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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Letters from Central Texas"

South Llano River State Park
Junction, Texas

by Clay Coppedge
Not for nothing is Junction, Texas called that. This is the exact junction where the Hill Country meets West Texas. If there's any doubt, the vermilion flycatcher at headquarters of the South Llano River State Park or another one at the day use area will settle the matter. This is a West Texas bird, so you must be in West Texas.

Birds
While the river the park is named for is a big draw, especially during the warm-weather months, the birds, Rio Grande turkey and other wildlife draw people year-round, even when part of the park is closed, from October to April, while the South Llano's thriving turkey population roosts

The turkeys and the whitetail deer are almost part of the landscape here, along with the flying flashes of color that are the vermilion flycatcher, scarlet tanager and painted bunting.

Here, east meets west, as evidenced by the western birds cohabitating in apparent harmony with eastern birds. You get a north-south mix here too. Since this area is on the edge of flyway, you get a lot different birds in the spring and fall.

The park is so popular with birders that three viewing blinds have been constructed for people to see what they may see. They might see bald and American eagles, green-backed herons, Inca doves, belted kingfishers, all manner of woodpeckers and sapsuckers, scissor-tailed flycatchers, Carolina chickadees, Eastern and mountain bluebirds, indigo buntings, cedar waxwings, yellow-headed blackbirds and Baltimore orioles. They might see a black-capped vireo, but the odds are against it. If this particular vireo were easy to spot, it wouldn't be on the Endangered Species list.

South Llano River
The birds are a popular draw, but the South Llano River is the park's centerpiece. The South Llano - indeed all the Llano River - is notable for its water clarity and quality. It rises from a spring-fed branch in northwestern Edwards County and runs northeast for 55 miles where it joins the North Llano just east of Junction. It's a constant-flow river and is especially popular with tubers and rafters during the summer.

Fish
Fishermen like it too, up to a point. You can catch Guadalupe bass here - the state fish of Texas, no less - but you can be blanked just as easily. Skill and patience are good take-along items for anglers anywhere, but that can be especially true here. The payoffs, though, can be tremendous. In other words, I like to fish there but I don't especially want you out there with me.

Walter Buck Wildlife Management Area
Adjacent to the park is the Walter Buck Wildlife Management Area, which offers about 18 miles of hike and bike trails. Most of the trails are actually old ranch roads, left over from the day when the land belonged to Mr. Buck himself.

Buck, who lived and ranched on the land from 1910 to 1977, gave the land to the state Parks and Wildlife Department for wildlife conservation and/or park purposes. It opened in 1990 and continues to draw steady if not spectacular numbers.

Most of the park's visitors are overnight visitors. To accommodate them, the park has 70 campsites, with 58 multi-use sites and 12 walk-in camps.

The river and wildllife might draw people here, but the peace and quiet is what brings them back. It's a fair drive from almost anywhere, and the peace and quiet might be the park's biggest attraction.

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Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas"
June 15 , 2007 Column

South Llano River State Park

1927 Park Road 73
Junction TX 76849-9502
325/446-3994

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