In 1933, the city of Gonzales, the Texas & New Orleans Railroad and private land owners donated over 260 acres of land in Gonzales County to the state for the creation of a state park to protect the only palmetto swamp in the southwest, a swamp fed by the San Marcos River and a collection of warm sulphur springs that have since dried up. The coastal dwarf palmettos are isolated from other palmetto groves along the Texas coast.
A year later, three companies of the Civilian Conservation Corps were brought into the park and began developing the structures. Chief among them is the park's refectory building. Designed by architect Olin Smith, the building was constructed from locally quarried sandstone and locally harvested timber. The refectory has an open air dining area, restrooms, a concession room and kitchen inside and a terrace overlooking the San Marcos River behind it.
Two weeks before my visit the building had two feet of water in it from flooding by the San Marcos River. A thunderstorm dropped 9 inches of rain upriver in a matter of hours. Several bends in the San Marcos River through the park area caused the water to build up and flood the area. Every trail in the park except a trail around an oxbow lake were closed due to washouts.