This central Texas oil town started out as a stop on the Southern Pacific Railroad and became an important shipping point for cattle. In those days, Luling gained some notoriety as a rowdy place which attracted gunslingers like John Wesley Hardin.
The discovery of oil here in 1922 has dictated the town’s development ever since and even now nearly 200 oil wells are located within the city limits. Many of the pumpjacks over these wells have been decorated in whimsical fashion.
Luling Zedler Mill Paddling Trail. Tell Fido it’s time to trade in the dog paddle for the canoe paddle and a day of fun on the San Marcos River. This was the state’s first paddling trail and starts six miles upstream from Luling; you’ll come out at Zedler Mill inside within city limits. (There’s a dam beyond the mill, so be careful not to go beyond the mill.) Check the web site for information on local canoe rentals, shuttles, and GPS coordinates along the river. Info: Put in 5 miles west of Luling where US 90 crosses the San Marcos River; www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Free.
Palmetto State Park. Located six miles southeast of Luling toward Gonzales, this park is like a secret tropical hideaway tucked among miles of ranch land. Thousands of years ago, the San Marcos River shifted course, leaving a huge deposit of silt that eventually became a marshy swamp estimated to be more than 18,000 years old. Today that swamp is filled with palmettos as well as moss-draped trees, 4-foot-tall irises, and many bird species. You and your dog can enjoy nature trails through the area or rent a paddleboat and enjoy an excursion on the San Marcos River together. The park has also has full hookups, tent sites, and plenty of picnic options. One precaution: those swamps mean mosquitoes so bring repellent and be sure your dog is current on heartworm preventative. Info: 78 Park Road 11 South, Gonzales; www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Fee.
Pump Jacks. With nearly 200 petroleum pumpjacks in the city limits, Luling has painted and decorated many of these pumpjacks as everything from football players to butterflies to watermelon slices. They make good photo stops for a dog photo. The Chamber of Commerce offers maps to the locations.
World’s Largest Watermelon. OK, it’s not really a watermelon but a painted water tower. (There are two water towers in town; you’ll want the one on the east side. Just look up…you can’t miss it.)