We headed out of Brady early on a bright, chilly morning. We crossed mostly flat, lonely scrub land until we hit the arm of O.H. Ivie Lake that’s formed by the Concho River where it flows into the Colorado River. The lake is still pretty low from the long drought, by plenty of water and wildlife — including our first yellowlegs — gathered here under the leafless trees.
We crossed the Concho next near Paint Rock. Here the river is shallow and grassy. We might or might not have stepped across a fence to take a closer look. When it’s not clear, we don’t ask too many questions.
We were tempted by a sign pointing to the Paleo-Indian rock art, but got caught up in some road construction before leaving the car to document the magnificently restored Concho County Courthouse, designed by F.E. and Oscar Ruffini in a out-of-place Second Empire style.
Recently harvested cotton fields led us to San Angelo, where we made time to explore this isolated Texas city, starting with its elaborate riverwalk. Three branches of the Concho meet here, although our maps didn’t always agree on which was which. No matter.
At Fort Concho, we barely escaped the clutches of a talkative tour guide in order to examine this pristinely preserved frontier outpost on our own. That makes six Indian Wars forts visited during our Texas river tracings. There’s a cute little telephony museum on the grounds.
We also spent some time in San Angelo’s small but lovingly renovated downtown district. We didn’t go into the high-rise Cactus Hotel — one of the original Hiltons — an omission we later regretted. But we ate at the gussied up Miss Hattie’s Restaurant, which comes with a brothel theme and excellent food. San Angelo was obviously a big place on the way out West, before and after the arrival of teh railroads, and much of that is due to the saving graces of the river.
We took our last glimpses of the North Bosque at San Angelo State Park. All the branches of the Concho form lakes around here, and the state park swaddles the shores of O.C. Fischer Lake. Virtually no bird life. The grass and shrubs looked blackened and as we further explored, it became clear that rangers had tried to burn back the prickly pear, which in places had gone crazy.
We tramped along the flowing river with its multi-colored stones on the other end of the park. It made us curious about the geology of the region, so we bookmarked that thought for a later date. By now, the sun had warmed its banks and we wondered why so few visitors took advantage on a weekend afternoon.
To come soon: Links to all previous Texas River Tracing stories.