Where can you visit where one moment you’re trekking up rock formations that were created 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous age, hike near magical waterfalls and lush vegetation and even swim in crystal-clear waters lined by 600-year-old bald cypress trees? Then you continue to take that day magical day by walking right out on a dam and later that night go dancing on one of the only state parks that has its own dance floor.
This place we’re speaking of is Garner State Park and its river, the Frio (named for its chilly temperatures) has a history of enticing people to its banks. Between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, prehistoric people camped in the area. They came here for the abundant game, useful plants and stone for making tools. In addition, the river provided a dependable source of water and helped cool the canyons.
As early as the 16th century, Spanish explorers made Entradas (or entries) into the Americas, bringing horses with them. The Comanche and Apache quickly became horsemen; the Comanche were especially adept. This ability gave them an edge over other Native American groups in the area. Native Americans roamed this area into the mid- to late-1800s.
In the 1850s, Anglo settlers began trickling west of San Antonio. These self-sufficient and daring folks farmed; raised cattle, hogs, and goats; grew tobacco, cotton, and corn; and produced tallow and hides. They harvested the local bounty of pecans, game and other resources, just as earlier peoples had.
Two German immigrant families, the Magers and the Streibs, settled on land that later became Garner State Park.
The Garner Today
Garner State Park is a great place to visit for a swim or hike, or to enjoy a relaxing weekend. With 2.9 miles of Frio River winding through 1,774 acres of scenic Hill Country terrain, the park offers lots to see and do!
The beauty of the scenery, the abundance of activities and the festivities are what helps draw over 350,000 Texans here every year. Swim in the Frio River or float its waters on an inner tube, operate a paddle boat, and hike 11 miles of scenic trails. You can also hike, study nature, picnic, canoe, fish, play miniature golf, geocache, ride bikes, ride horses, hunt, and birdwatch.
When you visit you, you don’t need to take anything from your cabin with you. You can rent paddle boats, kayaks, and inner tubes, as well as tables, barbecue pits, heaters, and fans. The park’s concessionaire operates a tube shuttle and putt-putt golf course during busy seasons. Rent a small locker near the boathouse for stashing your valuables (or more information, visit Garner State Park Concessions).
And yes, you can dance!
The park is considered the best for dancing:
Ever since the depression era Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) completed the construction of Garner State Park in 1941 there has been “The Dance”. The large dance floor is located in front of the Concessions Building on the banks of the Frio River. The building and the short wall around the dance floor are all made if hand shaped native Texas Hill Country stone gathered in the immediate area of the park. The music is provided by a Wurlitzer Jukebox.
Currently, dances are held nightly from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from about 8:00 or so until 11:00 PM. On this mid-August summer night the crowds were waning as the beginning of school was close at hand, Texas was in the middle of a major drought and daytime temperatures reached triple digits. Subsequently, most dancers arrive well after dark at a time where photography of any kind is difficult. The peak crowd on this night was about 300 on or around the dance floor.
If you have never been to “The Dance” you need to put it on your to-do list. If you have been, but not in a long time, plan on going again.
Along with swimming and hiking, Garner State Park is well known for its large outdoor pavilion, which holds dances throughout the summer. TPWD Magazine deemed the park “The Best Dance to a Timeless Tune.”
“It’s a familiar scene for many Texans — a warm summer’s night at Garner, the stars shining overhead and the dance floor full, the jukebox playing a tune from long ago.
Traditions are made here
This park didn’t start out with so many visitors. It’s not like it adds new attractions every year, upping prices and making hard for a family to have fun without taking out a second mortgage. No, this place has grown naturally with generation after generation bringing new families to visit as its popularity only increases.
Our cabin, the Rustic Retreat, has been part of that. Every family that has stayed with us has either come back again or plans to come back.
We hope that you, too, become part of that tradition. There’s always room for you here at the Rustic Retreat.