Trip Date 09/11/2017
Posted On 09/20/2018 17:29:08
Camping | Hiking | Texas | Junction | Review of RV Camping at South Llano River State Park | Texas State Parks Pass | Activities on South Llano River
Almost two months after purchasing "RV There Yet?", we finally left on what I call our first "real" adventure (not a trip scheduled around a visit with family). Our plan was to be away from home for about two weeks - visiting the first of (hopefully) many national parks in the comfort of our home away from home. Our one night stay at South Llano River State Park gave us the opportunity to split what would have been a long day driving into two shorter days. The park is uniquely positioned near I-10, so it was perfect for our westbound journey.
Texas State Parks PassWe made a reservation online and prepaid the $20.00 fee for one night of camping. Upon checking in at the park headquarters, we still had to either pay the $5.00 per person daily use fee or purchase the $70.00 Texas State Parks Pass. We had done some research on the pass before our arrival and determined that by visiting Texas state parks for seven more days over the next year, we would more than pay for our pass. Plus, upon finalizing our purchase, we learned that we can also take advantage of 50% off of the second night's camping fee up to four times during the year.
Campground Amenities at South Llano River State ParkIn addition to some primitive and water only campsites, South Llano River State Park has 58 reservable campsites which accommodate RVs with water and 30-amp electric service. The entire campground was very clean, including the restroom and shower facilities. The employee at the Park Headquarters was very knowledgeable, and there was an on-site Volunteer Park Host for any after hours needs. The park has centrally located dumpsters and a central dump station located near the entrance/exit to the camping loop.
South Llano River State Park offers a variety of recreational activities including water activities in the South Llano River which borders one edge of the park. Visitors to the park have the opportunity to fish, float, paddle or swim in the river. (Canoes, kayaks, fishing equipment and tubes are all available for rental to anyone who doesn't have their own.) For those preferring to stay on land, there are a number of biking and hiking trails. Birds and wildlife may be spotted on the trails or around the park, and in the evening there are great opportunities to gaze at the stars overhead.
Campsite Amenities at South Llano River State ParkImmediately upon checking in at just after 3:00 PM, we found campsite 45 with the help of the South Llano River State Park Map. (Although reservations can be made in advance, all campsites are assigned/selected at initial in-person check-in. We were advised that if desired, we could switch to another available site - we just needed to return to the park headquarters for updated paperwork.) We weren't too picky for our one night stay as we didn't even disconnect our tow vehicle since we planned to explore the park on foot, eat dinner and relax before bedtime.
Campsites were clean and have easy back-in parking on flat paved parking sites. Although the trees surrounding our site provided evening shade, we had very limited options for hanging our hammocks due to the spacing between trees. In addition to covered picnic tables on concrete bases, each site has a grated fire ring and a double-sided lantern hook. As far as electronics, we had good phone service but very limited data service on Sprint, and could not get any broadcast television reception.
Favorite Campsites at South Llano River State ParkWe took our traditional walk around the entire campsite loop in search of our favorite sites in case we find ourselves here on a future trip. Overall, we preferred the sites on the backside of the loop (i.e. slightly closer to the river):
- Site 25 is well shaded and has easy back-in access;
- Although a little shorter, Sites 27 and 37 are well shaded;
- Sites 29, 33 and 35 are well shaded;
- Sites 43 and 46 are wider sites which are long and well shaded;
- Site 45 (our site) has good evening shade, however there are limited spots to hang hammocks due to the tree spacing; and
- Site 50 has good hammock trees, however they are on the side opposite an RV entry door.
Hiking at South Llano River State ParkAfter a short break and review of the South Llano River State Park Trails Map, we locked up "RV There Yet?" and set out on foot to explore. The park has 18+ miles of hiking / mountain biking trails ranging from less than 1/2 mile to over 2 1/2 miles including:
- Day Use Trail (0.4 miles / 25 minutes / easy)
- Overlook Trail (0.21 miles / 45 minutes / moderate - short but steep)
- River Trail (1.23 miles / 1 hour / easy)
- Buck Lake Trail (1.5 miles / 1 hour / easy)
- Golden-Cheeked Warbler Trail (1.52 miles / 1.5 hours / moderate)
- West Canyon Loop Trail (2.4 miles / 1.5 hours / moderate)
- Fawn Trail (2.7 miles / 1.5 hours / moderate)
We walked on the Turkey Roost Trail alongside the road leading from the campsite area back toward the park entrance, as I was on a mission to see the animals on the private property near the entrance. We made a brief stop at the Log Barn built in the late 1800s to store equipment and crops, and later used to shear sheep and goats in order to sell their wool and mohair.
Our next stop allowed us to get a closer look at the Black Buck Antelopes that we had seen on our way in. From my conversation with the Park Ranger, I learned that the darker colored animals were the males and the females were fawn colored.
While we only saw a few people wading in the water at the river access point across from the private property, the lazy river's clear water is said to attract swimmers, tubers, canoers and fishermen.
We hiked alongside the river, up a staircase and past several day use picnic areas until we connected up with the River Trail which we followed until we reached the intersection with the Buck Lake Trail.
After brief stops at both the Acorn Blind, one of several wildlife viewing blinds, and Buck Lake, the "catch and release" fishing lake which was cut off from the main river in a flood, we encountered our first couple of armadillos. As we were near our campsite, we made our way back to prepare for the evening.
Since we saw a few deer from inside our RV, I hiked the campsite loop one more time just before sunset in search of the turkeys and deer that I had read and heard about, but all I saw were about five more armadillos and an awfully fast rabbit ... plus a nice sunset.
Points of Interest in South Llano River State ParkIn addition to Buck Lake and the Log Barn, there were three other points of interest in the park which we did not have the time to see:
- 4-mile Dam - the ruins of a dam originally built with cypress logs and cement to provide water for the City of Junction canal system
- Cemetery - burial site of four of the area's original pioneers
- Scenic Overlook - views of the river valley requiring a short but steep hike
Marfa, TexasLocated about 300 miles away, our next stop was in Marfa, Texas. Take a look at our post titled Review: Tumble In RV Park in Marfa, Texas to see what you can expect should you decide to visit.
Texas State ParksHave you ever purchased the Texas State Parks Pass, and if so, why did you believe it either was or was not a good investment?
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