State Parks Getaways - Spring 2014

Get outside for springtime fishing, birding, cooking, hiking
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Spoonbill wading, birders in background

In This Issue:


Best Time to Bird in Parks is Now

adult pointing, child looking through binoculars

It begins now − the majestic northward migration of hundreds of bird species heading to their summer homes. Grab a pair of binoculars and you’re in business. Optional helpful items: a field guide (you can also look up birds you see on web sites such as Cornell’s All About Birds or a mobile birding app), and an interested friend or two. Here are three ways to bird in state parks:

  • Wing it – Visit a state park with a birding checklist and see what you can find. Make it part of a picnic or hike.
  • Attend a state park birding event – Check the Birding Events Calendar to learn where and when you can bird with a group or a park ranger.
  • Enter the Great Texas Birding Classic  – The State Park category is open to all ages of park visitors, as well as park employees. Teams of 3-5 birders select a state park to bird from and a date that fits their schedule during the Birding Classic tournament from April 15-May 15. Teams spend a single day in the park identifying as many birds as possible. The team that IDs the most species wins and gets to select a project that will receive a conservation grant. The Registration deadline for participating teams (all fees and forms are due) is April 1. Watch a video to see what it's all about.

Birding builds an appetite so don’t forget snacks or a picnic.

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Horned Toad Cook-off at Copper Breaks

horned lizard close-up

Now that we’ve got your attention − make that Barbecue cook-off, honoring Texas’ iconic and threatened horned lizard. Head out April 25-26 to Copper Breaks State Park, northwest of Wichita Falls. This annual cook-off caters to Texans’ obsession with BBQ and our love of the state’s beloved little toad. No horned lizards will be harmed at the event, but some will be in attendance. Watch this park video to find out what else there is to enjoy in the park.

Show up to learn more about our favorite lizard and eat some 'cue, or enter the cook-off which is sanctioned by the Lone Star Barbeque Society.

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Lake Livingston: See the Sites before You Go

lakeside camp site, pine trees

For the first time in Texas State Parks history, through a pilot project, campers planning a visit to Lake Livingston State Park in the Pineywoods can now view and reserve a specific campsite or screened shelter. An interactive map offers photos and a brief site description.

Reservations can then be finalized online or by calling (512) 389-8900.

This makes it easy for first-time visitors to see sites ahead of time or for RV owners to check site orientation, slope and measurements of the campsite, where the trees are located that might interfere with slide-outs and the location of sewer drops.

Ten screened shelters and 34 full-hookup, 50-amp service campsites are participating during the pilot. The park’s full 170 campsites are still available through the regular reservations system.

Watch this video to check out all this park has to offer. The park entrance fee is $5 for persons 13 and older. Campsites range from $10 to $25 per night. Screened shelters rent for $30 per night.

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Camping Food: Dutch Oven Enchiladas Win Contest

enchiladas in a Dutch oven

Dutch Oven Green Chile, Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas won by a landslide in an outdoor cooking contest held on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Pinterest page earlier this year.

“I love cooking in a Dutch oven,” said Victoria Serna from Denton who submitted the recipe as a healthy twist on enchiladas. “There’s a whole different way you cook outside.”

Serna will receive free entry to a Texas Outdoor Family workshop for her winning entry. As the founder of North Texas Kids Outside, an organization that helps connect families with the outdoors, Serna said she has a family in mind with whom she plans to share her prize.

For other Dutch oven recipes, view the "Eat Local: Cooking Texas Style" videos on the Texas Parks and Wildlife YouTube channel, and the Outdoor Cooking Contest and Picnics and Outdoor Cooking boards on Pinterest. 

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Join the Buffalo Soldiers at State Parks this Spring

Buffalo soldier and child talkingBuffalo Soldiers were our country’s first professional black soldiers and served on the western frontier more than 100 years ago. Their posts ranged from Texas to the Dakota territories where the soldiers’ main job was to support the westward expansion of the United States.

Buffalo Soldiers were some of the original outdoorsmen - hunting and fishing, camping, riding bikes and serving as some of the country’s first park rangers. Learn more about their history in this video.

Today’s volunteer Buffalo Soldiers will be visiting state parks this spring, teaching visitors about animal tracking, cane pole fishing, campfire cooking and telling stories of their history. Check the events calendar to find where they will be.

Want to volunteer with this group? If you can teach an outdoor skill, take great photographs, or just want to help, e-mail Buffalo Soldiers, call (512) 389-8569, or sign up online.

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Take a Reel Spring Break - Go Fishin'

mother and very happy child fishing

There’s no better time to take a kid fishing than spring and no better place to go than a state park where fishing is always free and children 12 and under pay no admission any time. No one needs a fishing license or stamp and for those who need a refresher course, those are available too. Some parks even have gear you can borrow. Here are some quick resources to get a plan underway, starting with where to go:

Whether you catch some fish or just spend time together, you'll be investing in a lifetime of fun out of doors.

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Enter the State Park Photo Contest by April 15

family taking a silly picture

You still have time to enter photos of your most playful moments in a Texas State Park in the Texas State Parks Photo Contest which runs March 1 - April 15.

Winning photos will be published in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine and three will receive a high-performance video camera - the HERO3+ Silver Edition GoPro® valued at $300 and donated by Whole Earth Provision Co. Contest categories are: Photos by Kids 17 and under, photos by Adults 18+, and Instagram photos. Learn more in this video.

Here's a photo tip: One of the most common mistakes of beginning photographers is to place the main subject directly in the center of the frame, a “bull’s eye” shot.

Learn to use the “rule of thirds” in "Picture This: Out of the Middle” by TPWD photographer Earl Nottingham. This simple and rudimentary rule of composition will help bring energy to your shots. Also get some tips on how keep your digital camera auto-focus from controlling your composition.

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Time Travelers to Land at Inks Lake State Park

3 1800s reenactors talking with kids

News Flash: On Saturday April 5, 2014, time travelers from mid-1800s Texas are predicted to land in Inks Lake State Park. These three gentlemen are trappers, traders, and outdoorsmen, traveling with all their gear, some furs, and a full-size teepee. They will set up camp right in the middle of the park, so visitors can check out their stuff and hear their tales of life in Texas back in the day.

Perhaps the best part of the entire program is just sitting down by a low fire and hearing them swap great stories. They have been visiting the park for 27 years and love to just talk and “chew the cud.”

Come and connect – or reconnect – with Texas history. Formal programs begin at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., but visitors can drop by for a chat anytime. Find more detail in the events calendar. It'll be more fun than the Holodeck and a lot closer to home!

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Staff Hike Pick: Palmetto's San Marcos River Trail

swampy sceneTake a stroll on the San Marcos River Trail at Palmetto State Park, a one-hour drive from both Austin and San Antonio. On this easy 1.25 mile trail, you will be surrounded by the sights and sounds of prehistoric swamps, ever-changing riverbanks and lush hardwood forests.

Keep an eye out for armadillos digging through the leaf litter in search of their next meal, and many bird species such as the tufted titmice and Carolina chickadees that noisily patrol the treetops. Use the park’s birding checklist to launch a feathery birding treasure hunt.

Most of the trails at Palmetto State Park have crushed rock surfaces and are easy walks with only a few short hills up and down different levels of floodplain.  Make sure to take a trails map and carry plenty of water. Stop at the headquarters gift shop to pick up a walking stick for the hike, and a medallion to commemorate your visit!  Watch a video for a closer look at the primordial wonderland that is Palmetto State Park.

Trail Distance: 1.25 miles
Difficulty: Easy

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