Garner State Park, Concan
I’m not sure I can objectively tell someone about Garner State Park. My emotions get tied up in the descriptions. Memories from my childhood, and even stories from my mother’s childhood in the park all flood over me, and maybe cloud the reality of the park.
Because, it can’t simply be as amazing as I believe it to be. But, as the most popular Texas state park, there must be many, many others that agree with me. From it’s cold, crystal clear waters to the majestic Old Baldy overlooking the park, and the amazing Hill Country scenery and wonderful people you will encounter, Garner is something everyone should experience!
Here are my tips for helping you make wonderful memories at Garner, gathered from years of visits.
The Frio River
Named after it’s cold, spring fed waters, the Rio Frio is a perfect solution to the hot Texas summer! There are many ways to enjoy it.
Like tubing? The park store rents tubes for the day, and offers shuttle service. They will honestly tell you if the water is running enough for a good trip. If you love to explore, this is a great way to really see the river. For a short trip, put in at the dance pavilion and float down past the dam.
My little boy LOVED riding the small riffles just below the dam, and did it over and over and over again!
Snorkle the river.
My oldest loves to snorkle, and the clear water of the Frio is perfect for the snorkler. Just get a pair of goggles and snorkle and go. My oldest swam the entire trip from the pavilion to the dam, and saw lots of fish.
You just want to swim and play in the river? Arrive early. I think the best places to swim at the dam are from the little creek down to the large rope swing. Closer to the dam there are huge trees and picnic tables, but the water isn’t as deep and gets cloudy.
The Rope Swings
I could go on poetically about the rope swings. I believe every child needs the experience of flying out over the river, and dropping into the cold water below. You owe it to your children.
Seriously, it’s very entertaining to just watch the lines of kids flying off the rope swings, sometimes 3 or 4 at a time. There is also a tree that hangs down over the river, and brave souls climb HIGH up into the tree to jump into the water. Crazy… but so cool!
What to take… At heart, I want to be a minimalist, but there are some things that will make your day at the river the most enjoyable.
An EZ-up for shade. Go ahead and put it in right at the edge of the water, and put your chairs in the water, too. We laughed as we watched two older couples sitting out in the middle of a shallow part of the river, under their EZ-up, with a card table playing dominoes!
A small propane grill for lunch. Once you get a parking place, you DO NOT want to lose it, so come prepared. I prefer charcoal, but you can’t dump your coals and no ground fires are allowed (except in fire rings at the camp sites).
WaTer Shoes. The rocks on the ground get hot, and in the river they hurt unless you are wearing shoes. The park store sells them for about $15-$20.
Pets. Dogs are allowed on leashes.
Toys. Frisbee or a nerf type football make great water play. Inner tubes or floats. Life jackets for younger children. Nets for catching little fish.
The park also rents paddle boats and kayaks, although on weekends the water is so crowded that I think it’s hard to manuver around everyone.
Below the dam
I love to explore. Just like Disney’s Pocahontas, I always want to know what’ s “Just Around the Riverbend”. There is a great swimming hole just past the dam, with huge cypress trees jutting out of the water like islands. It’s not as crowded here, either.
Garner is made up of Old Garner and New Garner. Old Garner is the original park and campsites. As a child, we camped here for years, until switching to Crider’s in Rio Frio, because my dad wanted more space, and thought the campsites too close together.
He would have preferred New Garner, where the campsites are more spread out. Of course, you have to drive down to the pavillion, store and swimming areas. We camped on Persimmon Hill, and true to it’s name, the surrounding area was covered with persimmon trees.
Camping and RV sites are available, as are shelters and even cabins.
The Pavillion and Saturday Night Dance
Each Saturday night during the summer, the Pavillion at Garner lights up, as guest and locals converge for the dance. A jukebox provides the music, as it has for years! I remember dancing with my dad each year, and my mom would tell me stories of her dancing with her dad as a teenager under the same trees. I promise you, my eyes welled up as I watch my daughter dancing with her dad on those same rock tiles.
The Pavillion was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and is really an amazing building. It includes a gift shop and grill. The burgers at the grill are really good, I think it’s the bread they use. They also serve hot dogs, fries and ice cream. We ended our meal with ice cream floats.
Mini Golf Course
After the dance, we walked over the mini golf course. The kids played the 18 holes while we sat on a bench and enjoyed the welcomed, cool breeze.
The park store is located past the pavillion, and you can purchase camping gear, food, firewood and rent tubes.
The Nature Center offers a glimpse of the Frio Valley’s ecosystem. In addition to more shopping, you can also learn about geocacheing in the park.
Garner State Park offers more exciting trails than we ever have time to do in one visit. Consider hiking in the early morning or late evening during the summer.
Our favorite hikes include the Crystal Cave, the White Rock Cave and even up Old Baldy, with it’s amazing view of the park and valley below!
Mountain bikers will love the trails scattered throughout the park, although someplaces are hard. It seemed as if every child had a bike in the park, and there are plenty of roads for family bike rides.
Things to do in Concan
The Friends of Garner State Park offer events such as hayrides, throughout the year. Click on the link to be taken to their website.
Frio Bat Flight Watch as millions of bats take flight each night from Spring to Autumn.
After a cold day on the Frio, the Buckhorn Bar and Grill has great burgers and live music on the weekends. Click HERE to visit their website.
Garner State Park
234 RR 1050, Concan
Click HERE to visit their website.
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