When I made our reservations for South Llano River State Park many months ago, I had no idea our first night would be spent under a blue moon. As fate would have it, though, that’s exactly what happened. We arrived much later than we had originally planned and on a Friday night, no less. It was overcast and very dark, so choosing a spot that was easily accessible, but tucked far enough away from the main trail wasn’t easy. Once we found our campsite, the clouds rolled back and we set up camp, no flashlight required.
After we set up the tent, we stayed outside for a while to enjoy the second full moon of August.
The next morning, we were pretty pleased with our campsite selection. While most campers had moved further down the loop, we were the only ones at the top and our campsite was nestled alone in the trees. We had no one around us.
I was a little concerned about tent camping in August. For those of you who don’t live in Texas, August is dry and brutally hot. The days were topping out at 100 degrees, but the nights dipped into the sixties. We were fortunate to have a nice breeze for most of the trip. After breakfast on our first full day, we packed a cooler and went down to the river to enjoy being outside the only way possible…in the water. We spent the entire day swimming, tubing, and hanging out under the pecan trees along the river banks.
The South Llano River flow rate depends on rainfall, but springs ensure the river constantly flows. The 2600 acre park, which was donated by Walter Buck to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1977, boasts two miles of river frontage, majestic pecan trees, over twenty miles of hiking and biking trails, and is one of the most biologically diverse parks in the area, particularly with regard to wildlife. For over a hundred years, the Rio Grande turkey has made this location along the river its roosting spot. Every year, between October and April, over 800 turkeys come to roost at South Llano River State Park. In order to protect the turkeys and ensure their return to roost every year, although the park remains open to visitors, some areas of the park are closed during this time.
South Llano River State Park marks the beginning of a 6.3 mile paddling trail ending at Junction City Park on the north bank of Junction Lake just east of the bridge. There are several outfitters that will rent canoes and kayaks and provide drop off and pick up services. The river character is slow with quiet pools and gentle rapids. The float time is 2-4 hours depending on the water level and river flow rate. We are looking forward to a return trip when the weather cools off to stay a little longer and kayak the river. Being on the water offers an entirely different experience and the seclusion will offer some great opportunities to see the wildlife.
In the evening, once it became a little cooler, we took the two mile hike up the hill behind our campsite to the scenic overlook. Hiking a little later in the day would have yielded some much better photos. Still, it was quiet and beautiful.
Overall, we loved the park, but everyone agreed some cooler temperatures would have made this trip much more enjoyable. The park has so much to offer, but when it’s over 100 degrees outside, it’s hard to do anything but stay in the water. We will definitely come back to kayak the river, hike a few trails, and hopefully see some turkeys.
Camping keeps trying to teach me to let go a little and enjoy the ride. Unable to arrive early on Friday, I wondered what sort of campsite would be left to choose from. The bottom of the barrel, I imagined. The same thing happened at Colorado Bend. I got the leftovers. And you know what? I ended up with the perfect spot both times. I’ve learned that you can’t make the perfect camping trip happen. It happens when you let it. It’s hard for me to remember that, but once in a blue moon, I get it right.