2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  VISITING CAPROCK CANYONS STATE PARK:
ACTIVITIES, FACILITIES, FEES

WEDNESDAY, MAY12

 
"There's always something new to discover at Caprock Canyons.
During your visit, take time to explore the park in new ways -- on horseback,
on foot, or through a camera lens -- and make the most of your time at Caprock Canyons."
 
~ from a sign (shown below) at the Discovery/Nature Center
 
 
From my description of Caprock Canyons State Park in the last entry you can already guess at some of the things visitors can do there, from relatively sedentary sightseeing, wildlife viewing, fishing, boating, and nature photography to more active hiking, running, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

The park is a great place to take kids camping and to learn about the geological and cultural history of the area, too.

In this entry I'll describe the park's facilities, including campgrounds and day-use areas, popular activities, and fees. You can find lots more information at various links on the park's website.

Here's the park map again:

The park entrance is at the southern border of the park (bottom center on map above) off Farm Road 1065 through the little town of Quitaque, Texas.

PARK HQ AND VISITOR CENTER

The attractive park headquarters/visitor center is about half a mile from the entrance. It was recently built at a cost of about $1 million and contains many informative exhibits:

To the left in that picture is a large covered shelter/meeting area.

BISON OVERLOOK

A walkway leads to the bison viewing area a short distance away. The covered overlook has information about the Texas State Bison herd and telescopes to view the critters down in the valley below:

About a quarter mile beyond the visitor center is the fist of several covered waysides with interpretive exhibits and benches. The park does a great job of educating visitors in a fun and painless way!

WAYSIDE (ONE OF SEVERAL)

At this wayside there's a metal cut-out of a mama bison heading toward the road and a baby bison running away on the other side:

Park staff has mounted a bunch of these metal bison throughout the park; it's fun to find them. One grouping is far enough from the road that it almost looks real!

NATURE CENTER / CHILDREN'S DISCOVERY CENTER

Just past this exhibit is the Children's Discovery and Nature Center, which is housed in a small building that wasn't open while we were there:

Like other Texas state parks, Caprock Canyons has periodic ranger talks but the only ones we saw posted were on Saturdays, not the week days we were there.

LAKE THEO

The next landmark along the park road is Lake Theo, an inviting place to fish, boat, and swim:

On one side of the lake is a parking area, fishing piers, several covered picnic shelters,

a boat ramp,

a lodge (?), and Folsom Historical Site.

Neither of us went back to the lodge or historical site but in retrospect I wish I had. They are back a dirt road that just didn't look like it was "public." Even though there were no signs at the entrance and they are both still printed on the park maps, I turned around because the building looks like someone's residence. The lodge isn't mentioned on the park website fee page so I'm guessing it isn't used for overnight lodging any more. I didn't realize the historical site was even back there until I was writing this entry!

Another road on the other side of the lake leads to a children's playground, several shaded picnic tables, some covered picnic pavilions, and a larger group picnic shelter that can be reserved. The fee page mentions campsites for $14/night with no hook-ups in this area but I didn't see them.

INTERPRETIVE CENTER & AMPHITHEATER

Another half mile along the park road is the interpretive center. This is where the largest concentration of metal bison cut-outs is located:

It's also the site of the archeological replica of ancient bison bones that I showed in the last entry.

Inside the open-ended building is plenty of room for folks to enjoy the exhibits, get out of the hot sun, or have a group meeting:

There are also expansive views of the canyons from the building and the small open-air amphitheater behind it:


Amphitheater with a view


More of the *metal* bison herd

HONEY FLAT CAMPING AREA

Next is the Honey Flat Campground area, which accommodates up to thirty-five RVs. (On the map the name is misspelled as "Honea" Flat.) The campground sits at about 2,500 feet in elevation.

This is a pretty campground with spacious, flat sites and lots of mesquite trees and other vegetation:

Sites 1-25 have water and 30-amp electrical service for $15/night. We reserved one of those because we didn't think we'd need 50-amp service this week.

When we checked in on Sunday the ranger offered us the empty campground host site with a sewer hook-up but we found it taken when we drove out to the campground. Those folks stayed on while we were there, so we picked another site that suited us fine for three nights:

We enjoyed the large, grassy site and covered picnic area.

Sites 26-35 have 50-amp service and cost $20/night. There were only a couple RVs in those, while the 30-amp sites were about one-third filled this week. There is a dump station just before the campground entrance and a centrally-located rest room with showers.

YOU SILLY BIRD!

A bonus at our site was the entertainment that wildlife provided.

One morning I could hear grunting in the woods behind the camper but never did see the source. It sounded like wild pigs. I could also hear coyotes late in the afternoons and saw several mule deer wander past.

One afternoon I was alone in the camper when I could hear a strange banging noise in the middle of the camper. It wasn't the vent cover in the kitchen or bathroom blowing in the wind but it was a rather steady, periodic THUMP. I finally saw the source of the noise: a bright red cardinal was repeatedly flying into the hallway window!


Here he comes again!

Next he began perching in one of the trees just outside the windows from my computer desk, only about three feet away. He also repeatedly flew into the windows on that side and back of the camper. Dumb bird!


Don't look at ME like that, you silly bird.

It's hard to see inside the windows from the outside during the day, so I think he must have seen his reflection and was defending "his" territory from the interloping birds he saw in the windows!

I nominate him for this week's Darwin Award.

ON DOWN THE PARK ROAD . . .

The first couple miles of the five-mile long park road are on the canyon rim through High Plains prairie land with views down into the canyons from several vantage points:

A little past Honey Flat Campground the road takes it first serious dive, a 10% grade descending to the equestrian campground AKA Wild Horse Camping Area. I didn't nose around back there and don't have any pictures of it. There is water for horses and people but no utility hook-ups. There is also a group picnic pavilion that can be rented. Check the fee page for costs and amenities in this campground.

Equestrians may either bring their own horses into the park for the day or overnight, or rent horses at a nearby stable or within the park ("seasonal concession"). Several trails within the park and the entire 64-mile Trailway are open to equestrians.

Just past the equestrian campground is a scenic overlook with a covered pavilion (below) that offers more information about the geological history of the park.

This overlook is in an area where rangers did a controlled burn fairly recently but it is not ugly or smelly . . .

. . . and there are some more great views into the canyon area.

Then the road takes a real dive with a 16% dip down to a tributary of the Little Red River and a 16% rise back up the other side. I took this picture at the top of the hill when Jim was driving but you can't see down to the bottom:

You do not want to take a horse trailer or long RV there! It's simply too steep. As much as I love to bomb down hills with my road bike, I was hesitant to ride it there. Nor would I be able to pedal back up the other side.

Near the top of the rise is another good panoramic overlook:

TENT CAMPING AREAS & BACKCOUNTRY TRAILHEADS

The park road continues on for another couple of miles past the Little Red Tent Camping Area (10 tent sites), a large parking area for the trailhead to several backcountry trails and the North Prong Primitive Camping Area, and dead ends at another large parking area for the South Prong Tent Camping Area (20 sites), South Prong Primitive Camping Area, and trailhead for one end of the Upper Canyon Trail.

Overnight visitors can drive to the two tent camping areas and park fairly near their campsites. The sites cost $12/night. Chemical toilets are available. I don't know about water.

The two primitive camping areas may each be reserved by up to four backpackers. Each site is about a mile into either end of the canyon loop trail. They also have chemical toilets and cost $8/night. Backpackers may also camp along the Trailway.

The large parking area at the end of the park road has yet another nice covered pavilion with interpretive signs and great views of the canyons in that area:

 

 

 

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME AT CAPROCK CANYONS

To summarize, more sedentary activities at Caprock include:

  • scenic drives through the park
  • guided tours
  • watching bison from the bison overlook
  • nature/wildlife photography
  • picnicking
  • browsing interpretive exhibits at roadside pavilions and the visitor center, interpretive center, and nature center
  • fishing
  • camping

More active pursuits include:

  • hiking
  • backpacking
  • running
  • mountain biking
  • horseback riding
  • boating
  • swimming
  • watching the bats at Clarity Tunnel on the Trailway (requires getting there on foot, two wheels, or a horse)

Next entry: the trails at Caprock Canyons, including the Rails-to-Trails Trailway

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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