he last of the 11 rivers we traced in December was the (mostly) alluring Medina River. Like the other rivers wriggling south off the Edwards Plateau, its mother canyon is gorgeous and rugged. In fact, we followed it down Texas 16, the narrowest state highway we’d encountered. The river, already swift and lined with cypresses, appears at full force before reaching the village of Medina.
In the valleys, we encountered stretches that narrowed to one lane under construction. Traffic lights, rather than flaggers, guide the drivers from each direction. (We took the above shot at one of the most scenic roadside parks in the state!)
The first town of any consequence is Bandera, the self-style Cowboy Capital of Texas. No arguing with its verdant valley, historic downtown and full complement of guest ranches. We wandered around a bit, but it seemed tilted toward the tourist trade.
Our next adventure was down a winding FM to a lookout park over Medina Lake. The park itself was empty and the lake — still low — without activity. But, boy, do those rugged hills make a great setting. The lake road was cluttered with “Do Not Enter” signs and trashed out yards. Not sure I’d want these hill people for neighbors.
The Medina picks up steam again near the hamlet of Rio Medina then gently enters Castroville on the plains below. We had been longing to explore this Alsatian community for decades and were delighted to find that so many of the slope-roofed structures had been preserved. To catch the river, we hiked Castroville Regional Park next to a camp of human snow birds. On this fine day, joggers and picnickers joined us. The stream bends widely among thick cypresses hung with Spanish moss. It could have been East Texas!
We lunched at the Alsatian-themed Castroville Cafe — good stuff and much appreciated — then drifted into the dreaded magnetic force of San Antonio. Actually, we were surprised how little out southwest of the metropolis was developed. But aside from the Medina River Natural Area, a lot of the waterway, as it drops into prairie, is sadly battered by military, industrial and agricultural forces. We couldn’t get close to its mouth at the San Antonio River just off of Interstate 37. Just as well, from the surroundings, we guessed it would not be pretty.
Links to other Texas River Tracings:
Three Forks of the Brazos
We’ll add these links from previous trips soon-ish, some recorded on ancient blogs:
Prairie Dog Town Branch of the Red River
San Jacinto River
San Marcos River
San Antonio River
San Bernard River
San Saba River
Little Wichita River
We plan to trace these waterways in the next months:
Big Cypress Creek
San Gabriel River