Palmetto State Park - Ottine, Texas
Palmetto State Park has much to offer the camping experience. There are several wooded hiking trails; a pond with a fishing pier; canoe and kayak rentals; and the San Marcos River runs through it all!
As soon as we got our campsite set up, we went for a hike along the San Marcos River Trail. There is plenty of wildlife to view along all of the trails in the park. We saw many deer and a few rabbits along the way. We heard of people seeing snakes in the creeks, but we didn't see any ourselves.
Palmetto State Park is named after the Dwarf Palmetto plant that grows in this, almost tropical, environment in central Texas. When we arrived at the park, we were surprised to see that it had recently rained. This was a surprise, since many parts of Texas hadn't seen much rain in 2011.
The park is home to one of the largest western-most concentrations of Dwarf Palmettos in Texas. Most other concentrations of Dwarf Palmettos are found in eastern parts of the state that get more rain.
Whether you are RV camping or tent camping, both camping areas are beautiful and mostly shaded by large Live Oak and Cedar Elm trees. We were lucky enough to find a great shady campsite by the entrance of one of the hiking trails.
One of the hiking trails through the park (the Oxbow Lake Trail) took us around the 4 acre Oxbow Lake. Along the way, we saw these two Carolina Anoles "duking it out."
Palmetto State Park is also known as a "hot spot" for bird watchers. The map of the park indicates that there are over 240 species of birds that have been observed inside the park's boundaries. One afternoon, while relaxing at our campsite, we saw about 15+ male and female Cardinals concentrated in a small area within our site.
At the end of a great day of hiking the trails and enjoying nature, it felt good to relax and enjoy the evening. We have a string of "camping lights" that we usually attach to our awning, but we wanted to enjoy the night sky, so we left the awning retracted and stretched the lights out to a tree.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a great website that explains some of the local history; park facilities; area attractions and park ecology. Check it out.
One morning I decided to pay the San Marcos river a visit for a little fishing. After about 10 minutes, I landed this little Guadalupe Bass (the Texas state fish). It was too small to keep, but it was fun to catch! Maybe I'll catch him again when he's a little bigger someday when I return to the park, that is if you don't beat me to it!
There are as many things to do around the area as there are in the park itself. To the north, the town of Luling is known for its Watermelon Thump Festival (always held the third weekend in June), and the many decorated pump jacks found throughout the town. About 15 minutes south of the park is the historic town of Gonzales, Texas.
About 30 minutes east of the park, the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas is a great day trip. The tour of the brewery and beer tasting in the gift shop is all free!