in Texas and serves approximately 83,000 students at 130 schools representing 94 languages...60 percent of our students are Hispanic, 26% are white (not of Hispanic origin), 8% are black (not of Hispanic origin), and 3% are Asian/Pacific Islander. More than 52% [of those] students come from low-income families, and 25% enter our schools as English Language Learners." At the park, we see over 300,000 people annually from all over the world. Many of these groups consist of scout groups, religious groups, families, and college students not included in the data above.

There is only one paid staff member at McKinney Falls State Park, the Interpreter and Volunteer Coordinator, that has the enormous job of providing educational interpretive programs for the public. As volunteers, we can help spread the load by spreading our knowledge and passion about the park to people that come and visit, no matter where they're coming from.

Don't have educational experience? No problem - we'll mentor you. Don't know anything about the park or Texas history? No problem - we'll share our knowledge with you.

Why are programs important? As Freeman Tilden (the father of Interpretation) quoted in his book Interpreting Our Heritage: "Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection." As Austin grows larger, our natural spaces grow smaller and the exposure to wild places happens less and less. We need talented, enthusiastic people just like you to lead people of all ages on adventures in the park. For more information about why people, especially children, need exposure to wild places, please check out the Research Library of the Children and Nature Network. Or, ask the Interpreter/Volunteer Coordinator at the park anytime.

Upper Falls Parking Lot Near the Smith Visitor Center, Halloween Flood 2013

Upper Falls Parking Lot Near the Smith Visitor Center, Halloween Flood 2013

Disaster Response & Fundraising

On Halloween of 2013, Onion Creek rose 41' and flowed at 120,000 cubic feet per second - nearly twice the force of Niagara Falls. The Smith Visitor Center was suddenly had five feet of flood water inside. The flash flood damaged or destroyed 1,200 homes along the river and claimed the lives of four people. Flooding occurred again in 2015.

Onion Creek has had historic floods throughout the memory of the people that have lived on its banks. This includes the namesake of the park, Thomas and Anna McKinney, who decided to move to this very spot in the 1850s to breed racehorses as well as build a gristmill to process flour. After the mill was built, it was in operation for only five years before the flood of 1869 swept it downstream. Onion Creek rose approximately 34' that year. You can see evidence of the force of that water today at Lower Falls - search for the re-bar in the limestone at a 90 degree angle. 

We know that it's not a matter of if the park will flood again, but when, and when it does, we'll be ready to help. From clearing debris, to finding picnic tables, the more hands the better. One of the best ways we can help other than with our hands is with our wallets. Funds raised for Friends of McKinney Falls State Park will go directly back to supporting the park in whatever way they need it most. Some fundraising ideas we are working on right now include:

  • Selling ice at the park Headquarters

  • Selling firewood at the park Headquarters

  • Eventually staffing a Friends Group Sundry Store at the Smith Visitor Center (when it re-opens)

Current opportunities include but are not limited to:

  • Interpretive Program Assistance

  • Trail Maintenance and Landscaping

  • Special Event Planning/Coordination

  • Webmaster and Social Media Management

  • Recruitment and Fundraising

  • Community Outreach