Texas Hill Country

Photo of Prickly Pear cactus

The W5KFT Ranch Station is located in the northernmost portion of the Texas Hill Country. The Texas Hill Country is a region of central Texas that features rugged limestone and granite hills covered in tall native grasses, Live Oak trees, scrub juniper (known locally as Mountain Cedar or just Cedar), and Prickly Pear cactus. Geologically, the region is defined by the Balcones Fault on the east and south and the Llano Uplift to the north and west. The Texas Hill Country covers approximately 37,000 km² (14,000 m²), an area that is smaller than Switzerland but larger than Belgium. Both the Guadalupe River and the Colorado River are dammed in the Texas Hill Country, creating reservoirs that provide irrigation, drinking water, hydroelectric power, and recreational opportunities for the region. Major industries include ranching and tourism. The Texas Hill Country is also the center of the Texas wine industry.

The cities of Austin and San Antonio are both located within two hours' driving time from the W5KFT Ranch Station. Both cities were founded at locations where rivers pour out of the Texas Hill Country into the coastal plain. Upstream from these locations, the rivers were not as easily navigable. The western suburbs of Austin and the northern suburbs of San Antonio extend into the Texas Hill Country. The nearest major towns to the W5KFT Ranch Station are Burnet (pop. 4,500) 22 km (14 m) to the east and Llano (pop. 3,500) 24 km (15 m) to the west. The population living in the immediate vicinity of Lake Buchanan and Buchanan Dam is approximately 1,800.

Soil electrical conductivity in the Texas Hill Country is poor. There is only a thin layer of topsoil over limestone and granite rock. Vertical antennas that require good earth grounds will perform relatively poorly in the Texas Hill Country. The W5KFT Ranch Station mostly relies upon horizontally-polarized antennas on all the bands, including the transmit antennas on the low bands. The sloping dipoles on 80 meters have some vertical polarization. The station uses full-size Beverages for low band receive, which seem to work well with the poor earth ground.