Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country

One of the best places to learn about the earliest inhabitants of our area is undoubtedly the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country. Located about halfway between Sattler and Startzville, it features exhibits devoted to the people who lived here in the years before Canyon Lake existed, to the immigrants who settled here in the 19th century, and to the Indians who hunted and gathered here before that.

Right: While the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country is devoted to the legacy of local pioneer and Native American inhabitants, the dinosaur tracks that it preserves are its greatest claim to fame. 

“We have a German heritage, of course, in nearly all of this area, so we have a lot of German pioneer items in a couple of rooms,” said office manager Lelo Beth Cude. The museum also has numerous pieces of antique farm equipment and a room devoted to “a wonderful collection of arrowheads and Native American things that pretty much came from the Comal County area. We also have a before-and-after of Canyon Lake Dam room, with a really nice diorama.”

Left: Replicas of its tracks, T-shirts, and other dinosaur-oriented items are among the things that can be found in the museum’s gift shop. 

Below right: Antiques and artifacts from the settlers and residents of the mid-19th through the mid-20th century in our area are among the things on display at the museum.

The museum is, however, perhaps best known for preserving traces of even earlier residents, those who lived here about 125 million years ago, and is thus often referred to simply as “the Dinosaur Museum.” Two species of Cretaceous-epoch dinosaurs, in fact, walked across what was at that time a muddy coastal plain and left behind tracks that can still be seen to this day at the site.

One sort of footprints was left by a large ancestor of the Tyranosaurus Rex known as Acrocanthosaurus, which might actually have been an even deadlier predator than its more-familiar descendant and would have preyed upon a large herbivore called Iguanadon, the creature that left behind the second type of footprints. A third sort of tracks was left by at least two members of a species of large snail.

These tracks were discovered by the then-owners of the land in 1979, who because of them decided to forego plans to develop the site into an RV park and instead began operating it as an attraction called Dinosaur Flats. More than 350 tracks were ultimately discovered at the site, but many of them were subsequently damaged or destroyed by the elements over the ensuing three decades (one of these tracks can be seen at left).

Preventing that has thus been a big priority for the non-profit organization that has run the museum since 1994, which in 2008 completed a large steel-roofed structure — easily visible on the south side of FM 2673 to anyone driving between Sattler and Startzville — to protect the footprints. (Dinosaur tracks that have been discovered at nearby Canyon Lake Gorge are at the same elevation as those at the museum and might actually be a continuation of the tracks there and left by the very same creatures.)

Below right: One room of the museum is devoted to Native American artifacts and related items. 

One of the things Cude and museum volunteers are currently working on are preparations for the annual Harvestfest, the organization’s main annual fundraiser, which will be held the evening of Wednesday, October 4 (its other big event is Dinosaur Day in April).

Highlights of this event will include entertainment, a BBQ dinner and peach cobbler food prepared by local volunteers, a silent auction of items donated by local businesses, a raffle, and drawings throughout the night. Tickets for the event are $20 each and volunteers will begin selling them within a month or so.

Between 200 and 400 people typically attend the Harvestfest and this year, Cude said, the museum will be pushing for the upper end of that range and is hoping to attract people not just from Canyon Lake but also New Braunfels, Spring Branch, Bulverde, and the surrounding area.

The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country is located at 4831 FM 2673, between Sattler and Startzville. For more information, go to or call (830) 899-4542. 

This still that is on display at the museum was used from the early 1900s through the 1930s to distill whisky at a location on the banks of nearby Cibolo Creek. 

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