For “Travel Tuesday”: Let’s visit Palmetto State Park, TX in the Texas Hill Country Region.
“The Texas Hill Country is one of the most beautiful regions in the country. Rolling hills, spring fed rivers and lakes, diverse art and music offerings, specialty shopping, and the state's capital city make the Hill Country a favorite destination for Texans and out-of-state visitors alike. Discover the beauty of the Texas Hill Country Region.”
Palmetto State Park
“About an hour from San Antonio and Austin, Palmetto State Park is an unusual slice of the tropics in central Texas. With its lush forest floor and swampy marshes, the park supports an astounding diversity of plant and animal life, including abundant bird and butterfly species. Take advantage of the park's boat rentals for a unique journey through the marshes. For more information, visit www.LifesBetterOutside.org.”
Things to Do
“Activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, birding, nature study, pedal boat and canoe rentals, swimming, tubing and canoeing.
The San Marcos River runs through the park. Boaters can put in at Luling City Park and travel 14 miles to Palmetto, portaging around one dam along the way. Put-in and take-out points are limited, as the river is mostly bordered by private land. There are no rapids, but almost always a steady current. Check river conditions at the park. For this trip, bring your own canoe and prearrange your shuttles.”
“This park’s mysterious lagoons hold many surprises.
Palmetto State Park has every feature you’d expect in a Central Texas nature attraction, and then some. There’s the gorgeous, swift-flowing San Marcos River. Visitors can rent pedal boats or canoes and kids can fish for crappie from a pier on the four-acre oxbow lake.
More than 240 avian species have been recorded in the park, a stop on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. The campground is clean and quiet, and the stars at night are … well, you know the song.
It’s what you wouldn’t expect to see that makes the 270-acre park special and draws more than 120,000 visitors each year: a swampy wetlands.
And it’s not just any old wetlands. The Ottine Swamp, named for the small town just outside the park’s gates, is a primeval wonderland of towering trees, peaty bogs and warm springs.
Crouch at the edge of a lagoon, as the spring-fed ponds are called locally, and the sweet scent of wild onion wafts skyward. Spanish moss drips from elm, hackberry and cottonwood trees. Trumpet vines and wild grape twist around gnarled trunks and climb toward the canopy.
Everywhere, palm fronds rustle in the breeze. The park’s namesake palms, dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), give the swamp an otherworldly atmosphere.
The ground-hugging, trunkless palms normally are found in the moist forests of East Texas and Louisiana. The extensive stand in Palmetto State Park was isolated thousands of years ago, considerably west of its natural range.
“Kids call it Jurassic Park,” says Bradley Williams, a long-time ranger at Palmetto.
It’s little surprise, then, that the exotic locale would give rise to its very own crypto-zoological legend: the “Ottine Swamp Thing” (and, like most such legends, this one is unconfirmed). The creature, said to resemble a diminutive Bigfoot, has been heard, or at least imagined, for decades by residents of the surrounding area.
According to Williams, it hasn’t been heard from in more than five years. It could be that the creature — whatever it is — moved out in search of wetter wetlands during one of the area’s periodic droughts.
Most of the park’s lagoons hold water through the long, hot summers. When a drought, such as the one experienced during the last year, temporarily stops many of the natural seep springs, park personnel rely on an artesian well sunk by the Civilian Conservation Corps 70 years ago. The well — along with a 1,000 gallon storage tank — provides enough water to keep the palmettos flourishing during dry spells.
Keeping the wetlands alive is critical for the survival of more than just campfire tales of mythic creatures. On one misty morning this spring, a group of students bent at the edge of a pool searching for the tiny Palmetto pill-snail. The animal was first discovered here, and the park’s wetland edge habitat is one of few places in the world where you can find it.
It may be that the chief joy of this place is, like the tiny snail, simply its unexpectedness. The transition between Blackland Prairie and its swaying grasses and mesquite, juniper and oak trees — and the brooding palmetto swamp — is fascinating.
“In the spring and summer time, the vegetation here is just amazing,” says Williams. “You have wild irises, incredible birds. … It’s amazing what you can see in just a short, 20-minute hike.” By Aaron Reed
“Palmetto State Park occupies part of an area known as the Ottine Swamp, named for early settlers Adolph and Christine Otto. The swamp results partly from the overflow from the San Marcos River and partly from a group of small sulfur springs. Before the 1950s the area had numerous warm springs, mud boils, and peat deposits, but drilling for oil and water has lowered the water table, and many of the unique hydraulic features have dried up.” From: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/gkp02
“Palmetto State Park, named for the tropical dwarf palmetto plant found there, is 270.3 acres located in Gonzales County, northwest of Gonzales and southeast of Luling. The park abuts the San Marcos River and also has a 4-acre oxbow lake. The land was acquired by deeds from private owners and the City of Gonzales in 1934 - 1936, and was opened in 1936.
The beautiful stone buildings in the park were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s.
“The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal Program during the Great Depression, created the first state parks system in Texas. Today Texas Parks and Wildlife Department manages 29 CCC-built parks where we strive to preserve their historical and architectural resources including CCC-built cabins, shelters, trails, bridges and refectories, all of which create these parks' distinctive character. We hope that visitors will enjoy CCC parks not only for their outdoor beauty and recreational opportunities, but for their legacy that stands today and for future generations.” http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/historic_sites/ccc/
Local Area History:
Gonzales was established in 1825. It was the capital of Impresario Green DeWitt's colony and was the farthest west Anglo settlement until the close of the Texas Revolution. In 1831, the Mexican government sent a six-pound cannon to Gonzales as protection against the Indians. This cannon was used in the "Come and Take It" Battle on October 2, 1835, when the first shot of the Texas Revolution was fired. While in Gonzales, Gen. Sam Houston learned of the defeat of the Alamo from Mrs. Almeron (Susannah) Dickinson. Mrs. Dickinson, her baby, and two servants were the only survivors of the siege. After learning of this event, Gen. Houston gathered troops and ordered Gonzales to be burned. He then began the famous "runaway scrape," gaining time and mustering troops to eventually take a stand at San Jacinto. There, Santa Anna was defeated and Texas gained its freedom from Mexico.
Today, Gonzales has a population of 7,500. It offers an unusually large selection of antique shopping, dining, lodging (bed and breakfasts and motels), recreation (city park with nine-hole golf course, boating, fishing, swimming pool, picnicking, camping, bird watching and nature study), historic home tours (restored homes dating from the 1880s to the 1920s), and the Gonzales Memorial Museum.
Luling was established in 1874 and served as a gathering point and supply center for cattle drivers along the Chisholm Trail. Cotton ruled the economy until oil was discovered in 1922. By 1924, the oil field was producing 16 million barrels of oil per year. Today, Luling has a population of 5,500. It offers a year-round farmer's market, antique and collectible shopping, dining (including world-famous barbecue), lodging (motels), recreation (city park with a nine-hole golf course, a swimming pool, and picnicking), the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum, and nearly 200 colorfully decorated pump jacks within the city limits.”
This is an unusual botanical area that resembles the tropics more than Central Texas. The ranges of eastern and western species merge, resulting in an astounding diversity of plant and animal life. Most notably, a stand of dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) plants, from which the park gets its name, is found around the park's ephemeral swamp. These palmettos are found in East and Southeast Texas, as well as much of the southeastern United States, but only individuals or small clumps are found to the west and north of this park. Wildlife frequently seen in the park includes white-tailed deer, armadillos, squirrels, raccoons and numerous birds.
The park, located on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, has long been noted as a birding "hot spot." More than 240 species of birds have been observed within the park's boundaries. Some of the birds most often spotted include the crested caracara, prothonotary warbler and red-shouldered hawk.
“Nearby attractions include Pioneer Village Living History Center (1800s reenactments); the Gonzales Memorial Museum (Gonzales); the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum (Luling); Lockhart State Park; Sebastopol State Historic Site; the site of the Elks' Hospital and Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center; the City of Gonzales, the "Cradle of Texas History," where the first shots were fired for Texas Independence; the City of Luling, renowned for watermelons, barbecue, and colorfully-decorated pump jacks; New Braunfels, with Landa Park and the Guadalupe River; Luling's "Watermelon Thump" (third weekend in June); and Gonzales' "Come and Take It" Celebration (first weekend of October); and Ottine's "Swamp Festival" (the last weekend in October).”
For more information, call (830) 672-3266 or visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/palmetto.
On This Day:
Former President Ulysses S. Grant dies, Jul 23, 1885:
“On this day in 1885, just after completing his memoirs, Civil War hero and former President Ulysses S. Grant dies of throat cancer.
The son of a tanner, Grant showed little enthusiasm for joining his father's business, so the elder Grant enrolled his son at West Point in 1839. Though Grant later admitted in his memoirs that he had no interest in the military apart from honing his equestrian skills, he graduated in 1843 and went on to serve first in the Mexican-American War, which he opposed on moral grounds, and then in California and Oregon, tours of duty that forced him to leave behind his beloved wife and children. The loneliness and sheer boredom of duty in the West drove Grant to binge drinking.
By 1854, Grant's alcohol consumption so alarmed his superiors that he was asked to resign from the Army. He did, and returned to Ohio to try his hand at farming and land speculation. Although he kicked the alcohol habit, he failed miserably at both vocations and was forced to take a job as a clerk in his father's tanning business.
If it were not for the Civil War, Grant might have slipped quickly into obscurity. Instead, he re-enlisted in the Army in 1861 and embarked on a stellar military career, although his tendency to binge-drink re-emerged and he developed another unhealthy habit: chain cigar-smoking, which probably caused the throat cancer that eventually killed him. In 1862, Grant led troops in the captures of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee, and forced the Confederate Army to retreat back into Mississippi after the Battle of Shiloh. After the Donelson campaign, Grant received over 10,000 boxes of congratulatory cigars from a grateful citizenry.
In 1863, after leading the Union Army to victory at Vicksburg, Grant caught President Abraham Lincoln's attention. The Union Army had suffered under the service of a series of incompetent generals and Lincoln was in the market for a new Union supreme commander. In March 1864, Lincoln revived the rank of lieutenant general—a rank that had previously been held only by George Washington in 1798--and gave it to Grant. As supreme commander of Union forces, Grant led troops in a series of epic and bloody battles against Confederate General Robert E. Lee. On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House. The victory solidified Grant's status as national hero and, in 1869, he began his first of two terms as president.
Grant's talent as political leader paled woefully in comparison to his military prowess. He was unable to stem the rampant corruption that plagued his administration and failed to combat a severe economic depression in 1873. However, successes of Grant's tenure include passage of the Enforcement Act in 1870, which temporarily curtailed the political influence of the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War South, and the 1875 Civil Rights Act, which attempted to desegregate public places such as restrooms, "inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement." In addition, Grant helped to improve U.S. and British diplomatic relations, which had been damaged by the British offer to supply the Confederate Army with tools to break the Union naval blockade during the Civil War. He also managed to stay sober during his two terms in office.
Upon leaving office, Grant's fortunes again declined. Although he and his wife Julia traveled to Europe between 1877 and 1879 amid great fanfare, the couple came home to bankruptcy caused by Grant's unwise investment in a scandal-prone banking firm. Grant spent the last few years of his life writing a detailed account of the Civil War and, after he died of throat cancer in 1885, Julia managed to scrape by on the royalties earned from his memoirs.”
Legionnaires gather in Philly, Jul 23, 1976:
“On this day in 1976, members of the American Legion arrive in Philadelphia to celebrate the bicentennial of U.S. independence. Soon after, many began suffering from a mysterious form of pneumonia. Their ailment would come to be known as Legionnaires' disease.
About 4,000 delegates from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Legion met at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia for a four-day gathering. While at the hotel, built in 1900, the Legionnaires did not notice anything unusual. However, several days after the event ended, many attendees became sick. By August 2, 22 people were dead and hundreds connected to the gathering were experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms.
The Center for Disease Control immediately launched an investigation, but it took four months to identify the culprit. Joseph McDade, a CDC research microbiologist, finally isolated the bacteria that caused the disease: an aquatic microorganism, found in watery places like pipes and air conditioning units, which caused a low fever and mild cough in most people who were exposed to it, but could affect other people in far worse ways. In a small, but significant, minority of people, vomiting, diarrhea and pneumonia developed, following an incubation period of between two and 10 days. Smokers, very old people and those suffering from pulmonary disease were most at risk.
From the American Legion event in Philadelphia, about 250 cases were identified, which resulted in between 29 and 34 deaths. Researchers estimate that there are about 20,000 cases of Legionnaires ' disease annually in the United States, but only about 1,000 are correctly identified and diagnosed, as its symptoms can be similar to regular pneumonia. Antibiotics are usually effective against the disease.
Scientists are still unclear as to how long Legionnaires' bacteria had been striking victims before it was finally identified in 1976.”
My next door neighbor’s aunt is staying with him and she walks her dogs on my side lot, but doesn’t clean up after them. Misty and I didn’t want to ‘tiptoe through the tulips’, so I took Misty for her walk down at Jay’s, as she was already leashed when I found out that Jay wasn’t going with me to the next town. Misty has a special poopy spot down there, so she goes to it as soon as she is out of the car. Then I take her for a walk.
Hoping that I would be seen early, I arrived at the doctor’s office ahead of my 11.00am appointment. This doctor is a D.O, so I was hoping that he would work on my back, which was still tender. He wasn’t so scared that I would break this time, and manipulated it with more gusto. My blood tests were in. My cholesterol has gone down a bit, without taking statins, and I don’t have large particles of cholesterol, so that was good news. My blood pressure was 115/67, though I don’t take blood pressure meds, and never have.
It was after noon when I finally got back to my hot van, as I had to wait at least an hour to see the doctor. On summer days like these, I don’t like to shop anywhere that doesn’t have a tree shaded parking spot, but I made a brief stop at Petco.
The manager steered me to a cat food which is more like ‘moist-and-meaty’, so hopefully Nala would eat it. He said that if she wont, I can return it. It is in the refrigerated section, and even though it seems expensive, $7 for a 1lb pouch, it should feed her for a week, with her dry food, too. But her insistence for dry food only, will cost a lot more in vet bills later, so I knew I had to get her on some wet food. I have tried cooking for her, but she won’t eat it. (Misty likes my cooking!) I put the cat food in the 12v. fridge in the van to keep it cool.
One of the three Krogers in Conroe has some trees in their parking lot, so I went there, picked up what I needed and came home.
Nala couldn’t wait for me to open the pouch of cat food, and I gave her a little with some dry food. Wow, ‘Mikey likes it’!
We will see if she will still eat it today.