Thursday, July 16, 2015

South Llano River State Park, June 2015

Donna and I have been visiting South Llano River State Park since shortly after it opened in 1990. In those days, we lived in Ozona, less than 2 hours to the west, and we had a small folding trailer (pop-up). Our daughter was still young, and we spent many weekends and holidays enjoying this beautiful park. In the early days, the park was quiet and peaceful, and we practically had the place to ourselves. A lot has changed since then.

Headquarters for the park is in the old Walter Buck ranch house. Note the inner tubes on the porch, which visitors can rent.
Today, South Llano River SP is one of the more popular parks in the state park system. The clear waters of the spring fed South Llano River draw visitors who enjoy swimming, tubing, and kayaking/canoeing. You can probably get some peace and quiet during weekdays during cooler weather, but the park's wildlife also attracts large numbers of bird watchers and other animal lovers. There are numerous bird and animal blinds located throughout the park. The park is noted as a roosting area for the Rio Grande turkey, who are drawn by the pecan trees in the bottom area along the river.

One of the many bird blinds scattered throughout the park. This one, named "Lora's Blind", is located just off the main park road approaching the headquarters.

View from inside Lora's Blind. Can you see the squirrel in the right side of the photo?

In addition to river activities, the park also has 18 miles of hiking trails, mostly in the southern part of the park. Fishing is also available in the river as well as in Buck Lake, an oxbow lake just north of the campground.

Our last visit to this park was in March 2013, just before we moved into our current home. You can view my entries for that visiting by clicking the links below:
I'll try not to repeat information presented in my earlier entries.

We encountered this rascal during an early morning walk. We steered way clear of Pepe.

The park has a camping loop consisting of 58 campsites, all with water and electricity (30 amp only). There is a dump station just to the west of the campground. Additional camping is available in 6 walk-in sites and 5 primitive camping sites. Most campsites in the loop are well shaded, and all are paved. The pads of some are a bit short, and the park does monitor parking, so be sure you don't park on the grass. Many campsites have a covered picnic table.

As with Lost Maples, we were unable to pick up any television stations using our antennae. We were able to pick up a radio station or two, though. Junction is simply a long way from any population center.

We were there during the peak of the summer, and the park was basically full, even though our stay was during the middle of the week (Monday - Thursday, June 29 - July 2). Most campsites were occupied by some sort of self-contained trailer or motor home, although there were a few tents, folding campers, and other vehicles.

During the summer, most people come to the park to play. It looks as though many of the occupants come for a full vacation, as they bring all sorts of gear. We saw large patio grills, various furniture, even a stand-up full-size water dispenser. One site had no fewer than 15 chairs. Often 2 or 3 neighboring sites are occupied by friends and family. During the heat of the day, there is a constant flow of traffic, usually pickups loaded with people and water flotation devices, heading for the river. Since the camping loop is one-way, we were able to watch all the traffic from our campsite as it either came or went. As the afternoon wore away and evening approached, people returned to camp where the grilling and other play activities began.

This is the downstream side of the low-water crossing of the South Llano River just inside the park entrance. In the old days, we would get on the upstream side and body surf under the bridge. The large rocks have been moved in since then, perhaps to prevent that.
Upstream from the low-water crossing.

Downstream from the low-water crossing.

Farther downstream, you can see where the highway is cut through the hills.

We saw very little wildlife on our visit this time. We've always seen plenty of deer and turkey before, but not this trip. We did glimpse a few deer during one early morning walk, but none came into the campground as they have before. And I don't believe we saw a single turkey. We've always seen some exotic species on  private land just inside the low-water crossing, but on this trip we only saw a couple from a far distance. It may be the time of year or it may be the large numbers of humans that are keeping them away.

Day use area.

Park road through the pecan grove near the river. This is what attracts the turkeys.
We probably won't be returning to South Llano River SP, at least not during the summer. It's not the same park where we had so much fun in the 1990s. The hordes of visitors the park receives have certainly changed it from the place we fondly remember.

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