The Holiday Edition of State Parks Getaways is Here!

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.
Holidays in the Parks

In This Issue: Gather at a Texas State Park This Holiday Season | Holiday Events Calendar | Walking and Hiking Through the Cool Fall | Wildlife Watching: The Creatures Are Stirring | High-Tech App for Stone Age Park | Camp Cooking Made Easy | Caprock Canyons State Park: Bison and Biking | The Gift of Texas State Parks | A Gift to Yourself: Make Spring Reservations Now


Gather at a Texas State Park This Holiday Season 

group hall at SFA SP
When your house fills up with friends and relatives, take the fun and energy outside. Make some evergreen memories by reserving a group space at a Texas state park. A simple day outing can be great for kids and grandparents alike. Just pack a picnic and go. With a little more organization you can plan an overnight stay. Check out the group facilities in more than 70 state parks or, for something smaller, try renting a cabin.

Holiday Events Calendar

LBJ State Park holiday video
Tie that friendly gathering to a park event when you check out the calendar of state park holiday events. Or print out this flyer of selected holiday events and share it with friends. Watch a video preview of the holiday celebration at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site which includes the Sauer-Beckman Living History Farm.

Walking and Hiking Through the Cool Fall

two hikers on a trail
Change the pace this cool season: take a hike through a state park. Whether, you can meander or trot off your turkey dinner, walk a one-mile nature trail or do a five-mile stretch to an overlook, you have options. When our  TPWD Facebook fans weighed in on their favorite hiking spots, we got over 113 comments. Garner State Park drew the most mentions “Garner, because of Old Baldy and the views," but friends also mentioned 22 other state parks. The consensus: Texas has some great hiking trails. People liked the variety of scenery, the wildlife, the peacefulness, and the varied terrain. Find a hiking trail to suit you. Facebook friends have been posting photos of fall foliage, wildlife and more. Check it out.

Wildlife Watching: The Creatures Are Stirring

Put some critters birds, bison, turkey, and more in your holiday season. Take the family wildlife watching. Some Texas state parks have great viewing blinds that make it likely the animals will come to you. What you might see depends on what park you visit. Here are three of our many parks with inspiring wildlife-viewing opportunities.

South Llano River State Park
South Llano River SP, near Junction. It’s a real-life Turkey Trot! The antics of the 600-plus turkeys that roost in the park will keep you smiling. Observations blinds let visitors glimpse turkeys moving to and from their roost. You may also see wood duck, white-tailed deer, squirrel, jack rabbit, javelina, fox, beaver, bobcat, cottontail and armadillo.
Pedernales Falls SP video screen shot
Pedernales Falls SP, west of Austin. The feeding stations outside the park’s excellent wildlife blinds draw a great variety of Hill Country critters, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, rabbits, armadillos, skunks, opossums and racoons. Over 150 species of birds have been seen in the park, including the endangered golden-cheeked warber which nests in the park, arriving in mid-March. Sit back and enjoy.
Bentsen-Rio Grande video screen shot
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley SP, in Mission, west of Brownsville. Take a tram or a pedal car to view wildlife of all kinds. Boardwalks and viewing platforms let you scan the horizon for some of the 500-plus local and migrating bird species. Local year-round specialities include green jays and plain chacalacas. Other neotropical varieties include the ferruginous pygmy-owl, hook-billed kite, gray hawk and many more.

High-Tech App for Stone Age Park

Dinosaur Valley SP app logo
“New High-Tech” meets “Older Than Dirt” when you take your mobile phone on a tour of Dinosaur Valley State Park, which contains some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world. See some tracks in this park video.

The park’s new free app alerts visitors via a phone vibration as they approach points of interest. Visitors will be able to experience on-demand real-time tours, access video and audio clips, photos and written information right from their phones. Dinosaur Valley State Park is the first state park in Texas to utilize such technology, thanks to LDL Friends of Dinosaur Valley.

Park visitors can download the free app to their smart phones, Androids and Internet-enabled mobile devices. To locate the free app, simply search your smart phone’s app store and type in “Dinosaur Valley State Park,” or “Glen Rose,” and download to your device. If you don’t have a smart phone, the content is available on the park website and can be used to help plan a trip to the state park.

Camp Cooking Made Easy

burgers on the grill
Planning ahead is the key to successful camp meals. Whether you’re planning a day trip or an overnight stay, these great tips from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine make it easy to add delicious meals to your experience. Having ingredients pre-cooked, pre-packaged or pre-chopped allows the cook to get meals on the picnic table more quickly. Then you can enjoy more hiking, biking, wildlife-watching or simply relaxing instead of spending hours grilling or cooking on a camp stove.

Speaking of cooking heat, a charcoal fire is easier and faster than a campfire. A propane camp stove is easy but be sure to keep stirring. Dutch oven cooking is a whole different way to go. Know before you go about your cooking options.  (S’More Lovers Alert: during drought periods, a campfire may not be an option. Call ahead to your park destination. Burn bans can change from day to day.)

Caprock Canyons State Park: Bison and Biking

Caprock Canyons SP video
If you like wildlife and biking, high-tail it to Caprock Canyons State Park where wildlife- watching just got better. Beginning this fall, the 80-animal Texas State Bison Herd is enjoying an expanded range of 700 acres of restored native prairie. Watch this bison "Video Extra" to see the legendary animals in their habitat and to learn the origins of the phrase “high-tail it."  Read how they were saved from extinction in "At Home On The Range Again" from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

"This is first and foremost a restoration project,” park superintendent Donald Beard says. “We’re not just showing the bison, but are restoring an indigenous animal to its native habitat. For park visitors, it will be just like experiencing deer, roadrunners or any other wildlife in the wild.” Read more about the bison restoration project.

Also watch for mule and white-tailed deer, coyotes and bobcats, pronghorn antelope, plus grey fox, raccoon and jackrabbits, reptiles and snakes. The area seasonally hosts 175 bird species including roadrunners, red-tailed hawks and the rarely seen Golden Eagle.

Then gear up for a hike or bike trail adventure. In addition to the park’s own hiking and biking trails, an adjacent 64-mile-long multipurpose converted railroad bed system features seven trail sections, 40 bridges or trestles, and a 700-foot tunnel. Check out the Trailway map. Some trail sections are remote.  Carry all supplies and water, and ride with a companion.

The Gift of Texas State Parks

TPWD tree ornaments
This holiday season give the gift of Texas State Parks! For someone who loves the outdoors give an evergreen remembrance: make a donation to Texas State Parks in their honor.

Decorate someone's tree with the 10th annual collectors edition Texas State Parks ornament. This and previous years' ornaments can be purchased by calling 512/389-8900.

Texas State Park gift cards make great stocking stuffers for your family, friends, co-workers or customers. Gift cards may be redeemed for entrance and camping fees, state parks passes and state park store merchandise! Get your gift cards at any state park or by calling 512/389-8900. Purchase a gift card for $75 or more during December 2011 and receive the 2011 Texas State Parks ornament free!

Visit the Shop web page for other great gift ideas.

A Gift To Yourself: Make Spring Reservations Now

lakeside camp site
Springtime in Texas State Parks is a gift worth giving to yourself. Check your 2012 calendar now and make a plan so you don’t miss out. Popular day and overnight campsites and cabins are often reserved months in advance, so make your early reservations.

Get all the details on where and how, then make your reservations via phone at 512/389-8900, online, by email or fax. Remember, during any single call, you can make reservations 11 months (333 days) in advance for multiple sites and multiple parks (with no overlapping dates).

A few tips:
• The Reservation Center and State Parks accept Discover, Visa and MasterCard for payment. Use of your credit card provides immediate confirmation of your reservation.
• If arrival date is more than 14 days away, you may pay by check or money order. The payment must be received five business days from the date the reservation is made or it will be cancelled automatically.
TPW Magazine image