And then there were Turkeys – South Llano River State Park

After a day of wind and dust at Alamogordo, New Mexico, we packed up again and departed for the Lone Star State.  I say “again” because we were ready to leave the day before, but thanks to our neighbor’s updated warning about possible 60+ mph winds at Carlsbad we delayed our departure and hunkered down where we were.  This forced us to cancel our stop at the Carlsbad Caverns, but we will catch it on our next pass through.

Wind gusts 40-50 mph
Wind gusts of 40-50 mph in Alamogordo, NM

The drive through Texas west to east on I-10 covers 881 miles. That’s a lot of driving, and no, we did not intend to breeze thru it but instead wanted to check things out along the way.  The long stretches of driving without places of interest reminded us of our trek to Alaska (minus the beautiful scenery), involving several one-night stops until we got to our destination.  Driving along I-10, we saw sprawling plains and dry deserts, and rich barbecue menus with other amusing signs on the road, Texan style. Here are a few signs that made us chuckle.

Our short overnight stops were at Van Horn and Fort Stockton, small towns but with big Texas heart.  People we met were friendly, living up to the meaning of their state’s name.  But where did the state get its name in the first place?  The Caddo Indians of eastern Texas called their group of tribes the “Tejas,” meaning “those who are friends“.  We feel we are among friends in this vast and populous state.  As we drove along I-10 we also noticed some highway signs that had  F.M and R.M printed on them, and that piqued our curiosity.  We only saw these designations in Texas.  Do you know what they mean?

We headed to South Llano River State Park, a park rated positively by Paul and Nina of Wheeling It.  The park is south of Junction, in Kimble County.  The 2600-acre site is adjacent to the South Llano River and is about 7 miles off of I-10.  During our time there, the park was quiet and we noticed the area looked very dry.  There are no riverfront sites; the river is about a half mile hike from the campground.

Buck Lake, Texas

Unlike the state parks in Arizona, here you get to pick your site when you register.  We unhooked the car and drove through the park, choosing site #46 for its spaciousness and shade.  There were only a few campers/RVrs around, and we had a lot of space to ourselves.  It was very quiet, except for the bird calls and hoots of doves – that was OK with us!

South Llano River State Park
Site #46 – perfect for some competitive Scrabble play

Nature photographers and Birders love this park, because of its abundance of birds and other wildlife.  We saw White-tailed deer and sighted various birds.  Oh boy, was I in heaven watching the birds, especially the  Cardinals !

Cardinals at play
Cardinals at play
Cardinal and Tufted Titmouse
Cardinal and Tufted Titmouse
Northern Cardinal
This handsome Cardinal is having a bad hair day!

There are four bird blinds around the campground where you can watch the birds at play unnoticed, and a bird book for reference is also provided.  Along the hiking/biking trails are observation blinds for wildlife that roam around the park.  We hid out in one for a while and had our snack, but no critters showed up.

In addition to the approximately 25 miles of hiking/biking trails, the park also offers lots of outdoor activities including picnicking, canoeing, tubing, swimming, fishing, mountain biking, bird watching and nature study.  An example of study was the Drift Array (pictured below), a system of three low sheet metal fences with a device to trap ground dwelling lizards . What happens is that once the lizards encounter a metal fence, they “drift” along it until they fall into the trap, a white pail.  These arrays are used to determine lizard populations in the area.

And then there were Turkeys!  A section of  the park is designated as a Turkey Roost area for the Rio Grande turkeys, with restricted hours between October 1 – March 31  (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).  This area of the park meets the strict needs of these turkeys where they require quiet, disturbance-free roosts with abundant high perches and fresh waters.  In short, the turkeys are putting up a sign,  “Do not disturb, we are asleep!”

I didn’t get many pictures of the turkeys, although Steve saw a bunch of them crossing a road while he was camera-less.  We were told there are about 600 turkeys that roost here during the winter months.

Rio Grande Turkey
The shy Rio Grande Turkeys




  1. You had me going with the RM and FM markers. Been through myself, but didn’t notice or remember that. Had to look it up…….Ranch to Market and Farm to Market is the definition. Not quite sure I get the whole thing, and looks they tried (unsuccessfully) to change it once. You can read about it here:
    Love, love, love the cardinals……be worth the trip for them alone. Thank you for sharing this one……and can’t wait for the River Walk!!

  2. Your photo of the male cardinal is wonderful. I am a bird carver and plan on carving a male cardinal next. You picture inspired me to get going.

  3. I wish I had the knack for capturing birds in the wild like you two do. Your photos are beautiful. We are going to keep this location in mind for when we trek through Texas. It looks like a peaceful place to stop. Safe travels with the weather front that has moved in. It’s cold and rainy here today in AZ.

    • Yes the state park is great place to stop, it may be more beautiful once tress gets its green back. I have tons of pictures of those Cardinals, they move too much 🙂 and I enjoyed watching them. Thank you.

  4. I-10 can go on forever, can’t it? Catalina was just too full so we’re at Gilbert Ray…..Catalina is getting snow today….yikes. Hate those nasty winds….we’ve had to change plans because of weather too. We’ll hunker down here until the weather passes then it’s on to NM. Safe travels – can’t wait to hear about San Antonio!

  5. More feathered animals, AWESOME!
    I actually that the same “return trip” when I went to Point Reyes. The prices there are high -food and hotel. And so, I drove back to the hotel I lodge in near Muir Beach area, and then drove back up again to Point Reyes.
    Ahhh … The advesaries of being n the road.

  6. What terrible wind! I am definitely not a fan of the wind in the MH.

    Looks like a nice new location. Beautiful photos, especially the close up that cardinal.

    Never heard of a turkey roosting place like that. Very interesting!

  7. What a neat park … we plan to spend time in Texas next year, so I am going to pin this one to remember when we start planning that trip.

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