Where the West Begins-South Llano River State Park, Junction, Kimble County, Texas

It’s a long way to Junction, Texas from Round Rock. At least three hours, maybe a tad more. But with the Texas reservation system and reduced capacity at parks due to Covid the weekend finally came that I could not get into a closer place. So, Junction Texas, here I come. And I was not disappointed.

Junction is on the far west slopes of the Hill Country. It’s where the west begins!

Now the people of Fort Worth Texas claim that the west starts there. Nope. West of Fort Worth is flat farmland that is only good for grazing cattle. At Junction you see the ending of the central Texas Hill Country and the beginning of the flat dry mesas of west Texas.

South Llano River State Park

First about the South Llano River…… I would call it a creek myself. Where we grew up in Ohio we had a creek behind the house that was about the same size. But a river it is. The South Llano is spring fed so it always runs in it’s slow moving fashion.

The South Llano River rises in Edwards County Texas and flows east for fifty-five miles to the town of Junction Texas. Here combined with the North Llano River it forms the Llano River, hence the name Junction, which then flows an additional one hundred miles east where it enters the Colorado River at Kingsland Texas as an arm of Lake Lyndon B Johnson. The day I was there the river was swarming with people swimming and kayaking so I didn’t get any pictures.

Now about South Llano River State Park. The park is an old ranch. The ranch was run by the Buck Family starting in 1910. When the father died Walter White Buck Jr. took over the running of the ranch. Problem was the Junior Buck wasn’t really into ranching. He reduced his herd to about one hundred head from the 1000 head of sheep, goats and cattle his father had. Buck loved the land and his Pecan Trees which he gingerly tended to, harvesting about 75,000 pounds of pecans in the better years. Buck was also a land conservationist. In 1977 he donated his whole ranch to the State of Texas. A 600-acre state park was formed, and a wildlife management area took the rest of the property. In 2011 the two units were combined to form South Llano State Park as it is today, 2600 acres.

The front country of the park is one of the largest turkey roosting areas in the country. But I am going to the back country where the people aren’t! I started out on the Fawn Trail.

View from the Fawn Trail

This trail is going to take me into the backcountry to the East Ridge Trail. From the East Ridge Trail I could see why they say this is where the southwest begins. Along with the usual hill country terrain, the land became more barren and the hills became to look more like mesas instead of hills.

The meeting of Central and West Texas, typical hill country in foreground with a West Texas mesa behind.

“Oh east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet”

Rudyard Kipling

At Bucks Shortcut I took a right and headed into the Mid-Canyon.

Heading for the Mid- Canyon

In the Mid- Canyon is where the parks Primitive Camping is located.

Mid-Canyon

I left the Mid-Canyon Trail to take the West Canyon Loop. I was a bit disappointed as this trail stayed on the rim of a heavily treed canyon so it afforded no worthwhile views into the canyon. It had no shade and was a long hot slog. Finally after two and a half miles I began to descend into Mid Canyon and some shade!

West Canyon Trail
The long hot slog along the West canyon Rim
After what seemed like forever I am finally descending back into Mid-Canyon and the end of the loop
Mid Canyon

The trails here didn’t form a perfect loop so I spent the last mile of this hike on the road back to the parking area

Looking west from the East Ridge Trail.

For the most part I was pleasantly surprised by South Llano River especially the very wild and beautiful backcountry. It was a long drive and a long day but well worth it!

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