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AUSTIN
INFORMATION
Indian Paintbrushes
Scout on top of Mount Bonnell
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Bats at sunset, congress ave bridge
Floating at Barton Springs Pool
Enjoy Austins live music
I love this town!  Austin is a small, big city with very friendly people, and a never ending supply of fun things to do.  Every weekend it seems that there is another festival or must see show on the schedule.  An outdoor lovers paradise, Austin has beautiful parks, canyons and trails right in the city, with nearly year round warm weather to match.  It gets cold, but never stays cold more than a few days, and every December, January and February there are many 70 degree + days.  Spring comes early, with the 1st wildflowers showing up in February.  Don't move to Austin if you like it cold!

Austin is the capital of the state of Texas.  As of the 2010 Census,  the metro area population was over 1.7 million people.  Austin is the county seat of Travis County and is situated in South Central Texas. Austin was founded in 1835 and was first named Waterloo. In 1838, Mirabeau B. Lamar renamed the city in honor of Stephen F. Austin. Its original name is honored by local business establishments such as Waterloo Ice House and Waterloo Records.

Austin is heavily influenced by the many college students at the multiple universities in the area.  Austin is the home of the University of Texas at Austin, aka "UT," the flagship campus of The University of Texas System. Other institutions of higher learning include Austin Community College, Concordia University, Huston-Tillotson College and St. Edward's University.  Texas State University is also close by in San Marcos.  Between all of the local Universities, there are over 100,000 college students in the Austin Metro area.

Austin is the "live music capital of the world," with a vibrant live music scene revolving around many nightclubs on Red River, 6th Street and the Warehouse District.  There is a yearly film/music/multimedia festival known as "South by Southwest" with more than 1000 bands on the schedule.   Austin City Limits, the longest-running concert music program on American television, is moving from the University of Texas campus to downtown at the new W Hotel and Residences.  There is also the Austin Limits Music festival every summer at Zilker Park that has had attendance of 200,000 music loving souls over 3 days.  See pictures on the Austin Cool Resources page.

Austin's biggest employers include the State of Texas, the University of Texas, Dell, IBM, and Apple. Other high-tech companies in Austin include 3M, Applied Materials, Advanced Micro Devices, Cirrus Logic, Intel, Samsung and National Instruments. The proliferation of technology companies has led to the region's nickname, "the Silicon Hills," and spurred rapid development in the 80's and 90's.   A lot of the generic suburbia growth has occurred in north Austin and the northern suburbs (Round Rock, Pflugerville, Cedar Park), leaving some central city neighborhoods such as Barton Hills almost unchanged and unspoiled by the growth.  South Austin rules!

The University of Texas has an outstanding Radio,Television, and Film (RTF) department and, partly because of this, Austin has been the location of a growing number of movies and TV shows.   Most recently, the remake of True Grit was filmed in the Austin area.  Austin is home to several well-known directors, including Robert Rodriguez & Richard Linklater. Austin hosts the annual Austin Film Festival, as well as the South by Southwest Film Festival, which draw films of many different types from all over the world.

Austin is situated on the Colorado River, with three lakes within the city limits:
Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake), Lake Austin, and Lake Walter E. Long. Additionally, the foot of Lake Travis, including Mansfield Dam, is located within the city's limits. Town Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Travis are all on the Colorado River. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a canyon that Barton Creek flows through from the southwest right into the city where in ends in Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool.  It is possible to kayak Barton Creek when the water is up with class 2 and 3 rapids.  The last mile or so kayaking of the creek, you can start to see the towers of downtown high-rises emerging over the trees in the seemingly wilderness.    Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park is a large natural spring fed swimming pool with a constant year round temperature of around 70 degrees.  (They used to say 68 degrees, but now have decided 70)

The city is also situated on the Balcones Fault, which, in much of Austin, runs roughly the same route as the MoPac expressway. The eastern part of the city is flat, whereas the western part and western suburbs consist of scenic rolling hills on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. Because the hills to the west are primarily limestone rock with a thin covering of topsoil, the city is subjected to possible flash flooding from heavy rain events like tropical storms. To help control flooding and to generate hydroelectric power, the Lower Colorado River Authority operates a series of dams that form the Texas Highland Lakes. The lakes also provide venues for boating, swimming, and other forms of recreation within several parks located on the lake shores.

At night, Austin is lit with "artificial moonlight." Several Moonlight Towers, built in the late 19th century and recognized as historical landmarks, illuminate the central part of the city. The towers were prominently featured in the film Dazed and Confused.
The Zilker Tree is a Christmas tree made of large lights strung from the top of a moon tower. It stands all year in Zilker Park and is lit in December along with the Trail of Lights.

The Congress Avenue Bridge houses the world's largest urban bat population. In the summer, the colony has up to 1.5 million Free-tailed Bats.  In the winter, most of the bats migrate to Mexico.  Some can't get enough of Austin and never leave though.  See picture on Austin Cool Resources page.
Government

Austin is administered by a city council of seven members, each of them elected by the entire city, and by an elected mayor. Council and mayoral elections are non-partisan, with a runoff in case there is no 50% majority winner. The main political actors within Austin are interest groups such as the pro-environmental Save Our Springs Alliance or the Austin Police Association .

The political controversy that dominated the 1990's was the conflict between environmentalists, strong in the city center, and advocates of urban growth, who tend to live in the outlying areas. The city council has in the past tried to mitigate the controversy by advocating smart growth, but growth and environmental protection are still the main hot-button issues in city politics.


History

Before the arrival of European settlers, the area around present-day Austin was inhabited for several hundred years by a mixture of Tonkawa, Comanche, and Lipan Apache Indians, who fished and hunted along the creeks, including present-day Barton Springs.

In the late 1700s the Spanish set up temporary missions in the area, later moving to San Antonio.

The first Anglo settlers arrived in the area in the 1830's when Texas was still part of Mexico. They founded the village of Waterloo along the banks of the Colorado River. According to local folklore, Stephen F. Austin, the "father of Texas", negotiated a peace treaty with the local Indians at the site of the present day Treaty Oak after several settlers were killed in raids.

In 1839, Waterloo was chosen to become the capital of the new Republic of Texas, and the town was renamed Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin.

A grid plan for the city streets was surveyed by Judge Edwin Waller (after whom Waller Creek was named). The grid survives nearly intact as the streets of present-day downtown Austin. The north-south streets of the grid were named for the rivers of Texas, following an east-west progression from Red River Street to Rio Grande Street. The exception was the central thoroughfare Congress Avenue, which leads from the far south side of town over the river to the foot of the hill where the new Texas State Capitol was to be constructed.

The east-west streets of the grid followed a progression uphill from the river and were named after trees native to the region, with Pecan Street as the main east-west thoroughfare. The east-west streets were later renamed in a numbered progression, with Pecan Street becoming Sixth Street. The original tree-named streets survive in nostalgic names, including Pecan Street, which is the name of a locally-produced beer.

In October 1839, the entire government of the Republic of Texas arrived by oxcart from Houston. By the next January, the population of the town was 839 people.

After Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845, two statewide elections were held that attempted to move the capital elsewhere, but Austin remained the capital.

In September 1881, the city schools admitted their first classes. That same year, the first institution of higher learning, the forerunner of Huston-Tillotson College, opened as the Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute.

The Texas State Capitol was completed in 1888 on the site specified in the 1839 plan. At thetime it was billed as the "Seventh largest building in the world."

In 1893, the Great Granite Dam on the Colorado River was constructed, stabilizing the river's flow and providing hydroelectric power.

In the 1930s' the original dam was replaced by a series of seven dams built by the federal government which created the string of reservoirs that now define the river's course through Austin. Lyndon Baines Johnson, then a member of the House of Representatives, was instrumental in getting the funding authorized for these dams.

In the 1970's Austin became a refuge for a group of Country and Western musicians and songwriters seeking to escape the corporate industry domination of Nashville. The best-known artist in this group was Willie Nelson, who became an icon for the local "alternate music industry." In the following years, Austin gained a reputation as a place where struggling musicians could come and launch their careers in informal live venues in front of receptive audiences.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the city experienced a tremendous boom in development that temporarily halted with the Savings and Loan collapse in the late 1980's. The growth led to an ongoing series of fierce political battles that pitted preservationists against developers. In particular the preservation of Barton Springs, and by extension the Edwards Aquifer, became an issue which defined the themes of the larger battles.

In the 1990's, the boom resumed with the influx and growth of a large technology industry. Initially the technology industry was centered around larger established companies such as IBM, but in the late 1990's, Austin gained the additional reputation of being a center of the Dot-com boom.

In 2000, Austin became the center of an intense media focus as the headquarters of presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush. Ironically the headquarters of his main opponent, Al Gore, were in Nashville, thus recreating the old Country Music rivalry between the two cities.

Famous Austin residents include cyclist Lance Armstrong, businessman Michael Dell, tennis player Andy Roddick, actors Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey, and directors Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez. Former residents include Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush.