Market Driven Conservation

In their common missions to protect the water quality and quantity of Onion Creek and Edwards Aquifer, the City of Austin and Hill Country Conservancy announced a unique public/private partnership in 2002 with the purchase of 177 acres on the north side of Onion Creek. The purchase adds to the more than 15,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land the City of Austin has already acquired.

The Orr Tract

Onion Creek

Onion Creek

Landowners John and Janie Orr chose to sell the property for conservation rather than development. They also own 322 acres south of Onion Creek, where they operate the Inn Above Onion Creek. The Inn’s proximity to almost 2,000 acres of preserve land has assured that guests will always enjoy incredible views of the Hill Country. The Orr’s sound business decision is an excellent example of how land conservation makes economic sense and benefits the community as well.

The Orr tract is known for an extraordinary aquifer recharge feature within the channel of Onion Creek. Cripple Crawfish Cave is one of the few karst features in the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer known to whirlpool water due to its incredible capacity for enhancing recharge. Ground water tracing indicates that recharged water from this area can reach Barton Springs in as little as 22 days.

HCC and the City of Austin will co-manage the property, which is adjacent to the City-owned portion of 1,740-acre Rutherford Ranch. The Rutherford Ranch, also known as the Onion Creek Natural Area, is currently the largest tract of publicly-owned water quality protection land in Hays County.