State Parks Getaways Summer 2014

New Arts in the Parks, new State Park Guide, new camping conservation plate and more 
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In This Issue:


Arts in the Parks Spark Kids' Creativity, Art Contest

color drawing of maple trees

Arts and kids outdoors are a natural combination. Arts in the Parks brings the two together for some creative and learning fun through the summer.

Kids can enter their original pieces of art, writing, music, video and photography inspired by outdoor adventures and encounters with nature in the 2014 "Get To Know" Arts Contest. Learn how to submit entries. Entries will be displayed online in the Texas State Parks Gallery.

Leaves, bugs, birds, sky and water can inspire youthful painting, poetry, songs and sculpture. So pack your kids’ favorite art supplies for some creative time on your own in a park or find park events that can help guide them. Here’s a sample of opportunities:

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Head for the Water and Play Safe

family wearing life vests in boat

In a hot Texas summer, any river, lake or beach becomes a tempting, cooling oasis. State Parks offer plenty of places to swim and boat.  As your family heads out for any water-centered activity, promise each other to play safely.

Pack the life jackets and wear them. Excuses for not wearing a life jacket can turn a carefree day on the water into a lifelong tragedy. A life jacket left on the beach or under the canoe seat is no help, so remember to Wear It, Texas! 

Your family will swim more safely when you follow these tips. Take this boating safety quiz as a quick reminder. Over 2 of every 3 boating accident fatalities are due to drowning, and 85% of those were not wearing life jackets. And if you’re going boating, take an online Boater Education course – it’s required for anyone born on or after Sept.1, 1993. 

Whether swimming or boating, always:

  • Wear a life jacket.
  • Supervise children closely.
  • Know how to swim.
  • Avoid alcohol.

P.S. Considering buying life jackets? Here are some tips to make purchases that will help keep your family safe.

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Park Staff Hike Pick: Dinosaur Valley State Park

dinosaur claw silouetteMake tracks of your own at Dinosaur Valley State Park where dinosaurs left their footprints. The park offers 17 miles of easy to moderate trails in a variety of lengths. Three trails rated easy (Paluxy River, Blue Hole, and Limestone Ledge) parallel nearby dinosaur track sites. Check out the park video for a preview of what you'll see.

Take your binoculars along to better enjoy the fantastic birding opportunities. Or for a trail bonus after your hike, refresh your toes by wading (rainfall permitting) where dinosaurs trod 112 million years ago. See all the hiking possibilities on the park’s trails map.

If you would like some help finding and identifying the dinosaur tracks, you can use your GPS-enabled smartphone or other mobile device, along with the digital dinosaur track maps available on the Mapping Dinosaur Tracks page, to hunt for tracks. You will even be able to find tracks that are not currently visible because they are covered with dirt.

Trails distance: 0.24 mi. to 7.52 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

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Spanish Explorer Exhibit Traveling to Five Parks

Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate

The story of one of Spain’s legendary explorers of the New World is traveling across Texas this year. 

“The Camino al Norte: The Journey of Don Juan de Onate” details the last great expedition led by Juan de Oñate from Mexico in 1598 to establish a kingdom north of the Río Grande.  Although de Oñate’s attempt to create a new Mexico failed, his expedition led directly to the establishment of roads, cities and industries that are woven into the texture of the American Southwest.

The exhibit schedule begins at the easternmost portal to Big Bend Ranch State Park through the end of May, then continues to four other state parks:

Overview text and photo captions are printed in both English and Spanish. For more information about viewing hours or to arrange group visits, contact the individual parks or check the calendar. The exhibit is sponsored by the Texas affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Image of Don Juan de Oñate used by permission of artist, José Cisneros

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Get the Social Connections to State Parks

hand holding Smartphone

With the vast majority of Texas state parks now on Facebook, you can check current conditions from park staff and visitorsfind out what events are coming up, and interact with the rangers. Find State Parks on Twitter at @tpwdparks too, and while you’re at a state park, remember to tag your pictures on Instagram with #TxStateParks.

Visit our Social Media page to find all the ways you can stay in touch with Texas Parks and Wildlife news, programs, game wardens and more.

These are handy tools for visitors and travelers. Check on changing conditions, such as weather, lake levels, crowds and more. 

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New State Park License Plate Announced

license plate with camp scene

The newest conservation license plate from Texas Parks and Wildlife celebrates camping in state parks! The first new state park plate in a decade evokes memories of those fun nights outside … the campfires, ghost stories, Dutch oven meals, stargazing, nature and wildlife, shared moments with family and friends, and of course, all the s’mores. Check out where you can order and get it in June.

Each plate will cost $30 of which $22 goes directly to benefit Texas State Parks.

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Every Day is Free Fishing Day in Texas State Parks

man and woman bank fishing, Brazos Bend

Fishing is always free in Texas State Parks. That includes more than 50 state parks and numerous Wildlife Management Areas across Texas —  great places to make some summer memories.

This summer Go Fish! Learn to Fish events can add splash to your summer days. Fishing events throughout the year will add to the fun — from kids’ fishing derbies to “Learn to Fish” opportunities. Some parks offer tackle loaner equipment.

P.S. Statewide Free Fishing Day is Saturday June 7. On that day, you can fish without a license in any Texas public waters. 

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Customer Feedback Booth is Open

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We’d like to hear from you! Send us an email at and give us a little input on these State Parks Getaways e-newsletters:

  • What information is useful when you're planning a visit to a state park?
  • Have you ever used any information you found in the State Parks Getaways e-newsletter? What was it and how did it affect your visit?

Help us help you make the most of your state parks. (An actual human being will respond to your message.) And thanks as always for supporting Texas State Parks.

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