Dogs in Spurs
Your water-loving pooch will find much to like about South Llano River State Park, which adjoins the Walter Buck Wildlife Management Area south of Junction. Dogs must remain on leash in the 2,640-acre park, but they are allowed to swim with you in the river as long as they do not bother any other swimmers. The park superintendent was very emphatic on this point: "If I see a dog pawing a kid or bothering anyone, I will tell its owner to remove it from the water," he said. Park personnel are not intent on keeping you and your pooch from having a good time, however: they rent tubes so you can float the river like Cleopatra, barging along towed by a paddling pooch.
Texas state parks forbid the use of a leash longer than six feet, and dogs may not be left unattended (which includes being tied outside) or taken into any park building.
Water and Wildlife
Water, trees, and wildlife dominate this beautiful park. The park has two miles of river frontage and a 500-acre wooded bottom where huge pecan trees grow. In winter hundreds of wild turkeys roost in the trees, and the bottom is closed to visitors from October through March in order not to disturb them. Observation blinds are provided where you and your pooch can hide to watch turkeys moving to and from the roost. Judging from the number of turkeys seen while visiting the campground, however, you probably won't need to use the blinds. Your pooch may also spot wood ducks, white-tailed deer, squirrels, jackrabbits, javelinas, foxes, beavers, bobcats, cottontails, and armadillos. Several exotic species such as axis deer, black buck antelope, and fallow deer are often spotted in the park. Feral hogs and javelinas can pose a threat to your dog, so give them plenty of room if you see some.
Nearly seven miles of trails give the energetic pooch ample room to roam. For a short, tree-shaded hike, take the Buck Lake Trail, which branches off the access road to the day-use area by the river. This trail loops around some small ponds that attract a variety of birds, which can include green kingfishers, great blue herons, mallards, red-headed woodpeckers, or about 200 other species. To access a maze of trails in the wildlife management area, drive to the east end of the campground and turn down the narrow gravel road at the sign for the walk-in camping area. Park on the left and walk on down the gravel road to a paved road; turn left and in a few yards turn left off the paved road onto a dirt road. In about 100 yards a trail will branch to the left and take you up a steep hill to a scenic overlook from which you can see the entire river bottom. Retrace your steps to the dirt road and turn left to access the rest of the roads in the wildlife management area (a map is available at park headquarters). Steep hills and rocky roads will challenge you and your pooch; be sure to carry plenty of water.
Throughout the wildlife management area you will see small wooden boxes sitting on the ground. These are blinds used by deer hunters during fall public hunts, when the park is closed to visitors. You and your pooch are free to use them for wildlife observation and photography.
A developed campground with water, electricity, and rest rooms with showers caters to the RV crowd. The campsites are spacious and well separated. Most are shaded by large trees with plenty of grassy areas in between for the conducting of important canine concerns. You might prefer the less expensive walk-in camping area with its tent pads, picnic tables, composting toilet, fire rings, and lantern poles scattered among juniper and oak thickets. We surprised a doe and her fawn on our way in. No site was more than 150 yards from the farthest end of the parking lot.
Reservations for campsites must be made by calling the central reservation number, (512) 389-8900, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. A deposit is required in order to guarantee a reservation. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis upon arrival. Reservations are strongly recommended during the summer and on weekends.
To reach the park, travel Interstate 10 to Junction, then go south on U.S. 377 five miles to Park Road 73. There is a small per person entry fee. The park office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Fridays in summer, when it remains open until 10 P.M. (915) 446-3994.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication