Outdoor addition

New whirlpool ‘patio’ swirls onto popular South Austin hiking trail

New whirlpool ‘patio’ swirls onto popular South Austin hiking trail

Violet Crown Trail Whirlpool Patio
The new Whirlpool Patio space provides a welcome resting spot after crawling through Whirlpool Cave. City of Austin

Hanging out on the patio takes on an entirely different meaning at the new Whirlpool Patio outside Southwest Austin’s Whirlpool Cave.

The patio, installed by the Austin Urban Trails Program and the Hill Country Conservancy, serves as both a gathering place and an outdoor classroom. Every year, hundreds of students crawl through the cave during field trips.

The Whirlpool Patio design features a hardscape spiral design that gives a nod to the nearby Whirlpool Cave. Limestone and grout form contrasting colors in the spiral, and boulders surround the spiral to create a place for visitors to sit and enjoy the space. The patio and cave, situated along the Violet Crown Trail, are near the confluence of MoPac Expressway, Convict Hill Road, and Latta Drive.

Texas Cave Management Association oversees the Whirlpool Cave, one of 62 caves protected under the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. Nico Hauwert, a geoscientist and program manager for the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, has been leading field trips to the Whirlpool Cave for more than 30 years.

“The Whirlpool Cave is challenging and can be really scary for young kids who have never been underground,” Hauwert says in a March 19 release. “So it’s important that students know what to expect before we enter the cave. The Whirlpool Patio will help students feel more comfortable and excited about the adventure to come.”

Texas Cave Management Association says the Whirlpool Cave contains the largest room of any cave in Travis County.

“This is a crawly cave. You will be on your hands and knees most of the way, and on your elbows and stomach part of the way. You will get dusty, sweaty, dirty, and love it!” the association says.

Once completed, the Violet Crown Trail will be a 30-mile nature trail connecting Zilker Park to Hays County; it’ll be the first regional trail system in Central Texas. The Austin Urban Trails Program and Hill Country Conservancy are building portions of the trail through urban areas for use by cyclists, walkers, and runners.