Make a Splash at Tonkawa Falls

A 30-minute drive from Waco, Tonkawa Falls offers locals and tourists relief from the Texas summer heat with a waterfall and swimming areas for visitor to enjoy. Photo courtesy of Julia Castillo

By Adrienne Redman | Contributor

Students needing a break from the Waco sun this summer may find Tonkawa Falls, located in Crawford, a great spot to cool off.

York, Pa. senior Magdalayna Drivas has been going to Tonkawa Falls since her freshman year. Drivas said she saw a picture of the swimming hole on Instagram and thought it “looked like a fun spot.” Not having her own car, Drivas convinced her friends to take a day trip. She said she ever expected to find a hidden oasis just 30 minutes from campus.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting it to look like [the picture],” Drivas said. “But it’s actually really pretty.”

According to the Waco History website, Tonkawa Falls gets its name from the Tonkawa Indians who lived in the area for centuries. However, increasing numbers of settlers eventually drove the Tonkawa off of the land and forced them to relocate to reservations in Oklahoma where their descendants still live today.

Today, Tonkawa Falls is a popular swimming hole with large waterfalls and cliffs. Austin Senior Eliana Rodriguez said that she’s seen visitors jump from the cliffs into the water.

“I’m afraid of heights,” Rodriguez said. “So I’ve never done it, but my friends do it every time we go.”

For students like Rodriguez, there are plenty of other things to do at Tonkawa: climbing the waterfall, taking a dip in the water that flows from the falls to the Bosque River or just lying in the sun. Visitors can have lunch under one of the pavilions, and then take the stairs down to the swimming area. Rodriguez suggests binging a blanket to sit on while hanging out by the water.

Four-legged friends are also allowed in the park, but food and drinks are not allowed near the swimming hole, Rodriguez said. For visitors wanting to pack lunch, there are picnic areas above the falls.

According to Rodriguez, future visitors may want to call ahead before making the drive to Crawford. Late last summer, Rodriguez and her friends drove out to Tonkawa, but once they arrived the water levels at the falls were “too low for swimming.”

“They posted signs that the park was closed,” Rodriguez said. “We were so disappointed because school was about to start.”

The Tonkawa Falls Facebook page posts updates for the park, including information about water levels. According to the page, the best time to visit the park is early summer, just after the rainy season. Another way to check if the park is open ahead of time is by calling Crawford Chamber of Commerce.

The park also offers a campground for RV’s and tents, starting at $10/night per tent, according to the Facebook page.

For students looking for adventure, relaxation or just a break from summer classes, Tonkawa Falls is a great option just outside of Waco.

“It’s really been one of my favorite memories from Baylor,” Drivas said.