Inks Lake State Park

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Inks Lake State Park is home to ancient geology, and a wide variety of native plants and animals.


View of rock outcrops with water in between.Inks Lake State Park sits on the east edge of the Llano Uplift, the geologic heart of Texas. It has some of the best views of pre-Cambrian (more than 600 million years old) geology in the state.

The pink rock islands jutting up through the limestone in the park are metamorphic rock called Valley Spring gneiss (“nice”). This gneiss is often mistaken for Town Mountain granite since they have similar color and texture. The small amount of granite in the park appears only as veins cutting through the gneiss.

Intense heat and pressure applied to the original rocks over millions of years formed gneiss. The original rocks were sedimentary (formed from sand, silt and mud) and igneous (likely granite). Learn more on geology hikes offered throughout the year. Check the Events page for the next hike!

Gneiss Islands:  The gneiss “islands” support unique microhabitats. Wildflowers, grasses, forbs, mosses, lichens and ferns grow on these rock outcrops. Over hundreds of years, larger rocks are broken down into gravels and soil by the plants that grow in crevices and at the base of the outcrops.


lizard on pink rock Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish are all abundant here. The most common mammals are white-tailed deer, raccoon, squirrel, armadillo, skunk and rabbit. You may occasionally see fox, ringtail and coyote

Common birds include turkey vultures, great blue herons, snowy egrets, mallard and wood ducks, cardinals, flycatchers, swallows, wrens, quail and sparrows. Birds of prey include great horned owls, barred owls, screech owls, red-tailed hawks and ospreys. Migratory birds like Canada geese, hummingbirds and pelicans also frequent the park.

 Visit our bird blind for a good look at some of the park’s birds.

Common reptiles and amphibians include many species of lizards and salamanders as well as red-eared sliders, snapping turtles and soft shell turtles.


Many snakes live in the park; most are nonvenomous. Venomous snakes that live here include western diamondback rattlesnake, western cottonmouth (or water moccasin), and Texas coral snake. However, we rarely see these snakes.

The vast majority of snake sightings are of water snakes, mainly the diamond-backed watersnake (or blotched watersnake). These snakes are non-venomous, but can exhibit nasty behavior and are not afraid to strike. Like a skunk, they expel a very foul smelling musk when bothered.

True water moccasins are most active at night and are rarely seen during the day.

So what should you do if you encounter a snake? Leave it alone! Do not attempt to poke, prod or move the snake. If you see a water snake while swimming, just move away. Most snake bites occur when people go off the trail, stick their hands and feet under ledges or crevices, or try to move, touch or kill snakes.

Find more information on the animals of Inks Lake State Park: 


Wildflowers in front of rock outcrop.Plants in the park range from the typical grasses and trees found in dry, arid regions of the state to the moisture-loving plants found around the lake and along the few streambeds that run through the park. 

Common trees here are Ashe juniper, mesquite, cedar elm, live oak, post oak, Texas persimmon and willow. Large pecan trees tower over the Pecan Flats area.

Native grasses include blue grama, sideoats grama and buffalograss. Many wildflowers bloom in the spring, such as Texas bluebonnets, Indian blankets and Indian paintbrushes.

A wide variety of cacti, from the prickly pear to the tasajillo (pencil cactus), barrel and lace cactus grow here. You will also see yucca and bee brush, especially out on the trails. 

Vernal pools

Vernal pool overlooking lake.Shallow temporary rainwater basins, or vernal pools, form on rock outcrops. The thin layer of sand and organic material on the bottom of the pools sustains aquatic plants. These become dormant when the water dries up in the summer.

Two plants found in these pools grow only in Central Texas:  rock quillwort and Edward’s Plateau cornsalad.

Find more information on the plants of Inks Lake State Park: