As spring blossoms and summer beckons, it’s only natural to find yourself yearning to get away and escape to the great outdoors. This year, remedy your desire for nature with a retreat to a place that’s off the beaten path; a refuge that’s unexpectedly abundant; an oasis in the desert. San Angelo, Texas, is that place.
This West Texas town has a history rich with Native Americans, Spanish missionaries and frontier settlers. Situated along the banks of the Concho River and surrounded by three lakes, San Angelo offers lush natural beauty and a plethora of outdoor activities to cure even the worst case of “outdooritis.” No matter how you roll—whether it’s with a bedroll, a fifth wheel, a duffel bag or a spinner suitcase—San Angelo will accommodate you.
Go with the Flow
The Concho River is the lifeline of this region and feeds the reservoirs that make San Angelo a veritable oasis. Renowned since the early 1600s and named for its abundant supply of mussels (concho is the Spanish word for shell), the Concho River supplies the area not only with irrigation and a sustainable stock of fish but also with rare natural river pearls of iridescent pinks and purples that grow inside the shells of mussels. Perhaps these coveted gems are nature’s way of saying, “this place is special.”
Today, the waterway continues to be celebrated. In 2017, the American Planning Association designated San Angelo’s Concho River Walk as one of the Great Places in America. Along this 4-mile stretch (that’s soon to be extended even further) you’ll find parks, public art installations, the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, well-lit running trails, public gardens, anglers, an outdoor amphitheater that hosts both plays and concerts, the Love Municipal Pool and the Santa Fe Park Golf Course.
With so many picture-perfect sites along the Concho River Walk, your inner photographer will be primed to receive plenty of social media love and admiration—especially when you post pics from the International Waterlily Collection on display late spring to early fall at Civic League Park. The best time to visit is April through November, between 9 a.m. and noon, since most varieties open to receive the sun during those times.
If you’re looking for a getaway location, settle in at Flamingo Flatts, a quaint boutique hotel conveniently located near shopping, dining, entertainment and the River Walk. This historic inn has a beach-themed ambiance, appropriate for an oasis, and provides en suite rooms and a communal kitchen.
San Angelo is also home to many hotels and vacation rentals. You can even bunk at one of the area ranches on a hunting expedition. Getting back to basics at area campgrounds or glamping at RV parks is another great way to make the most of the area.
Surrounded by Nature
If you’re coming with the family, you all will love staying at San Angelo State Park, where the kids have an abundance of outdoor entertainment and can even become a Junior Ranger for the day. The park offers one of the most extensive trail systems for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding of any Texas state park, and you never know what you’re going to see along the way. Situated at the confluence of four ecological zones—the rolling plains, the high plains, the hill country and the trans-Pecos—the park benefits from the regional diversity of plant and animal life that flourish in and around the waters of the O.C. Fisher Reservoir and the Concho River. You’ll flourish, too, from the aquatic activities as you swim, fish or paddle throughout the day. The fishing is great, so bring a pole or borrow one from the rangers (no license is necessary if casting from the shore).
There’s plenty more to do away from the water. Pack binoculars to spy on the birds; set up a telescope to chart the night sky; and be sure to plan an outing with a ranger (check its website’s event page) that includes a tour of the bison and Texas longhorn herds (the largest in the state). The park also boasts the largest set of prehistoric Permian vertebrate tracks in the world— and in Texas, you know size matters. Plan your visit during late October and you might see a migratory layover of monarch butterflies. If all things geo- get you going, download a geocaching app and set out to explore for hidden treasure. Choose from developed and primitive campsites including equestrian sites as well as cabins.
Splash It Up
Make waves at Lake Nasworthy, home to two adrenaline-pumping water sports events. In June, the lake churns with the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series. This nationally televised event features high-tech, high-performance boats that vaporize the water as they exceed 250-mph speeds in short-distance races. Blink, and you’ll miss it. Then in July, Wake the Desert, Texas’ longest-running wakeboarding and wakesurfing event, entertains as athletes perform jaw-dropping twists, turns, flips and the occasional flop.
After all that excitement, slow down the pace with a cruise on the nostalgic Tule Princess Steamboat, the only operational vessel of her kind in the world. Embark with Captain Fox and crew who’ll take you on a peaceful and informative tour of the lake. Here’s how a recent passenger described the experience, “The steamboat with all its sounds, smells and vibrations took one back to the days of plying the inland waters of years long past.” Afterward, visit the neighboring San Angelo Nature Center, where its menagerie includes a variety of snakes and lizards, tarantulas, turtles, prairie dogs, bobcats, and more.
With so much to see and do here, maximize your time by staying overnight on the shores of Lake Nasworthy. Sleep under the stars at primitive and developed tent campsites, or plug in at the Spring Creek Marina & RV Park or the nearby San Angelo KOA. The adjacent Twin Buttes Reservoir offers even more space to camp, boat, swim, fish and hunt. Or if you prefer a less rustic overnight experience, head back into San Angelo and book a room at one of the wonderful hotel options.
Now, treat that fever and chase away the blues. Start planning your San Angelo outdoor adventure today. For more fun, visit DiscoverSanAngelo.com.