Monday, August 11, 2014

Trip Report: Palmetto State Park

Trip Report: Palmetto State Park

On Wednesday, August 6th My Brother, BeeGee, and myself went on our second official trip since starting this blog.  I hope to keep visiting interesting places throughout Texas and reporting back so the information is freely available.


Everyone posing at the Palmetto state park entrance sign
BeeGee & Jarrett and BeeGee & Jack Looking Cool at the Entrance Sign

The Background

Location: 78 Park Road 11 South, Gonzales, TX 78629
Admission: $3 per adult; Children under 12 are free
Elevation: 480 to 600 ft.
Weather:  Sunny, hot, 82 to 90F
Difficulty: Easy


Palmetto State Park is located in Gonzales County and is close to Gonzales and Lulling, Texas.  The San Marcos River runs through the park and there is a 4-acre lake as well.  The park offers hiking, camping, RV hook ups, fishing, canoeing, tubing, paddle boating, a cabin to rent, and a pavilion to rent.  Canoes, tubes, and paddleboats can be rented and used in Oxford Lake.  The park has 6 trails and 2 spurs for hiking.  The trails total 4.3 miles and a total walkable distance of 4.91 miles. 

Oxbow Lake, One of the Biggest Attractions in Palmetto State Park on the oxbow trail
Oxbow Lake, One of the Biggest Attractions in Palmetto State Park

The land for Palmetto State Park was purchased from private landowners and the City of Gonzales from 1934 to 1936.  Palmetto State Park is another park built by the Civilian Conservation Corp that was completed and opened in 1936.  In addition, the park is covered in dwarf palmetto plants, which have a very tropical look.   

Dwarf Palmetto Plant Growing Around a Wooden Bridge on the oxbow trail
Dwarf Palmetto Plant Growing Around a Wooden Bridge

Park HQ Trail

The Park Headquarters Trailhead at Palmetto State Park
The Park Headquarters Trailhead
The Park Headquarters Trail is only .22 miles, which is the shortest in the park.  In addition, the trail is a short, flat, graveled path that travels from the park headquarters to Oxbow Trail, Oxbow Lake, and the day use area.  Furthermore, the path is shaded and fairly cool on our walk considering its summer.  If you intend to only use the lake or rent equipment from the park, this trail will allow you to walk there quickly.  While leaving your vehicle safely at the park headquarters.  Finally, the HQ trail parallels the park’s main road and is limited in scenery and nature. 

The Graveled Park HQ Trail Leading to Oxbow Lake in palmetto state park
The Graveled Park HQ Trail Leading to Oxbow Lake

Oxbow Lake

The Oxbow Lake Trailhead at Palmetto State Park
The Oxbow Lake Trailhead
The Oxbow trail is a .68 mile graveled trail that travels the edge of Oxbow Lake.  The trail is nice and shaded path.  Moreover, it is an easy walk and provides access to multiple spots along the lake.  The access points to the lake provide excellent fishing or swimming spots, but be careful there are no lifeguards on duty.  In addition, there are multiple wooden bridges along the path, but there was no water underneath during our trip.  Furthermore, this trail provides access to bird watching.  Finally, this is the location of the paddleboats and canoes available for renting. 

Ottine Swamp Trail

The Ottine Swamp Trailhead at Palmetto State Park
The Ottine Swamp Trailhead
The Ottine Swamp Trail is a 1.08 mile graveled trail that travels through the parks famous swamps, which are named after the neighboring small town.  In addition, the trail is mostly shaded and has many boardwalks that span its swamps.   However, on our trip most of the swamps were dry.  There was almost no water left this summer so the boardwalks only acted to keep us out of the swamps vegetation.  Furthermore, dwarf Palmetto plants grow along this trail in swamps along with various other undergrowth vegetation.  Finally, there are rest areas with benches on the boardwalk so you can sit down and catch your breath or do some bird watching.

Boardwalk on The Ottine Swamp Trail at Palmetto State Park
Boardwalk on The Ottine Swamp Trail

All along this trail little lizards darted along the edge of the trail.  This drives BeeGee crazy and she will pounce like a cat any chance she gets to try and check those fast little lizards.  As far as I know she has never succeeded in catching one, but she hasn't let that stop her. 


Dried Swamp on the Ottine Swamp Trail at Palmetto State Park
Dried Swamp on the Ottine Trail

Excitingly, there was an abundant amount of wildlife on this trail.  We saw deer, swamp rabbits, lizards, birds, and butterflies.  It was a struggle sometimes to keep BeeGee calm with all the other living creatures out there to chase.  


Two Deer Hiding Along the Ottine Swamp Trail at Palmetto State Park
Two Deer Hiding Along the Ottine Swamp Trail

Mesquite Flats Trail

One of The Mesquite Flats Trailheads at palmetto state park
One of The Mesquite Flats Trailheads
The Mesquite Flats Trail is a 1.01 mile graveled trail that winds through an area full of mesquite trees.  In addition, this trail is only partly shaded and has sections of open skies, so it was the warmest trail of our hike.  Finally, we didn’t see much wildlife, but we did see plenty of animal markings: tracks, fur, and scat.  


The mesquite tree is neat or a nuisance depending on your view.  The tree its self is short with thorns and is used to make furniture or wood fires for barbeque.  However, mesquite tree roots grow very deep, which results in other vegetation being killed around the trees.  In addition, the seed pods have a sweet honey taste and the seeds can be cooked, ground, and used in bread.  Just don't eat the seeds raw as it can make you sick.  

Mesquite Trees and Cactus on the Mesquite Trail at palmetto state park
Mesquite Trees and Cactus on the Mesquite Trail

San Marcos River Trail

One of the San Marcos River Trailheads at Palmetto State Park
One of the San Marcos River Trailheads
The San Marcos River trail is another graveled path and is 1.25 miles long.  In addition, the trail is shaded and runs along the San Marcos River.  However, the San Marcos River is not visible from the trail.  This is because of the overgrown vegetation.  Furthermore, it is difficult to get to the San Marcos River because the river’s edge is steep. 

The San Marcos River Trail is famous for its mud boil, which is one the Palmetto State Park’s main attractions.  A mud boil is deep water that is heated and bubbles up to the surface.  Unfortunately, Palmetto State Park’s mud boil has been dry since 1970 due to a lower water table.  All that is left on the San Marcos Trail’s mud boil is a dried depression with green vegetation growing in the location.   


Palmetto State Park's Mud Boil on the san marcos river trail
Palmetto State Park's Mud Boil

We did eventually find an easy path down to the San Marcos River so BeeGee could lay down in the water and cool off.  However, if you don't mind a steep descent or fighting through plants, there are multiple paths that take you to the San Marcos River from this trail.

Palmetto Interpretive Trail

Palmetto Interpretive Trailhead at palmetto state park
Palmetto Interpretive Trailhead
The Palmetto Interpretive Trail is, in my opinion, the most fun trail in the park and is located in the middle of the other trails.  The trail is only .33 miles, graveled, and is shaded the entire path.  The trail has a mild temperature because the water level is maintained for the swamps in this area.  Plus, the area is covered in Palmetto dwarf plans   


All along the trail are signs that describe the unique wildlife and plants of the park, local heritage, and other interesting information.  In addition, the Civilian Construction Corp’s artesian well is located on this trail.  The well provides the water to maintain the natural look of the Park’s swamps.  Finally, be prepared for a sulfur smell in this area and increased humidity. 

Interpretive Sign on the Palmetto Trail at palmetto state park
Interpretive Sign on the Palmetto Trail

Final Thoughts

Palmetto State Park has multiple things to do with the whole family, from camping to fishing to swimming.  In addition, the park is close to Lulling where there is also excellent barbeque.  Just be mindful that the park is home to rattle snakes and be safe when swimming in Oxbow Lake or the San Marcos River.  Therefore, if you are new to hiking or camping and looking for something close to home, I strongly recommend this park.  If you are an experienced trail blazer, I would look elsewhere unless you need to get out to hike and are short on time. 

The Water Tower and Artesian Well on the Palmetto Trail at palmetto state park
The Water Tower and Artesian Well on the Palmetto Trail


If you have ever been to Palmetto State Park, let me know your thoughts and feel free to mention anything I missed.

Jarrett Morgan

2 comments:

  1. Great choice in State Parks. I have always loved this park. NM

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  2. Thanks for following the blog NM, I appreciate all the support!

    ReplyDelete