State Parks Getaways - Holiday E-newsletter

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 In This Issue:


Over the River, Thru the Woods to State Park Cheer

mission lit at sunset

Add a new tradition to your holiday festivities. With a visit to a state park or historic site, you could find a:

Check the Holiday Events Calendar to find a stocking full of nearby seasonal things to do as the holidays draw closer.While you are out and about, book a stay at a Texas State Park for your family or rent a facility for your next group gathering! Share your photos and recipes for Outdoor Cooking at Texas State Parks and win a Texas Outdoor Family workshop from Texas State Parks! 

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See Nature up Close: Guadalupe River State Park

children and woman looking at exhibits

Families and kids can “take a closer look” at Guadalupe River State Park when they visit the Discovery Center. Hands-on exhibits provide resources and opportunities for learning that appeal to everyone’s innate sense of wonder. 

Kids can use a magnifier, a microscope or a pair of binoculars and can view life under the water’s surface. An area with night sounds and few overhead constellations invites nighttime discovery. Families can investigate theme boxes containing materials that focus on birds, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies, insects, mammals, and more.

One of the draws of the park is Park Ranger Craig Hensley, sometimes called “The Wizard of Wild Things.” His infectious enthusiasm helps kids to look closer and see the detail and interaction of bugs, birds, plants and more. That’s why he was chosen as the winner of the 2013 Community Outreach Employee Recognition Award. Anyone who can get kids to dance to “Head, Thorax, Abdo-men” surely loves what he is doing. Watch this video  to see him work his magic with young visitors and their parents.

With 94 campsites, many with water, electricity and nearby restrooms, Guadalupe River State Park in the Hill Country north of San Antonio is a great destination for a family or friends group. Watch the park video  to see for yourself and use the park map to help plan your activities.

Check it out for yourself … and have fun!

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3 Ideas for Holiday Gifts of the Outdoors

teens, park ranger,Park store

It’s a natural. Give the loved ones in your life a gift of the outdoors. 

State Park Ornaments  − Each year's special ornaments feature the natural, cultural, and historical resources that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department serves to protect. There are images of state parks, wildlife, plants, and some of the numerous outdoor activities that you can enjoy at state parks and historic sites across the Lone Star State. Choose from three new designs for 2013: the beautiful, CCC-era reconstruction of Mission Espiritu Santo at Goliad State Park, legendary Enchanted Rock, and the unique Wyler Aerial Tramway at Franklin Mountains State Park. 2013 Ornaments are $8.95 each, or $19.95 for the set of three.

State Park Gift Cards − Gift cards are fully transferable and can be purchased in any amount (minimum of $5). Recipients can apply them towards state park passes, merchandise at state park stores, and entrance and facility fees. You can purchase Gift cards at most State Parks or by contacting the Call Center at (512) 389-8900. During the month of December, purchase a Texas State Park Gift card valued at $75 or more receive a FREE 2013 ornament. Tax and shipping fees do apply. 

Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine – Give a subscription to the magazine that tells the stories of our state: places to go, wildlife to see, plants to know and much more with beautiful images from TPWD’s award-winning photographers. Anyone who loves nature will enjoy finding the best outdoor magazine in Texas in the mailbox. Order subscriptions by December 20 to receive the January/February issue in the mail in mid-January.

Visit our Shop Page to find even more gift ideas from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

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Staff Hike Pick: Swamp Rabbit Trail at Sheldon Lake

swamp, Sheldon Lake

The Swamp Rabbit Trail at Sheldon Lake State Park, located in Houston, offers a gentle stroll of less than one half-mile. Along the way, keep an ear out for woodpeckers, which prefer the trees along this trail. Pause to observe the rush of life in one of the many former fish hatchery ponds “gone wild” at the park.

Before you set out on the trail, visit the park’s exhibits of environmental energy and green building technology. Sheldon Lake is a laboratory for living in harmony with the environment.

Download a trail map and read more about the park in “Park Pick: Sheldon Strikes Back” from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. 

Please remember to follow these tips to help preserve this natural place:

  • Protect the integrity of park resources and be safe by staying on the trails.
  • Dispose of litter properly.
  • Take only photos and memories. 

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Big Bend Ranch State Park: Window to the Ancients

drawings on rock close up

The Big Bend of centuries past was a wild land of vast open space and nomadic tribes. While the space is still vast and the land is still wild, the nomads have long since gone. The closest that most of us will ever get to their lives is to visit their camp sites, to view their art, and to ponder their lives in silent wonder.

The petroglyphs and pictographs left on bare rock at Big Bend Ranch State Park provide a window to the ancients. You can arrange an interpretive tour at least seven days in advance. Call (432) 358-4444 to book a tour for your next visit!

Rock art has the power to connect us to the past in a special way. Connect with more rock art at other two parks in Big Bend Country with these stories from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine:

Find more archeology and rock art tours in the Events Calendar

Taking kids on a road trip to see rock art? Download a coloring book for them. For older kids, print out this "Learn about Texas Indians" Activity Book to help the miles pass.

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What's in your Backpack? How to Survive Outdoors

hiker with backpack, woodsy trail

Wilderness emergencies can happen to anyone  − even experienced outdoor adventurers and hikers such as a couple that became lost this fall in Big Bend Ranch State Park and were found by a search and rescue team. All turned out well but the news of their ordeal sparked a lot of interest in survival skills.

Planning ahead and staying calm are two of the best strategies for camping and hiking safety. Be better prepared with these suggestions:

Learn from the experts by attending hands-on workshops and events such as these:

Find other Outdoor Skills, Workshops & Seminars in the events calendar.

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Fall for Franklin Mountains Adventures

hiker, mountain meadowCalling hikers, climbers and mountain bikers! Franklin Mountain State Park is a great destination for the outdoor adventurer. This Chihuahuan desert park offers excellent rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking and camping, along with panoramic vistas and stunning sunsets. The largest urban park in the continental U.S. at 26,000 acres, its 7,100-ft peak is set in rugged west Texas terrain within the city of El Paso.

Mountain bikers find true mountains right in the heart of El Paso. From easy going jeep roads to technical and steep single track, this amazing park has something for any type of mountain biker.

Visitors take more than a few steps back in time. About 100 miles of multi-use trails through Chihuahuan desert habitat offer geology that chronicles 1.25 billion years of Earth’s history. Precambrian rock, the oldest on the planet, is found in several areas within the park. Rock climbing is also popular here. See what the park is like in this video and check out the possibilities on the park map.

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Step into the New Year with a First Day Hike

woman and child on woodsy trail

Plan now to hit a trail on January 1 and join the growing nationwide tradition: First Day Hikes. First day of the new year, that is, and there’s no better place to join the movement than at a Texas State Park.

You have options. Stroll or trot off your holiday feast. Walk a one-mile nature trail or launch yourself into a strenuous uphill climb to a wide Texas horizon. State park hiking trails offer scenery, wildlife watching, tranquility, and a wide variety of terrain and trail lengths. Many state parks offer First Day hikes guided by state park staff and volunteers and feature an interpretive message about native plants, animals or park history. The walks average one to two miles in length, but many also offer shorter or longer trek options as well.

Check the calendar in December to find special First Day Hike events to suit your mood and ambitions. Check the Hiking Calendar anytime for organized walks and hikes with a park ranger or volunteer.

Can’t make it on Day 1? You have 364 more opportunities!

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