Thursday, October 8, 2015

Palmetto State Park Review- Gonzales Tx

Palmetto State Park:
Located just off highway 183 between Gonzales Texas and Luling Texas is a beautiful Texas State Park called Palmetto. Named after the Dwarf Palemetto that grows throughout the park, it was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Sitting on 270 acres, this park is adjacent to the San Marcos River and is a an excellent choice for a quick get away from the Austin, San Antonio and Houston areas as you can easily access the park in about 1 hour from Austin and 2 hours from Houston area.

It is a relatively small park with only about 37 sites and a few cabins so it can fill up fast. The San Marcos River divides the park into 2 campgrounds with 19 primitive/tent sites (water only) and a few cabins on one side and 18 developed sites that have electricity and water on the other. There is a low water foot bridge that joins the 2 campgrounds. The roads into the campground are well maintained however, signage directing you into the correct side for your stay can be easily missed so watch closely and check a map before heading out. Being a small park, reservations can go quickly so call before you haul. Each side of the campground has a park host on duty that helps to keep things in order. The hosts can also sell you firewood (assuming no burn ban in place) and ice. However, there is no store on site so you have to drive into Gonzales or Lulling (about 15 mins drive) if you forget something. There is overflow parking if you have more vehicles than can fit in your site but that does require a $3.00 fee at the time of this posting.   

Sites 1-19 (1 reserved for park host) are developed with water and electricity and support RVs, Motor Homes, Trailers, etc. The sites are single wide pads but plenty deep enough for full size RVs/Trailers. The trees are generally far away from the pad and the tree canopy high enough so that they don't interfere with RVs. However, even with trees kept clear of the pads, there is PLENTY of shade and coverage throughout the entire campground. Each site has a table and lantern pole and plenty of space to pitch a tent or two. They also have a fire pit with grill and a separate BBQ grill.

There was also a small dump station on this side so you can empty your tanks before leaving.  

Sites 20-41 (2 reserved for park hosts) on the opposite side of the river and actually closer to the park entrance when coming from hwy 183. Like sites 1-19, there are plenty of trees and shade. However, these sites are more for tent campers and primitive camping with water but no electricity. The parking for each site is typically double wide but shallow so unless you have a small teardrop, a trailer will not really fit on this side. As with the other sties, there are the same fire pit, smoker/grill, table and lantern pole. This is probably a more family friendly side as it sits next to the playground and lake. 

Group Camping is also available as there is a large group site located on the 21-41 side of the river. I did not get any pictures of this area as it was in use by a large group and I did not want to intrude on their weekend. 

There is a paved, low water crossing connecting both campgrounds. This also provides easy access to the river. We met 1 couple that was using the low water crossing to drop in with their tubes to float down the river. They told us that it was a nice 20 min float down the river to where you can exit and a short 5 min walk be back to the crossing to drop back in...sounded quite fun. 

The restrooms were kept clean however, the fixtures were certainly dated. They were easily within walking distance however, they were located at the entrance of each campground so sites near the back of the campground had a longer walk, even so it was still a short walk from one end of the campground to the restroom. Each restroom had parking out front if you were not up to the walk.

One thing to be aware of is that the park had the restrooms mixed up. The primitive campsites (21-41) had only 1 stall in the men's room (2 in the women's) and no showers while the developed side (1-19) had 2 showers and multiple stalls. So the side that serves RVs which did not need the stalls/showers as much had more than the side that had primitive camping which really needed more stalls/showers.

We did run into a slight issue while we were there. Over the night, the bathrooms on the developed side did have a back up and so they had to close the bathrooms down to fix them. Therefore, we had to run to the other side or to the park headquarters to use the restroom. 

Common/Day Use Areas
On the Tent side grounds there was a common day use area with grills and tables that sat right next to a playground for kids. On the RV side there was also a common area (no playground) along with the original stone house built during the construction of the park. There was plenty of parking for the common areas. The stone house can be reserved for special occasions and was actually being used for a wedding while we were there. 

Hiking/Biking - There are miles of trails for those that enjoy hiking. While we did not hike all the trails the trails were well groomed and easy enough for hikers of all ages and skill levels. We only found one trail that had one spot on it that might be difficult for the very young or the elderly that might have mobility challenges. Trail heads were well marked and it would be difficult to accidentally stray off the trail. On all the trails we did hike, you could easily take a jogging type stroller (with larger bicycle style wheels) with ease. Trails were also pet friendly with deck type foot bridges or grate type with boards down the center so pets could easily walk across them.

There are plenty of interesting things to see while hiking including wildlife, native trees and shrubbery and things left over from the original construction of the park. 

Geo Caching - The state parks here in Texas do have a geocache program that places goodies just off the trail for folks to find. The place goodies and a log book in large ammo boxes and work with various geocache apps.

Water related activities - There is plenty of fun to be had in the water. With a spring fed lake, campers can stay cool and enjoy a lot of activities. The campground has rental services for paddle boats, kayaks and canoes (on the lake). If you have your own, you can also explore the San Marcos river. During our weekend there, we saw people enjoying:  
    Paddle Boats
    NOTE - Keep an eye on the weather as the river can quickly rise creating very dangerous flash flood conditions. 

    As stated earlier, nearest shopping is in Luling or Gonzales. Both are quaint, historical towns and a lot of local color and flavor. We happened to camp during the "Come and Take It Festival" in Gonzales where there was live music, a parade and other fun activities.  

    Internet Connectivity
    Connectivity was pretty good at the park. We had several bars on our cell phones and I was able to use my hot spot to get internet connectivity.  

    Video Review:
    Coming soon

    Additional Pictures