Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Endangered species: Texas picnic areas

We are at what used to be a roadside picnic area on US 77A, just west of Halletsville (map). The little turnout for parking is still here, but the area where any picnicking might have happened is now closed off with barbed wire (pronounced "bob whar" in these parts), and there is a giant "No littering -- $1,000 fine" sign instead of a trash barrel. By the time we got here, we were past done for the day, and, since the parking area is still here, we decided to stay. Hopefully, the constabulary does not have a contrary position on the status of this spot.

One of the great things about Texas is that they have put these roadside picnic areas, or, in some cases, just a turnout with a trash barrel, throughout the state highway system. Stays of up to 24 hours are generally permitted in self-contained rigs, with notable exceptions that are usually well marked. We have availed ourselves of many of these picnic areas, some of which are in spectacularly beautiful settings, and have written several of them up here in the blog.

So today, after a very beautiful drive from Del Rio through San Antonio, we set our sights on three picnic areas that were indicated on our maps -- one just west of Gonzales, and two more somewhat east of Gonzales, all along Alternate US 90. We knew also that there was an Elks Lodge in Gonzales as a possible fall-back option.

As we approached the first mark, we discovered only a small turnout. It certainly looked like it might have been a picnic area at one time, but it was completely dismantled and devoid of any fixtures. Since it was also right in the middle of a road construction zone, we thought it might have been a temporary victim of the construction. Between that and it being only a few feet from busy Alt 90, we passed it by.

The Elks lodge in Gonzales was equally unappealing -- a dirt lot in front of the building, also next to 90. Knowing there were two more picnic areas marked, we pressed on.

These next two areas were nowhere to be found. Despite both of us keeping a careful eye out, since we were both ready to stop, there was nary a trace of either. It could be that our maps were just plain wrong, or else these areas have been removed completely.

When we got to the junction with 77A, east of Shiner (home of the brewery of the same name), we decided to turn southwest towards Yoakum. Our map showed one more picnic area along 77A, but we also had information that there is a city park in Yoakum that could accommodate us. Even though it was a bit out of our way, we were running short on options.

That led us here to this spot, which is clearly now an ex picnic area. We have no clue what had led to its closure (or the other closures) -- there is no evidence of any problems here other than some trash and graffiti underneath the nearby bridge over Rocky Creek. We're just glad that there is no posting here prohibiting overnight parking, and we are assuming that, as a formerly legitimate rest area, that they would have posted it thus if they did not want us staying here.

We are now very much in east Texas. There is a very palpable dividing line, and, along US 90, that line is the western limit of San Antonio. West of there the road passes through wide open spaces, with little trace of civilization for miles at a time. While some property is, no doubt, privately held, much is state or federal open space, a sort of "no man's land". From San Antonio eastward, it is an unbroken landscape of private property, with all the trappings, to include fences, mailboxes, buildings, and what-not. Moving east the city melts into suburbs, then into agricultural and ranch land punctuated by towns of a few thousand people. We have left "the west,"at least for now.

Tomorrow we will continue east on Alt 90 until just west of Rosenberg (about 35 miles southwest of Houston), then turn southeast for the gulf coast and Freeport, where we will pick up the "Blue Water Highway" which will take us over the San Luis Pass to Galveston Island.


  1. What a shame you missed out on Shiner. They have a city RV park that is in the middle of acres and acres of land with a lovely creek running through. Shiner ain't big but the park is still on the outskirts. Quite a few of the towns in that area have these parks; lovely parks with RV facilities. Cost? $10FHU.

  2. Here's a pic of the spot we stayed in

  3. Wow, Shiner would have been perfect. We certainly didn't see anything as we passed through, and none of our guides listed anything in this town.

    We'll remember it for the next time, though. Thanks!

  4. We use Don someone (I'm in bed and no access to the books) Free camping west of the Mississippi and a website I'll see if I can find...

    Here you go

    I'm trying to remember around Galveston; we boondocked at the katy Camping World as we were spending our kids inheritance there. We spent time in the backwoods of Louisiana along some trail (now I'm going to have to look it up...I had to google our own blaaaag) Creole National Highway Byway. Their website is fascinating and you can download a driving guide of the byway. Highly recommended.

  5. OK, we went back and checked and it is, as you say, in Don Wright's book, which we do have. We didn't check there, because we'd been using the "Texas Public Campgrounds" pamphlet, which is one of Don's sources and usually has more, not fewer, listings in Texas. Lesson learned -- we'll always check Wright, even here.

    We've done about 2/3 of the Creole Nature Trail -- the western and southern sections, and a bit of the eastern part. Great set of roads.

    Here in Galveston, we like Galveston Island State Park, just down the street from where we are for the rally. This trip, we might try San Luis Pass County Park.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!