Tuesday, May 2, 2017

South Llano: The Turkey Roost, A Limited Engagement

The bottom-lands along the river at the north edge of South Llano River State Park are a key roosting grounds for the Rio Grand Turkey.

As with most habitats anymore, turkey roosting sites are becoming scarce and if disturbed too much turkeys will abandon a roost site which are now few and far between. Because of this, from October through March the area is open to people only between 10 AM and 3 PM while the turkeys have scattered around the countryside to feed.

Because of this restriction, after I finished hiking the West Canyon Loop Trail, instead of kicking back and relaxing with my very large stack of unread magazines, (And an equally large stack of unhealthy snacks!) I got the Quad-B down off it's rack and spent the remainder of the pre-3 PM afternoon cycling around the roost area.

Though only a couple hundred feet lower than the ridge-tops scarcely a half mile away the vegetation on the flattish bottom-lands is distinctly different than that of the arid heights above. The ever-present Cedar is not entirely missing down here, but it is pretty sparse there among the hardwoods and park-like setting of the roost area. And here the ground is more sandy than rocky. (Less chance of bouncing the Quad-B off a boulder and throwing myself, perhaps injuriously, to the ground!)

But the effects of the storm of a few days ago were felt more keenly down here than up in the canyons and on the ridges so I had to make a few portages around areas of blocked trails.

Of course one of the star attractions of the park, especially during the heat of the summer, is the South Llano River itself.

Some two miles of which forms the northern border of the park making its lazy waters a popular tubing area.

Texas laws state that any navigable waterway is open to public access even when that waterway passes through private lands, but we Texans are very protective of our property so as soon as you touch the banks you are trespassing and trespassing is serious business in Texas. (The exception is when portaging around an obstruction but it must be done in the shortest, most direct manner possible with no loitering.)

Anyway, at the moment this guy is legally utilizing the navigable waters of the South Llano.

And though the other bank, the northern bank, of the river is private property and out of bounds, I am on public land at this point so not at risk of getting shot at, or at least yelled at.

If you look close there under the tree to the left you can see the Quad-B taking a break in the shade while I'm on foot trying to get a better shot of

that light-colored formation to the right of center in this photo.

It doesn't look like much now, but that's the remains of 4-Mile Dam which was built in 1904 as the third and final attempt to provide irrigation water to the area and power and water to Junction, all via a canal system.

A canal for this had first been dug in 1895 and a previous dam constructed in 1896. One of these two dams, and I haven't been able to figure out if it was the 1896 or 1904 version, was constructed of cedar logs and concrete. Today the remains of 4-Mile Dam are over there on private property which is why I couldn't get close enough to really inspect it to see if the concrete was laid over a structure of cedar or the more familiar steel.

At any rate, water and power were a big deal for Junction in the first decade of the 1900's when the population sky-rocketed from 536 to 8,090, But by 1920 the population plummeted back down to 1250 (It's at 2600 today.) That and the advent of more efficient means of obtaining power and water left the dam in the dust, so to speak. And when left alone Mother Nature reclaims her own faster than we'd like to admit.

And no, as popular as 'tubing' is here in Texas, (I use quotes around tubing because I consider this lemming-like orgy of over-exposed skin, loud music and copious amounts of beer an abomination.) I didn't get the kayak out and float the South Llano.

Besides, it was getting close to 3 PM by now and I needed to get out of the roost area and leave it to the turkeys. . . who have more right to it than I do. . .

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