Take a scenic boat ride with Lake Buchanan Vanishing Texas Cruises and discover one of the Hill Country’s hidden gems — a short drive from Killeen and Fort Hood — that not only offers such sights as cascading waterfalls, towering lakeside cliffs and up-close views of native Texas wildlife, but also the chance to sometimes see nesting bald eagles.

A variety of different cruises are offered at different times throughout the year, and some depend on fluctuating lake levels, but the tours which also include excursions on the Colorado River are probably most famous for providing chances to see the magnificent eagles, national symbol of the good ol’ U.S.A.

Lake Buchanan, second largest of the Highland Lakes chain in Central Texas near Burnet, is 30 miles long and just under five miles across at its widest point. It was formed by the construction of two-mile long Buchanan Dam, considered the longest multiple-arch dam in the country when it was built in 1938.

Burnet is located about 50 miles southwest of Killeen. Head west on Highway 190 to Lampasas, and then south on U.S. 281.

A number of tours are offered, including Sunset Cruises, Eagle Season Cruises, Freedom Flights, Winery Tour and Cruise, Lake Buchanan Cruise and the Scenic Wilderness Cruise, which is the original cruise that began more than 35 years ago — an 18-mile sail across the lake to the mouth of the Colorado River.

Also at the lake, kayaks are available from Vanishing Texas Kayak Livery at Beaver Creek, a protected cove that offers visits to Fall Creek Falls and Garrett Island, with views of such birds as osprey, blue heron, white egret, hawks and ducks occurring on a regular basis.

For more information on cruise dates, times and tickets, visit www.vtrc.com, or call 512-756-6986.

Meanwhile, as the warm weather continues, local attractions for family fun include:

Summer Fun Water Park, 1410 Waco Road in Belton, features multiple water slides, a lazy river, large swimming pool and pavilions for parties. The park is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission prices: Adults, $16; children three to 12 years old, $13; non-swimmers, $7; and seniors, free. The park offers discounted rates for admission after 3 p.m. and Sunday admission is $13 for all ages. Summer Fun also features teen and adult nights throughout the summer. Go to summerfunwaterpark.com for more information.

The Killeen Family Aquatics Center, 1800 E. Stan Schlueter Loop, includes a 10,360 square foot multi-use pool, a lap pool, bathhouse, three water slides, kid’s play area, shaded rest areas and more. Day passes range from $5 to $8 based upon age, with kids 3 years and under always free. The center is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6:30 p.m.

Hancock Springs Free Flow Pool is one of the last free-flowing spring-fed pools in Texas with water staying at a cool 72 degrees no matter how hot it gets outside. The spring is at Hancock Park, Highway 281 South in Lampasas. Adult admission fee is $3.50 per day and seniors and children are $2.50. The pool is open Thursday toSaturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.

Belton Lake Outdoor and Recreation Center, at the intersection of North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, has a number of activities for families to enjoy. Camping sites, picnic pavilions, horseback riding trails, hiking, mountain biking as well as a man-made beach complete with a downhill water slide and more are available. Military patrons pay $3 per car; all others are $10 per vehicle. Visit hood.armymwr.com for more information.

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