I read a review somewhere that touted Seminole Canyon as being the best state park in the Texas system. Based on that information alone, I scheduled us in for a full week here. It is our first visit to a Texas State Park, so I have no basis for comparison, but this is a really nice one, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here.
Seminole Canyon State Park is on the US/Mexico border between Langtry and Comstock. The closest heavily populated area is Del Rio, 40 miles to the east. It is one of those places that, while appearing to be relatively flat and desolate on the surface, contains lots of surprises. Seminole Canyon’s claim to fame is a significant collection of rock art, accessed by a ranger-guided tour into the canyon from the visitor’s center and museum.
The campground is situated on top of a knoll with 360 degree views of sunrise, sunset, and miles and miles of open country. It is small, with 48 sites, some primitive, some with water nearby, and some with water and 30 amp electric. There is a dump station in the campground. The restroom and showers are clean and modern, and the spaces are big and well-spaced, with picnic shelters and tent pads. In addition to the guided canyon trail, there are over 15 miles of hiking and biking trails that wind from the campground to the edges of the canyon cliffs overlooking the Rio Grande.
We are still a little out of shape from our extended stay in Farmington (our good intentions seem to wither a little on the vine) so we started slow, building our activity level every day. On our first day, we took the 40 mile drive to Del Rio to do a little shopping and get the oil changed in the car, so apart from the twice daily obligatory dog walks and three circuits of Walmart looking for bread, we were pretty sedentary. A very unintimidating baseline.
Day two we took the short Windmill Hike, a trail leading from the visitor center past an old spring and windmill used by the railroad crews when they were here from 1882-1892. Less than half a mile plus the dog walks, movin’ on up!
Day three we traveled back west (literally and figuratively) to Langtry, Texas, home of the Judge Roy Bean Museum. The museum and visitor center are pretty much all there is left of Langtry, but it was really interesting, well worth the trip. Langtry was actually named after one of the railroad foremen, and the town had already been established when Roy Bean left his tent saloon in the camp of Eagle’s Nest to open a store and saloon there in 1882. The area was so wracked with lawlessness that the Texas Rangers appointed Justices of the Peace in the more remote camps in an attempt to stem the tide. Judge Roy Bean took his appointment very seriously and became known as “The Law West of the Pecos.” He was married with five children, but he was obsessed with English actress Lillie Langtry. He named his saloon after her (although an itinerant sign painter got the spelling wrong) and he wrote to her telling her that he had named the town after her as well. He never actually met her, although he may have seen her perform in San Antonio. She finally visited her namesake town, but only several months after Roy Bean’s death.
On day four we upped the ante on the activity scale with a long (for us) hike out to the rim of Persa Canyon and back on the rim of Seminole Canyon. Four miles, not a lot of elevation gain, but some scrabbling around in the rocks. We checked out sections of the Rim Trail for a possible bike excursion, but decided that when they say biking, they mean mountain biking. And with my propensity for occasionally falling over, I’m not comfortable riding that close to the edge of steep cliffs!
On day five we took the ranger guided tour to the Fate Bell Pictograph site. We rode the bikes to the visitor center, about a mile, mostly level and paved, a good reintroduction since they have lain dormant since last summer. The hike to the canyon floor was only a mile and a half, but most of it was straight up and down. The rock art is most impressive but has faded considerably from sun and weather. One can only imagine what a show stopper these panels must have been over four thousand years ago!
On day six we threw caution to the wind and took our suburban trail bikes out on some of the rough and rocky trail. We rode on trail that would have scared the crap out of me a year ago! The Rio Grande trail took us three plus miles out to the edge of the canyon overlooking the Rio Grande River and Mexico on the other side. We were going to try some of the Rim Trail on the way back, but judged it too narrow, rocky and steep for our skill set, so we retraced our route, uphill this time back to the campsite. I did the whole thing impressively well then got my wheel stuck in a rut with no speed at the very end on the trail and tipped over! There I was, like a beetle on it’s back, in the gravel of the parking lot! I think that a lot of what happens is that when I get really tired I forget to put my feet down when I stop, and I just tip over. At least, falling at this speed, I don’t get a lot of abrasions!
Since we were doing so well on our activity scale, we talked, albeit jokingly, about taking the kayak back to the Pecos River ramp and paddling the six miles (each way) up the Rio Grande to the Panther Cave Pictograph Site, accessible only by private boat. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!) we got up on day seven to rain, wind and cold, hardly a day for a kayak adventure.
We know, from living in the Desert Southwest, never to complain about any kind of moisture falling from the sky, so the little bit of rain we got while at Seminole was welcome, even though it kept us housebound for a day. The views from the windows of the RV were great and we all enjoyed our week at Seminole State Park.