State Parks Getaways Winter 2014

This is the best time to plan your spring trips to Texas State Parks. Find ideas for your next visit.

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Getaways - Parents and two kids on bikes



In This Issue:


Be on Deck for the Battleship Texas’ 100th Birthday

vintage photo Battleship Texas at wharf

The iconic Battleship Texas is a grand gal, and as she turns 100 in 2014, she’s the only remaining “dreadnaught” that served in both World Wars. Join the Centennial Celebration, Saturday March 15, 2014 featuring Robert Earl Keen and friends Reckless Kelly, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robinson, and Charlie Robison for “A Texas Uprising.” Learn more about the Battleship Texas, and plan to attend the event for a rare chance to honor her living crew members from the Greatest Generation and to help fund the big-gun battleship’s restoration and preservation.

Commissioned in 1914 as the most powerful weapon in the world, the Battleship Texas is credited with the introduction and innovation of advances in gunnery, aviation, and radar. She has a long list of achievements: 12,429 days of commissioned service through two World Wars, 725,415 miles traveled, 4,200 troops carried home, 32 years active service, and 5 World War II battle stars.

Check the events calendar for more info about the celebration. Can't make the party? The Battleship Texas State Historic Site is open 7 days a week, and the ship has her own exhibit at Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin February 1-April 13. 

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ADV Battleship Texas Celebration

New State Parks Photo Contest Begins March 1

family shadows on boulder, Enchanted Rock

Take a great picture with friends or family at a Texas State Park? Don’t just share it; enter it – in the new Texas State Parks Photo Contest, running from March 1 to April 15, 2014.

Enter photos of your “most playful moments in a Texas State Park.” Show us the connection between people and nature as your inner child, or your real children, enjoy playful moments you create in one of the 90-plus Texas State Parks.

  • 3 Contest Categories: 17 and under; 18 and older; and a new Instagram category using the hashtag #MyParkPic.  
  • Prizes: Winners in each category will have their photos featured in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine and will win a HERO3+ Silver Edition GoPro® video camera (a $300 value) from Whole Earth Provision Co. 
  • How to Enter: Visit the Photography page on the Texas State Parks website for instructions, rules and more information.

Check out last year’s winning photos and view all 2013 entries.

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Taking Great Photos: Five Tips for Winter

agave in snow

If you're thinking of entering a winter shot in the 2014 Texas State Parks Photo Contest, get some hot tips here.

Without a doubt, the No. 1 problem most folks have photographing snow scenes is an overall gray cast instead of beautiful white snow, says TPWD photographer Earl Nottingham. Most camera meters don’t know that a scene — or object — is supposed to be rendered white. 

Winter combines cool opportunities for great photography with tough conditions for taking your best shots. Earl's top winter photography challenges:

  1. Camera meters
  2. Pastel light
  3. Gloves
  4. Camera grip/strap
  5. Warm batteries 

Read his solutions in “Picture This: Shooting in Winter” from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

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Staff Hike Pick: Canyon Rim Trail, Seminole Canyon

Native American sculpture at Seminole Canyon

Contemplate the footsteps of mankind in the solitude of the Canyon Rim Trail. Human history abounds along this trail at Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site, and the farther you hike, the further you step back in time.

A short distance from the trailhead, walk the abandoned Southern Pacific “Sunset Route” railroad bed, the original 1883 bed before it was rerouted in 1892. Next a wooden bridge takes you over the remnants of two rock rings, used as a base to stabilize dome-shaped brush dwellings called wickiups.

Near the end of the trail where Seminole Canyon and the Rio Grande join, the Panther Cave Overlook, named for its large panther-like rock art figure, offers a glimpse of many prehistoric pictographs that span the wall of this rock shelter. The reward at the end of the trail is stunning canyon views that extend across the Rio Grande well into Mexico.

In this video catch a glimpse of canyon rim views as well as the rock art for which this park is also known. 

Check out the park trail map and make tracks for this great destination.

Trail length: 7.5 miles round trip. Time: 3.5 hours. Difficulty: Challenging. Alternative trails offer shorter, less challenging options if that's more your pace.

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Park Fun Extravaganza at LBJ February 22

boy and teacher studying skull

Join Texas Game Wardens, wildlife biologists, Park Rangers (and a Texas State Park fire truck) at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site on February 22 for a day of free, family-friendly, hands-on fun.

At the Outdoor Adventure Showcase, you can learn to kayak and how to identify animal skulls and skins. Chat with a Game Warden. Hike with a park ranger and watch a flint knapper work. Try geocaching. Find out more about Texas history, Texas ranching and Texas wildlife, including bats. Groovy for kids and adults alike.

While in the neighborhood, you can also mosey down to nearby Sauer-Beckmann Farm and watch history come to life as the park staff demonstrates an early 1900’s Texas-German family farm.

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8 Birds Every Texan Oughta Know

great blue heron

If you spend time in Texas State Parks, a few statewide birds that call Texas home all year are probably very familiar to you. Click each link to check your knowledge about their shapes, their range, and to listen to their calls at Cornell's All About Birds website. 

  • Northern Mockingbird: The Texas State Bird, this ultimate songbird sings other birds' songs all day and sometimes all night just over your tent.
  • Northern Cardinal: This popular and dapper red standout often visits bird feeders. The bird most likely to be seen on a Christmas card.
  • Great Blue Heron: A tall, majestic wader that strikes like lightening to snap up its lunch. 
  • Killdeer: A shorebird often seen inland near a parking lot or golf course. On the ground, runs ahead, stops and then runs again.
  • Mourning Dove: One of our most frequently hunted game birds has a noisy takeoff and mournful calls; groups often line up on power wires.
  • Red-tailed Hawk: The raptor you're most likely to see when driving miles and miles of Texas highways.
  • Turkey Vulture: This wobbly but enthusiastic flyer gets a big thank you for gobbling up road kill as does his cousin, the Black Vulture.
  • Eastern Screech-Owl: Definitely cute, this appealing little nocturnal bird is more often heard (listen for a soft trill after dark) than seen. 

Learn more about Birding in State Parks and set your sights on some feathery entertainment. Many parks have downloadable birding checklists to help you explore the possibilities of birds you might see. 

Have a friend or two who like birding? Consider entering the statewide Great Texas Birding Classic in April. Your options include a wide range of locations, schedules and knowledge levels as this video illustrates. It’s a lot of fun learning about birds, and it's a great way to be outdoors with friends.

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Gear Up: Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest at Big Bend

biking group on desert trail

Shake off the winter blues and get ready for some fun in the sun! The fourth annual Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest will bring together mountain bikers of all skill levels for three days of trail adventures and social fun at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park and the Lajitas Trails, February 13-15. Camping and social activities, including swimming, hula-hooping, live music, bike demos, and the Austin Bike Zoo, are all part of the weekend hosted by Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa.

Big Bend Ranch State Park boasts the only ride in Texas designated as an “Epic” ride by the International Mountain Bike Association. Read more about this year’s Bike Fest in “Biking Big Bend" in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. 

Each year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department partners with Terlingua-based outfitter Desert Sports to produce Bike Fest as a fundraiser for the Big Bend Trails Alliance.

The 2013 festival drew close to 400 riders from around the world. Attendees can join the group rides or take off on their own with the essential aid of a park map.

Learn more and pre-register at the Desert Sports website.

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