State Parks Getaways Vacation 2014

Find darker skies & see stars. Find a beach & enjoy the waves. 8 parks for great family fishing. And more.
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2 children splashing in creek, laughing

In This Issue:


Darker Skies Help the Stars Shine Bright

stars in dark sky timed image

An estimated 8 in 10 Americans have never seen the Milky Way. The culprit: the growing glow of artificial lights. To see those famous big, bright Texas stars, you’ve gotta get away from the city lights.

The new Dark Skies Program will put stars back in your eyes and the eyes of your kids. Skies are always darker in a state park, and some state parks specialize in stargazing by offering stargazing programs and nearby observatories or very dark skies. Check the calendar for star events near you and see the dark sky (called Bortle) ratings of the darkest state parks.

Soon you can see even more stars at state parks. TPWD is launching new efforts to make park skies more visible by using the latest ways to manage night lighting so that it’s useful without adding to light pollution. 

This constellation of resources will put more stars in your eyes:

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Get Your New State Park Guide

State Park Guide cover - girl with kite on beachIt’s hot-off-the press - your 2014-2015 State Park Guide with its handy pull-out map of all park locations. The Guide describes more than 90 state parks and state natural areas and provides details of each park’s accommodations plus available activities such as swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. You’ll also find what’s new at state parks, including which parks now have Wi-Fi access or have added facilities and trails.

Plan your next stay with information about cabins, RV sites, and campsite amenities, and a checklist of what to take with you. Search for parks near you or by region, and use the handy facilities index as a quick reference to what you’ll find at each park.

Your State Park Guide is waiting! Pick it up at any state park and stay in the know about all the ways to enjoy the outdoors at your state parks. Can’t wait till your next park trip to see what’s new? View the digital version or download the PDF.

The 2014 State Park Guide is made possible thanks to the sponsorship of Toyota and La Quinta and the generous support of advertisers.

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Camping License Plate

Coastal Parks - 5 Beachy Destinations

boardwalk through beach grasses, Gulf in backgroundNo need to check the rain gauge when you head to the beach!  You will always find water for wading, fishing and swimming on the Texas Gulf coast. 

A list of 5 state park coastal destinations begins with Sea Rim State Park, newly refurbished and reopened after two hurricane punches (Rita and Ike). Check out the park’s updated amenities (including showers and bathrooms) in “Sea Rim Rebirth” from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Four other beachy state park destinations to explore this summer are:

Read “A Day at the Beach” for an update on each of these park destinations, and find plenty of ways to enjoy a breezy change of scenery in “Get Coastal”, stories from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

Remember to play it safe in the water.  Always:

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

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ADV Arts in the Parks

Staff Hike Pick: South Llano’s River Trail

S. Llano River flowing through green grassesHead to South Llano River State Park to hike the River Trail. This easy trail follows the South Llano River, one of Texas’ most pristine rivers, spring-fed year-round by the 700 Springs Ranch just upstream. It also leads through bottomland hardwood forests noted for their mature pecan groves. The river is featured in this park video.

Pack the binoculars when you head to this birding hot spot. Plan for frequent stops to look for seasonal favorites. In spring, watch for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, ring-necked kingfisher, great blue heron and painted bunting. The park’s birding checklist offers a preview. Sharp-eyed hikers might see beaver, porcupine, grey fox, a variety of turtles and Guadalupe bass (the state fish).You may also be surprised by the occasional displays of Central Texas wildflowers, weather permitting. Benches are placed along the trail for wildlife observation. Roosting turkey may limit trail hours to 10a.m.-3p.m. October through March.

Length: 2.32 miles
Estimated Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy, family-friendly (easy for small children)

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3 Photo Contest Winners Chosen from 1300+ Entries

boy and girl running down sand dune

Congratulations to the winners of the “Playful Moments at a Texas State Park” photography contest! 

The winners are:

  • Category: ages 18 years and older -Tommy Johnson for his photo “New Day” taken at Monahans Sandhills State Park.
  • Category: ages 17 years and younger - Collin Hile for his photo “Arched Tree” taken at Stephen F. Austin State Park.
  • Category: Instagram - Jake Kazmirski for his photo from Caddo Lake State Park.

See their winning shots.

The intense competition ran from March 1-April 15 and drew over 700 Flickr entries and 600-plus entries on Instagram. The winners were chosen in May based on composition, creativity, and overall impression, as well as how well the photos illustrated the connection between people and the outdoors.

Thanks to all who participated. View all Flickr contest entries.

Sharpen your photo skills for the next photo contest with tips from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine photographer Earl Nottingham. 

Image: Winner, Category: ages 18 years and older - Tommy Johnson, for this photo shot at Monahans Sandhills State Park.

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8 State Parks in 100 Best U.S. Family Fishing Spots

woman and happy boy fishing together, dock

Some of the best family-fishing spots in America are close to home, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Eight Texas state parks excelled in criteria that included proximity to an urban area, abundance of common fishing species, nearby amenities, room to cast a line, and recommendations from anglers. The eight Texas spots are:

6.   Galveston Island State Park, Galveston
20. Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Hill
29. Inks Lake State Park, Burnet
45. Lake Livingston State Park, Livingston
66. Eisenhower State Park, Denison
79. Lake Corpus Christi State Park, Mathis
86. Huntsville State Park, Huntsville
93. Blanco State Park, Blanco

And as you know, fishing is always free in Texas state parks, so plan some time to wet a line. Forgot to pack the fishing gear? Many state parks loan fishing equipment.

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Learn to Camp: Sign up Now for Fall Workshops

Texas Outdoor Family banner hanging in parkWant to plan a unique family weekend? Want to get the kids out in nature? Try something radically different: learn how to camp at a Texas Outdoor Family workshop! The camping experts at TPWD will teach you how to pitch a tent, paddle a canoe, fish, geocache and make that all-important morning coffee! Watch this video to get an idea of what to expect. You bring up to six people per site, your bedding and your food.  We provide the rest - including equipment and instruction. The cost is just $65 for one-night workshops and $85/per family for two-night workshops.

See the fall workshop schedule and sign up soon to reserve your spot at one of these popular events. Spaces fill up fast!

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Get Closer to Water - Paddle through Summer!

2 men paddling a canoe, riverThink paddling next time you head out in search of a cooling destination. More parks now offer boat rental services. Explore the paddling pages to find out which parks offer boat rentals, including all the equipment you need: canoes, kayaks, life jackets, even paddle boats! A bonus: What you see from a canoe or kayak offers a whole new way to appreciate nature and often includes a closer view of birds and wildlife.

You can paddle on lakes, rivers and along the Gulf coast. Check out the calendar of summer paddling events including lessons, races and nature watching trips.

Need some tips on how to paddle? Get started with this video.

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