Top Campgrounds, RV Parks & Resorts For Outdoor Recreation (Birding & Hiking)

These selected RV parks offer outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation including birding, hiking, and fishing.

A+ Motel & RV Park, Sulphur, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A+ Motel & RV Park, Sulphur, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A+ Motel & RV Park is centrally located in Cajun Country near Calcasieu “Big” Lake and other great fishing, hunting, and birding destinations and the Creole Nature Trail All American Road.

Enjoy the Old West in and around Angel Lake RV Park in Wells, Nevada. Some of the least known, pristine outdoor recreation areas in the West is all easily accessible. Deer, antelope, and other big game populate the surrounding back country. Anglers will find nearby lakes, reservoirs, creeks, and streams much to their liking. Angel Lake, tucked into the East Humboldt mountain range, is a particular favorite for its fish and striking 8,400 foot scenery.

World-class birding and the Texas Tropics surround you at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in Mission. The World Birding Center Headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park welcomes Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort residents to the top birding observation center in the nation. You can bike through the Park or take advantage of the convenient tram service.

Thousands of acres of state and federally protected wildlife habitat, lakes, parks, trails, and a 40-foot high Hawk Observation Tower on the banks of the Rio Grande River are within easy walking distance of your front door at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort. Additionally, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) outdoor butterfly park is adjacent to Bentsen Palm Development.

Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission.
Bentsen Palm Village RV Park, Mission, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bosque Bird Watcher’s RV Park is a small mom and pop operation offering basic gravel parking lot type sites with full hookups. It’s nothing fancy but is quiet and clean and handy to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

RVers, birders, photographers, and all lovers of nature and the outdoors are attracted to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese arrive for the winter each November amid a backdrop of purple mountains clothed in autumn colors and bathed in the light of New Mexico’s spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

Catalina State Park protects a choice section of desert on the western base of the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. The environment offers great camping, hiking, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. An equestrian center provides a staging area for trail riders and plenty of trailer parking is also available.

Miles of equestrian, birding, and hiking trails wind through the park and the adjoining Coronado National Forest, as well as an interpretive trail to a prehistoric village.

Catalina State Park, Oro Valley, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Catalina State Park, Oro Valley, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home. Usery Mountain offers over 29 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Park trails range in length from 0.2 miles to over 7 miles, and range from easy to difficult. These trails are popular because they have enough elevation to offer spectacular vistas of surrounding plains. The park’s modern campground is excellent for RVs of all sizes.

Wake up to a breathtaking sunrise; wind up the day with a spectacular sunset at the Van Horn KOA, set in a beautiful desert valley surrounded by mountains. This country setting, landscaped with native plants that attract wildlife, is filled with the sounds of birds. Visit Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns national parks, Fort Davis and the town of Marfa, whose “Ghost Lights” have defied explanation since 1883. The full-service KOA Cafe can deliver a Texas dinner to your campsite.

Vogel Talks RVing selected the list of top campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts from parks personally visited.

A+ Motel & RV Park, Sulphur, Louisiana

Van Horn KOA, Van Horn, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Van Horn KOA, Van Horn, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, Mission Texas

Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park, San Antonio, New Mexico

Catalina State Park, Oro Valley, Arizona

Crystal Lake RV Park, Mims, Florida

McCammon RV Park, McCammon, Idaho

North Llano River RV Park, Junction, Texas

Quail Ridge RV Park, Huachuca City, Arizona

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa, Arizona

North Llano River RV Park, Junction, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
North Llano River RV Park, Junction, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Van Horn KOA, Van Horn, Texas

Wildhorse Resort & Casino RV Park, Pendleton, Oregon

Worth Pondering…

Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
—John Muir

Read More

Top 4 Snowbird Destinations

There’s nothing quite like venturing south in your recreational vehicle when winter’s northern wind starts to stir and snow starts to blow.

Snowbirds and full-time RVs in their winter home at Bella Terra RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Snowbirds and full-time RVs in their winter home at Bella Terra RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, there are numerous warm, welcoming, and breathtakingly-beautiful places to explore as a southbound snowbird. With many snowbird friendly RV resorts offering wonderful amenities and gorgeous views, there’s never been a better time to head south.

Following is a look at four exciting RV destinations for snowbirds to check out:

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores (Alabama)

Located near the sugar white sands of the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast, Bella Terra Luxury Resort in Foley, Alabama, boasts a 5-star rating with true southern charm. Bella Terra of Gulf Shores is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community designed with the discriminating RVer in mind.

Bella Terra’s amenities include a 6,000 square foot Grand Clubhouse, fenced-in dog park, stocked lake, fully-appointed fitness center, infinity-edge pool, Jacuzzi, private movie theatre, business center, and croquet court.

The RV lots offered for both sale and rent include professional landscaping for privacy, concrete pads, built-in patios, full service utility hook-ups with views of the stocked lake and lush foliage. The over-sized Class A RV lots—some as large as 5,000 square feet—are designed to satisfy your Class A RV motor coach needs.

Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission.
Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort (Texas)

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is one of the most unique RV Resorts in South Texas and is part of the 2,600-acre Master Planned Community of Bentsen Palm Development.

Bentsen Palm Village is located in South Mission at the entrance to World Birding Center headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Bentsen Palm Village is only minutes from shopping, medical facilities, and easy access to Expressway 83.

Bentsen Palm Village offers over 250 large pull-through and back-in sites, full hookups, rental cabins and casitas, and native landscaping. Super Sites offer a 10×12 storage building that can be locked and secured when necessary. Resort amenities include a Club house, pool and spa, fitness center, dog agility course, woodshop, craft room, and miles and miles of hike and bike trails.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon Vistas RV Resort (Arizona)

Canyon Vistas RV Resort is nestled at the base of the breathtaking Superstition Mountains in the exclusive Gold Canyon area southeast of Phoenix. Here you’re beyond the noise and congestion of the city, yet minutes from shopping and entertainment. Enjoy a morning walk or bike ride amid stately hundred year old Saguaro cactus or keep in shape at the state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Meet your friends for a round of golf at the pitch and putt course followed by a cool drink on the expansive covered veranda, soothed by refreshing desert breezes. Go hiking, boating, and horseback riding in the nearby mountains.

Amenities include fitness center, ceramics, wood carving, lapidary, pickleball, computer lab and classes, quilting and sewing room, pools and spas, tennis courts, and pet area.

Indian Waters RV Resort (California)

Indian Waters RV Resort and Cottages is located in the Coachella Valley City of Indio, an area that includes the desert cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and La Quinta.

Recently renovated, this beautiful property has added cottages, a second pool, lighted pickleball courts, 50 amp electric and city sewer service to all sites, resurfacing of roads and sites, enhanced Wi-Fi, and a complete make-over for the large clubhouse.

Today, Indian Waters with its desirable location and numerous amenities, is one of the best and most affordable, five star, state-of-the-art RV resorts in the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area.

Indian Waters RV Resort
Enjoying the Southern California sunshine at Indian Waters RV Resort in Indio. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With 274 full service sites with 50/30-amp electric, Indian Waters RV Resort and Cottages offers two distinct landscaping themes for its concrete level sites: grass and desert landscape. All sites have views of the majestic mountains or nearby ponds, towering eucalyptus trees, or gardens. All sites are convenient to the two improved bathhouse and laundry facilities. The typical RV site is approximately 35 feet wide and 60 feet deep with two concrete pads, one for your RV and one for your toad/tow vehicle.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snowbird life

behind the wheel.

Read More

RV Travel Tips for Pet Owners

Attention pet lovers: recreational vehicles and pets are a perfect match.

Pet friendly amenities at Bentsen Palm Village in the Rio Grande Valley include dog agility course and pet parade. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Pet friendly amenities at Bentsen Palm Village in the Rio Grande Valley include dog agility course and pet parade. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveling in an RV gives you the ability to bring your family pet along for the fun. With the company of your animal companion and without the anxiety of boarding your pet or asking a neighbor or friend to pet-sit, you can enjoy your camping trip with the entire family.

More and more RVers are traveling with their pets and finding it makes RVing even more enjoyable. Recreational vehicles and pets are, in most cases, a good mix. If your pets enjoy riding with you in the car, they’ll also enjoy traveling in the RV.

According the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), more than 50 percent of RV travelers bring pets on their travels. Among these pet owners, 78 percent bring dogs, 15 percent travel with cats, and the remaining pet owners travel with birds or other small pets.

The RV industry’s suppliers and manufacturers have made an effort to accommodate mobile pets, from collapsible pet window cages to special tie-downs for dogs built into RVs.
More and more campgrounds and RV parks now welcome pets and an increasing number are becoming pet friendly.

Plan your trip with pet-friendly destinations in mind. Contact the campground ahead of time to determine their policies on pets and then plan accordingly. If your lifestyle or your pet’s lifestyle cannot adapt, find a different campground or change your destination. Only as a last resort, reconsider taking your pet.

Bring copies of vaccination records with you, as you never know when you might need them.

The American RV Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, not only receives high Good Sam rating for its facilities but has something to offer every member of the family from its heated swimming pool for the kids, a spa for the adults, and a dog park for the family pet on board. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The American RV Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, not only receives high Good Sam rating for its facilities but has something to offer every member of the family from its heated swimming pool for the kids, a spa for the adults, and a dog park for the family pet on board. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ensure your pet is properly identified. Also, obtain identification with the address of your destination.

Carry a photo of your pet. You’ll be glad you did if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of making, photocopying, and posting “lost pet” notices.

Bring along your pet’s bed and favorite toys so it will feel comfortable and at home on the road. If traveling with a feline friend, think through the cat-box arrangement. Having extra litter, a covered litter box, plastic bags for disposal, scoop, and baking soda to cover the bottom of the box will keep mess and odor to a minimum.

Your dog feels as cramped as you do after hours of traveling. It’s important that you walk your canine pet when you take rest stops. If your pet is a cat, walks aren’t an issue, but plenty of stretching room is.

Upon registration request a site away from other campers, shady if it’s hot, sunny if it’s cool. Check about leash rules, dog-walk areas, “poop-scooping” policies, and local dog parks.

Once you make camp, abide by the camp’s pet policies. No-spill food and water bowls make the experience even easier. Keep water within reach and keep any possible entanglements out of the way.

Pet friendly amenities at Bentsen Palm Village in the Rio Grande Valley include dog agility course and pet parade. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Pet friendly amenities at Bentsen Palm Village in the Rio Grande Valley include dog agility course and pet parade. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never let your pet wander. Portable enclosed pens will enable your pets to enjoy the outside with you. Always clean up after your pet. Be a quiet and considerate neighbor—nothing ruins a camping experience for others like a constantly barking dog.

In selecting its list of Top Pet-Friendly RV Parks for 2014, Good Sam chose RV parks and campgrounds that feature amenities, special services, and events tailored to owners of pets.  These parks offer facilities ranging from dog runs to pet washing areas, and some hand out free treats and toys to canines upon check-in.

A number RV parks feature fenced-in dog runs on their property—a boon to travelers seeking a place to give their furry passengers a place to run after idle travel time. Also offered in some parks are trails for pet walking.

Among the most luxurious pet amenities are fenced-in dog wash stations, with stainless-steel sinks, soap, and warm water available to wash pets.

The American RV Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, not only receives high Good Sam rating for its facilities but has something to offer every member of the family from its heated swimming pool for the kids, a spa for the adults, and a dog park for the family pet on board.

Pet friendly amenities at Bentsen Palm Village in the Rio Grande Valley include dog agility course and pet parade. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Pet friendly amenities at Bentsen Palm Village in the Rio Grande Valley include dog agility course and pet parade. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A favorite with Winter Texans, Bentsen Palm Village has 5.5 miles of onsite hiking and biking trails as well as numerous organized activities and workshops, from couples dancing to gourd painting, and Swedish blanket making to water color painting.

Pet friendly amenities include dog agility course and pet parade. The dog park became so popular that the owners recently added a second park so that guests could have separate running and play areas for big dogs and small dogs.

Happy camping to you and your four-footed friends. Most of all, have fun with your pet! After all, it’s a ruff life being a dog!

Worth Pondering…

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made.

—M. Facklam

Read More

Bentsen Palm Village Awarded 2012 Park of the Year

Bentsen Palm Village has received the campground industry’s highest honor, the Park of the Year Award, from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

Bentsen Palm Development 1173826v1v1The 250-site campground won the award in the medium size park category, which is based on several criteria, including customer service, employee training, operational excellence, national directory ratings, and community service, according to a news release.

Bentsen Palm Village General Managers Guy and Juanita Carvajal received the award during a November 30 ceremony at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which was hosted by ARVC.

Built 10 years ago by developer/builder Mike Rhodes and his wife, Lori, Bentsen Palm Village is located next to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park & World Birding Center and has a lot of visitors who come to enjoy the resort’s native plants, which host butterflies and birds.

“Our guests love to come bird watching and butterfly watching,” Carvajal said, adding that the park also has two miles of frontage along the Rio Grande River.

“We have pontoon boats that take people on the river for bird watching and nature tours.”

Although Bentsen Palm Village was built from scratch, the owners planted native trees and shrubs, which are becoming more beautiful each year as they mature, Carvajal said. The park was designated by Texas Parks & Wildlife as a certified wildscape and is the largest of its kind in Texas.

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort Super Site
Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort Super Site

Texas Wildscapes is a habitat conservation plan for rural and urban area. It enables Texans to contribute to wildlife conservation by developing wildlife habitats where they live, work, and play.

But while Bentsen Palms has a scenic setting, Carvajal said it’s the park’s exemplary customer service that results in high ratings.

“The majority of our business comes from referrals,” she said.

“I get a lot of calls from people and the first thing they say is, ‘We have some friends and they recommended your park.’”

Bentsen Palm Village has 5.5 miles of onsite hiking and biking trails as well as numerous organized activities and workshops, from couples dancing and Zumba classes to gourd painting, Swedish blanket making, water color painting, and woodshop.

The dog park at Bentsen Palm Village has become so popular that the owners recently added a second park so that guests could have separate running and play areas for big dogs and small dogs.

“About 70 to 75 percent of our guests have dogs, so these kinds of amenities are important,” Carvajal said.

Of course, while pet friendly amenities are attractive to Winter Texans, that’s not the only attraction at Bentsen Palm Village.

The 250-site resort recently set aside an open area of the park where its guests can grow their own organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

“It’s like a community garden,” Carvajal said, “but we give each guest a 10 by 10-foot section where they can put a stake with their name on it. They often grow kale, peppers, tomatoes, onions and radishes. Sometimes, they grow so much they bring it into the office to share.”

Details

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort

The colorful green jay is a common visitor to Bentsen Palm Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The colorful green jay is usually seen in brushy areas and dense woods in the lower Rio Grande Valley.. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is one of the most unique RV Resorts in South Texas and is part of the 2,600-acre Master Planned Community of Bentsen Palm Development.

Bentsen Palm Village is located in South Mission at the entrance to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park on South Bentsen Palm Drive.

Bentsen Palm Village is only minutes from shopping, medical facilities, and easy access to Expressway 83.

Bentsen Palm Village offers over 250 large pull-through and back-in sites, full hookups, rental cabins and casitas, and native landscaping.

Super Sites offer a 10×12 storage building that can be locked and secured when necessary. The sites are extra-wide concrete pads that include a picnic table and a charcoal grill.

Bentsen Palm Village is affiliated with ARVC and a member of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).

Phone: (877) 247-3727 (toll free)

Website: bentsenpalm.com

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

Read More

Variety of Activities Attract Winter Texans to Rio Grande Valley

During the summer months, Clyde and Kathy Janssen work as dance instructors at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, one of the most famous dance halls in America, which traces its roots to the Big Band Era of the 1930s and 40s.

The sighting of this Black-vented Oriole brought birders from around the world to Bentsen Palm Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Black-vented Oriole made its home a short distance from our RV site at Bentsen Palm Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But from November through April, the Janssens teach Jitterbug / Swing at Victoria Palms Resort in Donna. They also assist Grethe Sullivan in teaching salsa, cha cha, and other forms of ballroom dancing at the resort, according to a Texas Association of Campground Owners news release.

Victoria Palms Resort is one of many resorts across the Rio Grande Valley that offer dance classes as well as dancing to live and recorded music during the winter months.

“Dancing is one of the most popular activities at RV parks across the Rio Grande Valley,” Clyde Janssen said.

“It’s especially popular with empty nesters, whose kids have graduated from high school. It’s just mom and dad now. Now they have time for themselves and they can take time to do the things they’ve always wanted to do.”

A "Valley Specialty,: the Buff-bellied Hummingbird is a common sight at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and Wold Birding Center and other Valley nature spots. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A “Valley Specialty,: the Buff-bellied Hummingbird is a common sight at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and Wold Birding Center and other Valley nature spots. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“The wonderful thing about dancing is it’s something couples can do together as opposed to doing something where they are competing against each other,” Janssen said, adding, “It helps build personal relationships.”

Roughly 90 percent of the RV parks and resorts in the Rio Grande Valley offers dance lessons as well as venues where Winter Texans can dance to their hearts’ content, said Kristi Collier, president and CEO of Welcome Home Rio Grande Valley, which markets 75 RV parks and resorts from Mission to South Padre Island.

Of course, dancing is just one of a growing array of activities being offered at Rio Grande RV parks.

Some parks have literally hundreds of activities, from sewing and quilting classes to exercise and meditation classes, such as yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong as well as water aerobics and pickleball.

“If you’re bored down here, it’s your own fault,” Collier said, adding that many of the larger RV parks and resorts have multiple halls with breakout rooms for class and other activities and special events.

Many parks also have various arts and crafts classes, from painting to woodworking and lapidary, the art of jewelry making using fresh cut and polished stones.

Tom and Ayumi Towles have been teaching Winter Texans how to cut, grind, and set stones at the Llano Grande lapidary for 16 years. They also teach silver smithing and wire wrapping.

The lapidary shop is a unique feature, being the largest of only two lapidaries in the Rio Grande Valley. With 45 different machines available, guests of Llano Grande have unparalleled access to multiple aspects of this special craft. Lapidary shop guests pay for their materials, but the Towles provide instruction free of charge.

“We’ll normally have a dozen to 20 people a day who come in here and work,” Tom said.

“Most of the guys make jewelry for their wives. But they’ll also make bolos and belt buckles for themselves.”

Most work with various colors of jade, agates, jasper, and putrefied wood that they bring in from their travels, as well as local rocks they pick up in southern Texas, and coprolite which comes from western Colorado or eastern Utah.

“It’s petrified dinosaur dung,” Towles said. “It’s very pretty. It has lots of colors in it. It’s usually 70 to 100 million years old.”

Visitors to Santa Ana are often greeted with the raucous cry of the drab brown, scrawny-looking, turkey-like bird called a plain chachalaca, a bird that reaches its northern limits in the Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Visitors to Santa Ana are often greeted with the raucous cry of the drab brown, scrawny-looking, turkey-like bird called a plain chachalaca, a bird that reaches its northern limits in the Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Llano Grande’s lapidary shop also has various rocks as well as jewelry settings which are ordered from jewelry suppliers for those who need them.

Towles said most people who try making their own jewelry enjoy it.

“It’s like a bug that bites them and then they’re in here every day,” he said.

Further to the east, many of the Winter Texans who stay at Bentsen Palm Village enjoy the park’s woodshop, which is equipped with a variety of wood cutting machines.

“We have two volunteers who teach people in the park how to make beautiful wood bowls and other items,” said Juanita Carvajal, the park’s general manager.

Bensten Palm Village also has a craft room that is frequented by quilters and sewing enthusiasts. The park offers a variety of art classes, including gourd painting, Swedish blanket making and water colors.

“We also have line dancing and couples dancing and zumba classes,” Carvajal said.

Read More

Big Rio Grande Valley Welcome for Winter Texans

It’s no secret that RV parks and resorts in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) whose livelihoods depend on the annual influx of Winter Texansare facing several challenges.

The Roseate Spoonbill uses its long, flat, spoon-shaped bil to strain small food items out of the water. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Roseate Spoonbill uses its long, flat, spoon-shaped bil to strain small food items out of the water. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of today’s winter visitors are younger and more mobile than their counterparts of years past.

“They may go to Arizona this year, Texas next year, and Florida the next year,” said Kristi Collier, president and CEO of Welcome Home Rio Grande Valley, which markets 74 RV parks and resorts from Mission to South Padre Island.

Snowbirds unfamiliar with the RGV are also more likely to be concerned by publicity about violence in Mexico, even though cities in the Rio Grande Valley have less crime than other popular winter resort destinations in other states.

Despite these challenges, RV parks and resorts across the Valley are finding that they can continue to grow their business base for the winter season if they offer plenty of organized activities and continue to invest in new amenities for their parks, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of theTexas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).

Pet Amenities

These new amenities include walking areas and agility courses for people with dogs as well as special pet-related activities.

“Dog parks are a big deal,” said Jacqueline Gomez, who is the marketing director for Llano Grande Lake Park Resort & Country Club in Mercedes, Victoria Palms Resort in Donna, and Alamo Park Mobile Home & RV Park in Alamo. She said each of the resorts has two, off-leash dog areas.

The great kiskadee has yellow on its crown that is often obscured by the black stripes that frames it. However, if you get a view of the top of its head as I did in this photo, the yellow brightly stands out on this Rio Grande Valley specialty. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The great kiskadee has yellow on its crown that is often obscured by the black stripes that frames it. However, if you get a view of the top of its head as I did in this photo, the yellow brightly stands out on this Rio Grande Valley specialty. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The dog park at Bentsen Palm Village in Mission has become so popular that the owners recently added a second park so that guests could have separate running and play areas for big dogs and small dogs.

“About 70% to 75% of our guests have dogs, so these kinds of amenities are important,” said Juanita Carvajal, Bentsen Palm Village’s general manager.

Community Gardens

Of course, while pet friendly amenities are attractive to Winter Texans, that’s not the only attraction at Bentsen Palm Village. The 250-site resort recently set aside an open area of the park where its guests can grow their own organic fruits, vegetables and herbs.

“It’s like a community garden,” Carvajal said, “but we give each guest a 10 by 10-foot section where they can put a stake with their name on it. They often grow kale, peppers, tomatoes, onions and radishes. Sometimes, they grow so much they bring it into the office to share.”

Birding, Hiking and Wildlife

Bentsen Palms also markets its proximity to the World Birding Center while also highlighting the rare birds and other wildlife that make their way into the park.

“This past season, we had a family of elf owls that stayed in our park,” Carvajal said, adding that the owls are only 5 inches tall.

“The season before we had Black vented Orioles,” a rare bird native to Mexico and Central America that has a black hood, upper back and wings, and a bright yellow-orange underside.

The Black-vented Oriole made its home a short distance from our RV site at Bentsen Palm Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Black-vented Oriole made its home a short distance from our RV site at Bentsen Palm Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many Valley visitors enjoy state parks, national wildlife preserves, and other nature reserves. Others like taking bike rides and walks and kayaking down the Rio Grande River.

Other Activities

RV park operators are finding that other types of organized activities are also critical for today’s Winter Texans.

El Valle del Sol in Mission offers more than 100 activities each week for its guests including classes in wood carving, ceramics, and painting and Tai Chi while its food related events range from pancake breakfasts to potluck dinners with Hawaiian, Cajan, Western, and other culinary themes. The park also has live entertainment with polka bands and other musicians.

Winter visitors like their surroundings to be nice, too, which is why many Rio Grande Valley parks are also investing in aesthetic improvements and other creature comforts.

“We just put in a high powered Wi-Fi system this summer and everybody is real happy about that,” said Ruth Dearinger, manager of VIP Park in La Feria.

Other improvements at the 256-site park include resurfaced streets, landscaping, and the installation of more campsites with 50 amp electrical hookups.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

Read More

2012 Trailer Life RV Parks & Campground Directory Now Available

Trailer Life publications, publisher of the most comprehensive and reliable directories for RV parks, campgrounds, and services, recently released its 2012 Trailer Life RV Parks & Campgrounds Directory.

Recognized as the number one preferred campground directory by RVers in North America, the Trailer Life Directory is the “Bible” for RVers on the road, according to a news release. It is the official directory of the Good Sam Club, the world’s largest RV owners’ organization, and includes all Good Sam discount locations.

The new Directory provides expanded listings for more than 12,000 RV parks and 900,000 RV sites, including locations with Internet access, updated campground fees, and other easy-to-use information.

For 2012, the Trailer Life Directory celebrates its 40th anniversary, and commemorates the occasion with a special section highlighting RV history and looking toward the RV future.

Also new in the 2012 edition are RV coupons for savings on-the-go, RV Troubleshooting Tips and Tricks, and Bilingual Parks At-A-Glance, which points out parks that support foreign language needs.

“We strive to provide RVers and campers with the most updated travel tools to make visiting parks and campgrounds easy and accessible. The Trailer Life Directory and its new features help travelers keep up with changes to routes, campgrounds and services,” said Ann Emerson, Vice President and Publisher.

“We are excited about the 40th Anniversary of the Trailer Life Directory and bringing it to our loyal readers.”

In conjunction with the release of the new 2012 Directory, Trailer Life Publications has also released North America’s top 100 Good Sam Parks. This year, 33 parks scored a coveted 30 out of 30 points under the highly regarded Triple Rating System.

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course, Borrego Springs, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trailer Life Directory’s exclusive Triple Rating System is the industry standard and is trusted by travelers across North America to provide them with accurate, unbiased information.

Each year, trained Trailer Life representatives inspect and rate all private parks and campgrounds based on completeness of facilities, visual appeal, and other key factors. The thoroughness of the inspection process provides campers and RVers with the assurance that Parks will always meet their expectations, whether it’s a first-time visit or if they have been back year after year.

2012 Top 100 Good Sam Parks with Perfect Ratings

Alabama: Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley

Alabama: Lake Osprey RV Country Club, Elberta

Alabama: Windemere Cove RV Resort, Langston

Alabama: Heritage Motorcoach Resort & Marina, Orange Beach

Arkansas: Catherine’s Landing, an RVC Outdoor Destination, Hot Springs

Arizona: Rincon Country East RV Resort, Tucson

Arizona: Distant Drums RV Resort, Foley, Camp Verde

California: The Springs at Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course, Borrego Springs

California: Jackson Rancheria RV Park, Jackson

California: The Lakes RV & Golf Resort, Chowchilla

California: Premier RV Resorts-Redding, Redding

Florida: Williston Crossing RV Resort, Williston

Louisiana: Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson

Louisiana: Paragon Casino RV Resort, Marksville

Michigan: Little River Casino RV Park, Manistee

Michigan: Duck Creek RV Resort, Muskegon

Michigan: Silver Creek RV Resort, Mears

Minnesota: Grand Casino Hinckley RV Resort, Hinckley

Nevada: Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort, Las Vegas

Nevada: Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas

New York: The Villages at Turning Stone, Verona

Ohio: Evergreen Park RV Resort, Mt Eaton

Oregon: Seven Feathers RV Resort, Canyonville

Oregon: Pheasant Ridge RV Resort, Wilsonville

Quebec: Camping La Cle des Champs RV Resort, St-Philppe

Quebec: Camping Alouette, St Mathieu Beloeil

Quebec: Du Village Bromont RV Resort, Bromont

Texas: Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, Mission

Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas: K.E. Bushman’s Camp, Tyler

Texas: Mill Creek Ranch RV & Cottage Resort, Canton

Texas: Fernbrook Park, Longview

Texas: North Shore RV Resort, Onalaska

Texas: Rayford Crossing RV Resort, The Woodlands

Details

Trailer Life Directory

The Trailer Life Directory and website are part of the Good Sam Family of publications and services devoted to enhancing the lifestyle of recreational-vehicle (RV) enthusiasts. The Trailer Life Directory, known as “The Ultimate RV Travel Resource” is the official Directory of the Good Sam Club.

Website: TrailerLifeDirectory.com

Related

Worth Pondering…

RVing and imagination—both take you anywhere you want to be.

Read More

Flocking to Texas

In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, magic arrives on wings in winter. Bird-watchers from around the world converge on The Valley to see rare and unique birds. Situated at the confluence of two major migratory flyways—Central and Mississippi, The Valley is world famous among birdwatchers for the variety and number of birds to be found here.

Green Jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its diverse ecosystem of semi-arid brush and wetlands provide unique habitats for unusual plant and animal communities, which are found only in subtropical environments.

To the east, the gulf and bay waters, along with coastal prairie, reign supreme, while to the west are the arid lands of a desert-like environment. The northern portions are dominated by dense brush land and oak-choked, landlocked islands, while the southern boundary is subtropical and made of woodlands often draped in long curtains of humidity-loving Spanish moss.

Mostly frost-free, the valley contains the northern-most extension of the Mexican subtropical ecosystem, attracting a variety of neo-tropical birds more commonly found in Mexico.

Much of the valley now supports extensive urban/agricultural activities, but numerous natural areas along the Rio Grande have been protected and provide oases for more than 600 bird species that reside in or migrate through this region.

Many of the subtropical species are South Texas specialties, meaning it’s the only location in the United States where these birds can be found.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These birds include Green Jay, Chachalaca, Great Kiskadee, Green Kingfisher, Green Parakeet, Altamira Oriole, Clay-colored Robin (also called the Clay-colored Thrush), Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Duck, and Buff-bellied Hummingbird.

Plus, every now and again, simply because of its geographical proximity to the tropics, the valley attracts some off-the-wall, rare strays. The valley will then be inundated with bated-breath birders, all hell-bent to add one more special bird to their beloved lists. This winter it was the Rufous-backed Robin (also called the Rufous-backed Thrush), White-throated Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Blue-throated Hummingbird, and Black-vented Oriole who made its home in our park, Bentsen Palm Village.

Native to Central America and Mexico, the Black-vented Oriole is an accidental visitor to South Texas.

Previous sighting in the United States have been rare. The first of six sightings of this species was at Big Bend National Park on September 27, 1968—and on-and-off to October 1970. Other documented sightings include Kingsville in 1989 and South Padre Island World Birding Center in 2010.

Photo tip

Capturing a bird’s image can be challenging, frustrating, and fun all at the same time. Try to get the bird’s eye in focus. Don’t put the bird in the exact center of your photo. Show the bird doing something interesting.

A major challenge when photographing birds is to get close enough to obtain a decent-size image of the bird.

Roseate Spoonbill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As a photographer, you need to be two to three times closer to any bird for a good photo as you would need to get with binoculars. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to get good bird photos with a group of birders, since they won’t appreciate the closer approach you’ll need.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Did You Know?

The ocelot, once found throughout south and central Texas at least as far north as the Houston area is now limited to Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy Counties.

Little known and interesting fact about Texas

Beaumont to El Paso: 742 miles

Beaumont to Chicago: 770 miles

El Paso is closer to California than to Dallas

King Ranch in South Texas is larger than Rhode Island.

Worth Pondering…
We can never have enough of nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

Read More