Lake Austin History: Mount Bonnell

April 17, 2012by Brian Talley

Mount Bonnell sunsetIn the heart of Travis County, a limestone lookout point towers lakeside over beautiful West Austin. Known to lovers for its shady paths and starlit vistas, and to photographers for its breathtaking sunset panoramas, Mount Bonnell is a favorite hangout for locals and tourists alike. Mount Bonnell homes also boast some of Austin’s best views.

The mountain, which rises 775 feet above sea level, was named for George W. Bonnell. According to the Texas Historical Commission, Bonnell came to Texas in 1836 to fight for Texas Independence and was commissioner of Indian Affairs under then-president Sam Houston.

When Bonnell moved to Austin in 1839, he published the “Texas Sentinel.” He joined the Sante Fe expedition in 1841 where he was captured. He was released in time to join the Mier expedition in 1842 but was killed in camp on the Rio Grande on December 26th.

Mount Bonnell lore also includes frontiersman W.A. “Bigfoot” Wallace, who killed an Indian he met “face to face while crossing the narrow ledge 50 feet above the river” in 1839. Wallace had taken refuge in a Mount Bonnell cave to recover from the flu, and was missing so long that his sweetheart eloped!

In the mid-1800s, Mormons built a mill at the base of Mt. Bonnell. Fate had it that the mill was destroyed by flood, and the Mormons moved west.

In the 1850s and 60s, the lookout became a popular site for picnics and outings, just as it is today. Legend has it that an excursion to Mount Bonnell inspired the popular song “Wait for the Wagon and We’ll All Take a Ride.” (see below for lyrics, compliments of!)

Texas Historical CommissionIn 1898, Miss Hazel Keyes performed a perilous stunt by sliding down a cable stretching from the top of Mount Bonnell to the south bank of Lake McDonald, now known as Lake Austin.

To preview Mount Bonnell homes, take Mopac to 35th street. Head west until the stoplight at Balcones Drive, then turn turn right. From Balcones, take your second left on Mt. Bonnell Drive. When it T’s into Mt. Bonnell Road, turn left again. The park entrance will appear on your right!

The Austin REALTORS® at Regent Property Group believe beautiful historical landmarks like Mount Bonnell are part of what makes Austin, Texas such a great place to live. If you’re on the lookout for Austin home for sale, check out Island at Mount Bonnell Shores and Mount Bonnell Terrace. We help home-buyers stay on top of the latest in Lake Austin real estate trends.


By R. Bishop Buckley

Will you come with me, my Phyllis dear, to yon blue mountain free?
Where the blossoms smell the sweetest, come rove along with me.
It's every Sunday morning, when I am by your side,
We'll jump into the wagon and all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon, wait for the wagon,
Wait for the wagon, and we'll all take a ride.
Where the river runs like silver and the birds they sing so sweet,
I have a cabin, Phyllis, and something good to eat;
Come listen to my story, it will relieve my heart;
So jump into the wagon, and off we will start.
Do you believe, my Phyllis, dear, old Mike, with all his wealth,
Can make you half so happy as I, with youth and health?
We'll have a little farm, a horse, a pig and cow;
And you will mind the dairy, while I do guide the plough.
Your lips are red as poppies, your hair so slick and neat,
All braided up with dahlias, and hollyhocks so sweet.
It's ev'ry sunday morning, when I am by your side,
We'll jump into the wagon, and all take a ride.
Together, on life's journey, we'll travel till we stop,
And if we have no trouble, we'll reach the happy top;
Then come with me, sweet Phyllis, my dear, my lovely bride,
We'll jump into the wagon, and all take a ride.