Grant and I recently spend 8 days in the Del Rio area and want to share our favourite experiences. Because many of the areas are still affected by COVID-19, many parks and recreational areas were partially closed or had weird hours.
That didn't stop us from getting out into the sun and safely exploring the area! I want to stress the safety part. We still maintained social distancing and respected the town by following their guidelines for how to slow the spread.
Where We Stayed
Since we live in a 42' fifth-wheel, finding accommodations that have room for such a big rig can be difficult. We first looked to stay inside of Del Rio itself, but since it was a last-minute trip, nothing was available in town that we could fit in. (This is a common issue for us and why we want to go smaller.)
We ended up staying in Fort Clark Springs located in Bracketville about 30 minutes outside of Del Rio. This place ended up being one of my favourite parks we have stayed in and gave us many things to do when state parks we wanted to visit were closed due to COVID.
Fort Clark Springs is a gated community were you can live in houses, stay in the RV park or campground, stay in a motel, golf, hike, swim... the list goes on!
The community was actually an operating US military fort that was used for 100 years. The motel is held in one of the old barracks which to me is really cool.
The RV park itself was ok... I give it a 5 out of 10, but it was surrounded by so much nature, hiking trails and fishing that it was one of the coolest places to explore we have stayed in yet.
Let's talk about all the wildlife in Fort Springs. We saw lots of axis, deer, turkey, racoons, and a freaking beaver. A beaver, in the middle of the desert! Who would have thought?
There is also a natural spring that runs throughout the entire gated area. The swimming pool is actually fed by the natural spring. We really enjoyed spending a day relaxing in the grass under the trees and swimming in the pool.
You could spend all of your time in the gated community and have a lot of fun without visiting the many state parks in the area if you wanted to. We spend 3 days exploring the community since many of the parks had weird hours due to COVID.
You can even rent a golf cart to get around the property or take down some hiking trails!
Where We Explored
I had been wanting to visit Del Rio for a couple of years now specifically to visit the Devils River and Seminole Canyon State Park. We did get to venture to both, however, the parks were limiting where you could go because of the heat advisory.
We also went to a few more places that we enjoyed very much and recommend you go check out during your adventure to Del Rio.
Kickapoo Cavern State Park
This was the first place we visited during our 8-day adventure in the area.
It was probably the smallest park but it was a lot of fun the explore! The main cavern is only available to enter by guided tour which we did not do because they only offered them on Saturdays and we already had plans that day.
We explored the Bat Cave instead and we were not disappointed.
Up until this adventure, the only other cavern I had explored was Carlsbad Caverns. If you have visited Carlsbad, you know that it is well lit with guardrails and lights everywhere. Yea, Kickapoo Caverns doesn't have those.
No, the bat cave is nowhere near as large as Carlsbad Caverns, but it is pitch black and raw. You won't have to worry about falling off a cliff because they have that blocked off, but the darkness alone made it creepy. Awesome! But creepy. Even with a headlamp.
We also did a short hike at the park because the bat cave does not take that long to explore and we didn't drive all that way for nothing. Keep in mind that it was 104 degrees outside so we chose a shorter hike for this reason.
We hiked the Seargeant Memorial Trail. A 0.7-mile loop that takes you to some nice views of the park. There's a covered area with a bench where you can sit and play lion king while you cool off from the short incline you just hiked. (Everything the light touches is ours, Simba).
You can find out more about the park and it's cavern tour here. We really enjoyed this park. I don't know about Grant, but I definitely felt like Indiana Jones exploring the bat cave.
Seminole Canyon State Park
This was the next place we visited on our trip and the one I was most looking forward to. Seminole Canyon is known for its pictographs and native history. This park is located along the Rio Grande River and is vast with cliff dwellings and rock art.
Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the day to be able to go out on the main trails. During the time of our visit, the park stopped letting people go onto the trails after a certain time because they have had to do so many search and rescues due to the extreme heat.
I missed that park alert when I was downloading the trail maps while planning, apparently. (Sad face)
We were able to hike the Windmill Nature Trail that took us down into the canyon part way and looped around the desert. We learned about the different vegetation and how the early settlers lived off of them. You are only allowed to go into the canyon with a guide and they offer regular tours.
We also spend some time inside their museum to learn more about the native history and evolution of the land.
Grant and I talked and we do want to come back to visit the park during the winter so we can actually hike into the canyon and other desired spots in the park.
This huge recreational area had the most strange hours and regulations because of COVID. Many of their areas and entrances were closed during the week and the entire park was closed on the weekend.
We did get to take Willie swimming one day and "hike" around the lake. I use quotation marks because the actual hiking trails were closed so we made our own trails.
This lake also does not have boat rentals (unless you are active military) and limited places to rent kayaks.
Grant and I originally wanted to kayak on the lake one day but decided against it because the only place that had any kayaks available only had fishing kayaks which would have been around $140 for a half-day on the lake. Not worth it to us.
If you have your own toys, by all means, bring them! I did not read anything saying you couldn't be on the lake with your own kayaks. The lake itself is gorgeous and we would have loved to get on the water one day.
You can find out more information about Lake Amistad here. Even though our adventure here was limited, we still really enjoyed spending the day making our own trails and swimming with Willie.
Devils River State Nature Area
We spend the last day of our trip at the Devils River. It was one of my favourite places we visited but boy was it hard to get to!
This is one of the most secluded rivers in the nation and if you make the drive out there you will quickly realize why. We spent a little over an hour on a BUMPY dirt road in order to get to the park's headquarters. I do not recommend to take on this drive in a car with low ground clearance. We did see one compact car out there but I honestly don't know how they made it.
The Devils River is also a dark zone which means it is a prime location for stargazing. Because of the difficulty we had getting to the park and no camping reservation we, unfortunately, did not get to experience the beauty of this park at night.
The river is crystal clear and fed by a natural spring and is surrounded by canyons and all of nature. We hiked into the river on the 0.94 mile Devils River Trail and took a nice, much earned, dip in the cool water.
We even had a visitor while we were swimming from a momma deer who needed a drink of water.
This was one of my favorite places we visited in Del Rio. Grant and I cannot wait to come back and visit. Hopefully, we can reserve a campsite on our next trip so we can experience the stars!
State Parks and COVID
Obviously, everything is different this year due to COVID. Here's how we adapted to the changes...
Reserve a pass online
Since there are so much you can't do this year to entertain yourself, people are visiting state parks more than ever. I absolutely LOVE that people are getting back to the basics and enjoying all that the earth has to offer now, but that means there is no guarantee that you will be able to enter the park you want to visit.
On each state park's website, you can pre-purchase your passes for the parks which should guarantee your entry into the park. Many parks are limiting access in order to abide by social distancing regulations which means planning ahead could make or break your trip.
Check Alerts Before Visiting
As you might know, this one bit us in the ass at least once this trip. There are always alerts on state park websites (even before COVID) about weather advisories, burn bans and park closures.
It is always a good idea to check the alerts before you visit any park. Many of the parks we visited in Del Rio did not have cell phone service so it's good to check before you leave the house and download the trail map in case they don't have any paper ones available.
Leave No Trace
I SERIOUSLY CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH! Yes, I'm yelling. Sorry, not sorry.
With the increase of people visiting state parks, there is also an increase of liter in the parks.
Yall, whatever you pack in, you PACK OUT! Do not leave your food trash, toilet paper, or empty water bottles along the trails. Leave nature, natural always.
Do your part and help keep the parks clean so others can enjoy them after you have gone.
Shoutout to the park ranger at the Devils River for coming through and checking for trash. The lady was so nice and reminded us to pack out anything we brought in. You go, girl!
We loved the time that we got to explore Del Rio. It was one of my favourite trips Grant and I have taken so far and we can't wait to go back! I know Willie really loved playing at the lake and fishing in Fort Clark Springs.
Stay safe and enjoy all of the nature Del Rio has to offer!
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