Lake Rita Blanca State Park, once the northernmost state park in Texas, is now owned and operated by the City of Dalhart. Since it is now maintained by the city, “state” is removed from the name and it is now known as Lake Rita Blanca Park. As suggested by its name, the park features Lake Rita Blanca along with many trails, parking and camping areas, and playground and pavilion. The park is located just 2.5 miles south of town.
Of the many times I have passed through Dalhart while making the Colorado/Texas drive, I have rarely stopped. For this trip during Christmas, however, I broke up the drive into two days. As a result, it gave me a little time to explore.
With my crazy dog Annie in tow, I thought it best to take her for a hike to wear her out. I arrived in the parking area by the pavilion, pit toilet restrooms, and the playground around 3pm. I had my choice of spaces since my car was the only one in the lot.
The Hike Around Lake Rita Blanca
Annie and I descended from the parking area, past the playground and into the “canyon” though I’d consider the area to be a crater. The dirt path heads in both directions. I selected the 5.4 mile loop that I found on All Trails.
The loop circles Lake Rita Blanca as well as some of the prairie land. In order to end my hike with a view of the sun setting over the lake, I followed the path to the west in a counter-clockwise direction. After about half a mile, it turns southeast past Prairie Dog Town and toward the lake.
Lake Rita Blanca is a popular spot for wintering waterfowl. In fact, I have never seen so many birds in one area. Geese and whooping cranes by the thousands floated in the lake. While the geese were pretty relaxed as Annie and I passed, the cranes flushed anytime we neared.
There were so many, and it was so cool to watch the flurry of white burst off the ground that I had to resist the urge to make more scatter! While I was breaking the leash law with Annie so she could run, we weren’t very close to birds, so I was surprised by the spectacle, but thoroughly enjoyed it.
After passing the birds, we entered the first section of trees. This area was short, but I’m certain it would be highly appreciated in the summer-time as there is little shade on the trail. In fact, of the 5.4 miles, probably only one mile of the trail runs through the shade and most of that is on the north side of the lake. As a result, if hiking on a hot day, I’d recommend taking the trail around Lake Rita Blanca counter-clockwise to enjoy the shade later in the day.
Overall, given the topography of Texas, the hike around Lake Rita Blanca is nice. Having said that, I believe the hike is better suited for the winter months to avoid to heat and see the waterfowl spectacle. ETB
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