Anyone who has done much highway driving in the Southwest knows that you do not have to go to a zoo to see an armadillo. Rather, they seem to appear every few miles along the highway, laying on their back with their feet stuck up in the air, and dead as a doornail! Even so, there are still lots of folks who have never seen one and have no idea what these creatures are! I was made aware of this when I emailed a photo of a "very much alive" armadillo crawling around my front yard, to my son who was living in the northwest USA. A friend of his from Latvia (formerly Soviet Russia) saw the photo on my son's computer screen, and exclaimed, "What in the world is that creature??!!" That is when I learned that armadillos may be as much an oddity to foreigners in the U.S., as the common Australian kangaroo is to an American visiting "down under" for the first time. Hence, it is only fitting that the sign for the Victoria Zoological Park ( www.texaszoo.org ) in Victoria, Texas, includes an etching of this curious animal! The purpose of this zoo is to provide a home to approximately 200 species of animals and plants indigenous to Texas, and exhibiting them in their natural habitats. The zoo is located in Victoria's 562 acre Riverside Park.
Riverside Park is also the location of one of the prime sites for The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail (www.tpwd.texas.gov ). These trails are like a treasure hunt for avid birders, who want to find those special birds that may be missing on their "life list" of bird sitings.
The zoo in Victoria is sponsoring a photo contest for images taken by guests, when visiting the zoo, to be used in their 2016 calendar. This provides a fun activity for competitive photographers who are motivated by getting one of their prize-winning photographs selected for the annual zoo calendar, which is then sold as a fund-raiser for the zoo .
The zoo also has a gift shop inside this old, restored general store, and it is where you can find out about the children's summer camps, and other family activities the zoo sponsors throughout the year.
The park is called "riverside", because it is adjacent to the Guadalupe River, that runs through it.
The Guadalupe River forms the Victoria Paddling Trail. This 4.2 mile stretch of Guadalupe River is bordered by scenic soft banks, rather than the limestone bluffs of the Hill Country. You can learn more about this trail, and other attractions in Victoria, Texas, on their website, www.visitvictoriatexas.com .
The "protrusions" seen in the front of this photo are called cypress "knees", and are formed from the cypress trees growing around this man made pond in Riverside Park.
The areas surrounding the river in the park are very flat, and not much higher in elevation than the river, so it is not surprising that there are occasional issues with flooding. On the day I visited in March, 2015, the entire park was open and available for scenic auto drives, hiking, and paddling. However, on the Memorial Day weekend that I am writing this post, the entire park is closed down, due to extensive flooding of the Guadalupe River! (The exception is that the PumpHouse Restaurant is still accessible, and open to the public).
This gazebo on a small peninsula in the pond, looks like it would be the perfect place to sit and watch the waterfowl, or daydream of places yet to be visited.
Since I only was able to visit the park once, I do not know if these colorful waterfowl are migratory, or permanent residents.
Although the population of Victoria was measured at around 87,000 in the 2010 census, I saw more birds than people during my visit to this city, that is located just 30 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico!
These 250-year-old teak and iron gates mark the entry to the PumpHouse Riverside Restaurant ( www.victoriapumphouse.com ), located within Riverside Park. The facility consists of a compound of restored historic buildings. After providing water service to the city of Victoria for over a century, the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 . It was also named a Texas Historic Landmark in 2011. It offers casual outdoor dining on decks overlooking the Guadalupe River, as well as indoor dining. The original purpose of the Pump House was to provide water for the city of Victoria, and, in an indirect way, it is STILL providing water to residents and visitors to Victoria. However, now that water is served in sparkling crystal glasses, along with a variety of delicious menu options. It is a reminder of the words of Jesus in John 7:37-38 that say, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." This visit to Victoria, along with Jesus' promise of living water, is enough to give me "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia