TPWD News Release — Sept. 9, 2010
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is partnering with Running R Guest Ranch to bring to life the legendary longhorn cattle drives of the 1880s, when Bandera served as one of the main gathering points on the Great Western Trail when millions of head were driven to Dodge City, Kan., and other Midwestern markets. Bandera, which today is home to a number of dude ranches, bills itself as the “Cowboy Capital of the World.”
Registration is limited to 25 participants, 16 and older, and takes place through the Running R by signing up on its Website or by calling (830) 796-3984. The guest wranglers will bunk at the guest ranch on Friday, Oct. 15, and arise early the next morning to saddle their mounts, round up the longhorns on the ranch, and begin driving them to nearby the Hill Country State Natural Area. Drovers, both experienced hands and tenderfoots, will be working 50-plus head of the legendary stock.
The longhorns will be driven approximately 6 miles along several park trails, stopping at the park headquarters, where they will be penned while the “dudes” chow down on chuck wagon vittles before being driven to the Group Lodge. Wranglers will camp with the herd Saturday night, eating a barbecue dinner, and drive the cattle back 6 miles to the Running R the next morning.
This will be TPWD’s first time to host a longhorn cattle drive in a state park outside of ones that have been held twice a year since 1995 at Big Bend Ranch State Park in far west Texas. For years now, Hill Country SNA has enjoyed a close relationship with the adjacent Running R Guest Ranch and other nearby dude ranches, as well as horse outfitters.
Because of its remote but scenic location, minimal development, 50 miles of trails and facilities catering to equestrians, the 5,500-acre state natural area makes an ideal place to host a longhorn cattle drive. Park superintendent Paul David Fuentes refers to it as the place “where the road ends and the West begins.”
Fuentes says he jumped at the change to host the drive when approached by Running R’s owner, Diane “Tiggs” Migliaccio, who often leads horseback riders into the state natural area.
“If we in Bandera and the Texas Hill Country are to be true to our heritage,” Fuentes says, “we have to provide these kinds of activities so we can really showcase the ranching way of life and our Western culture. Working with guide service contractors like the Running R also demonstrates to the public that we can think outside the box and use public-private partnerships as a way to meet growing demand for what people seek in their state parks.”
Migliaccio, who purchased the 230-acre Running R ranch two years ago, thinks the cattle drive at Hill Country SNA is a perfect fit and gives the public a rare chance to experience a bit of the cowboy life in the heart of Texas in a state park that many are unaware exists.
“I lived in Austin prior to this and I had no idea this park was here,” says the New Jersey native who as a youngster used to visit her uncle’s thoroughbred operation. “It still amazes me that so many people live so close by and don’t know it exists.
“The park is full of history, such as the spring barn that’s still here. When I look at it, I wonder what took place here years ago. I thought to myself how cool it would be to bring the cattle through here. I felt somebody needs to teach people what their heritage is all about.”
Migliaccio praises Hill Country SNA’s natural beauty and the scenic spots the drovers will visit during the cattle drive. She says her equestrian guests never fail to be awed by what they see in the park, from clear-running streams and oak- and juniper-covered canyons to wildflower meadows and mountaintop vistas.
The state natural area opened to the public in 1984 after the state acquired it in 1976 through donation and purchase. A bulk of the acreage was gifted by the Merrick Bar-O Ranch whose owners stipulated that the land “be kept far removed and untouched by modern civilization, where everything is preserved intact, yet put to useful purpose.”
Those purposes include horseback riding, hiking, primitive camping, backpacking, birding, nature photography, mountain biking and even geocaching.
Fuentes invites the public to come out to the park on Saturday, Oct 16, for lunch and entertainment, and watch a bit of the modern-day cattle drive. Hill Country SNA is located 12 miles southwest of Bandera and 52 miles northwest of San Antonio on FM 1077. For more information about the park, call (830) 796-4413 or visit: http://archive.tpwd.state.tx/spdest/findadest/parks/hill_country.