State Parks Getaways E-newsletter: Winter Edition

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In this issue: Spread the Word to Help State Parks | Pack the Marshmallows: Campfires are Back! | Fish for Rainbow Trout in State Parks | Family Hikes Get the Family in Shape and In Step | Biking Your Way Through Nature | Goose Island State Park: Winter Coastal Haven | Visitors and Wildlife Return to Bastrop State Park | Resolve to Visit More State Parks in 2012


Spread the Word to Help State Parks

Executive Director Carter Smith  
More than $960,000 in generous donations has been received since we appealed for help a month ago, including $500,000 from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. We need to reach our $4.6 million fundraising goal because of a budget shortfall created by heat, drought, wildfires and a drop in park visitation.

“We are deeply grateful to the foundation for its generous contribution, and to all those who have donated in recent weeks,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “We have a long way to go yet, but we have raised close to $1 million toward our $4.6 million goal, a remarkable achievement in a short time. This is yet another indication of how much Texans care about their state parks.” There are three ways to help state parks as Smith explains in this video.

We hope you will help Texas State Parks spread the word. Visit the Spread the Word web page to find easy ways to let friends and family know how they can help. Park supporters can forward a YouTube video appeal, add an “I Love Parks” Twibbon wrapper on their Facebook profile photo, get buttons or banners for websites or blogs, download posters, and find other ways to share the message about helping our state parks.

Thank you for helping us spread the word. We can’t do it without you.

Pack the Marshmallows: Campfires are Back!

family around campfire  
Pack the marshmallows! Campfires — the center of camping life — are welcome again in most state parks. Recent rains and cooler weather have brought some relief from 2011 burn bans. Watch this video to refresh your memory on safe campfires and charcoal fires.

To find out whether the state park you’re planning to visit is under any outdoor fire restrictions, call the park directly and find additional info on the individual park pages on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website. Check here for answers to frequently asked questions about burn bans in Texas state parks. State Parks’ Customer Service Center also maintains an up-to-date burn ban list, so customers making reservations will have the latest burn ban information. The central reservation number in Austin is 512/389-8900.

Fish for Rainbow Trout in State Parks

angler with trout on stringer  
It’s time for the annual rainbow trout roundup! Between December and March, approximately 250,000 trout will be released into about 100 water bodies, including nine Texas state parks. Not only is if fun for adults, trout fishing is a also great way to introduce kids to fishing.

Remember, each angler can keep up to five trout of any size per day. Here’s a list of state parks where you can catch rainbow trout without leaving Texas:

Fishing is always free in Texas state parks, and licenses or stamps are not required when fishing within a state park. Park entry fees apply. Read all about fishing in state parks. Can’t make it ‘til spring? Bookmark this list of Texas State Parks that offer year-round free fishing.


Family Hikes Get the Family in Shape and In Step

hiking family  
Hiking is good for fitness and for families, and it suits many New Year's resolutions for a healthier lifestyle. There’s no better place to hike any time of year than in a Texas state park. As a bonus, hiking is a great strategy for keeping the family in sync and in step.

“In our now 12-plus years of parenting we have discovered that parenting outside is easier than parenting inside. When things start to get too crazy, our mantra is “go outside!” And sometimes that means us, the parents, as well,” notes author Bernadette Noll. Read her article “The Family That Hikes Together”, from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine to find her tips on how to make a family hike fun for all. Then find hikes to fit your travel time, fitness level and interests on the hiking web pages.

Biking Your Way Through Nature

Brazos Bend bike trail  
Cooler months are cool times for two-wheeling through a Texas state park. And nature looks grand from the back of a bike. Check out this biker’s-eye-view video of biking trails in Brazos Bend State Park, located about 28 miles southwest of Houston where you’ll find wide and family-friendly trails as well as more challenging, narrow dirt tracks with changing topography.

Check some other trails videos on our Biking in State Parks YouTube playlist. The bike trail information web page describes parks with trails, trail ratings and trail conditions.

Goose Island State Park: Winter Coastal Haven

Goose Island SP video screen  
Humans and whooping cranes migrate to the warm coastal climate offered by Texas winters along the Gulf. Each year from November through March Goose Island State Park park visitors become neighbors with whoopers, one of the rarest bird species in North America. The heart of the birds’ winter habitat, nearby Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, promises plenty of wildlife-watching and nature experiences as well. Goose Island is the closest public campground to the refuge.

The park is home to the thousand-year-old “Big Tree” thought to be one of the oldest trees in the nation This park video shows you why the park is known for its camping, fishing (including a 1,620-foot pier) and excellent bird and wildlife watching. Check out nearby Mustang Island State Park, the Texas Maritime Museum and the Texas State Aquarium  in nearby Corpus Christi. For more information on area attractions visit the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce website.

Visitors and Wildlife Return to Bastrop State Park

fern and log  
Hope looks like many things in Bastrop State Park — an emerging seedling, a flock of birds, a volunteer working with a rake or shovel — since the worst wildfire Texas history severely damaged the parklands in September 2011. Hints of new beginnings can be seen in these recent TPWD Flickr photos.  

The return of park visitors is even more encouraging. As Bastrop State Park heals, sections of the park have reopened to campers, picnickers and hikers. Brief but welcome rains have sprouted a little greenery here and there. Even a wide variety of wildlife has returned to the park, including deer, woodpeckers, owls, lizards, roadrunners, squirrels and osprey. Park visitors have opportunities to glimpse more wildlife and make new discoveries as they learn to experience the park differently.

The Piney Hill and Deer Run campgrounds, featuring newly paved roads and ADA-accessible sites, are available for camping, and several picnic areas have reopened. Also in use are the Group Barracks, the 18-hole Lost Pines golf course and newly renovated Pro Shop, Park Road 1A from the refectory to the lake and on to the scenic overlook and 70 percent of the hiking trails inside Park Road 1A. A number of areas and park facilities will remain closed while improvement projects continue, as visitor safety is a priority. Maps of closed areas can be obtained at the park headquarters.

For more information, call the park at 512/321-2101. Visit the Bastrop park page on the TPWD website for current updates. Check the park calendar for visitor events and volunteer opportunities.

Resolve to Visit More State Parks in 2012

family hikers  
Life’s better outside, so plan to visit more state parks in 2012! Whether you plan day trips, hikes and picnics or overnight stays with serious hiking or biking, you’ll be glad you came to visit and so will we. Over 50% of park operating funds are generated by park visitation.

Make your overnight reservations now for spring, spring break and summer. Make reservations online anytime or call the Customer Service Center (512/389-8900) which is open Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. The best days to call are Wednesday and Thursday when the volume is lighter. If your favorite park is booked, plan a mid-week getaway and enjoy a quieter park with a reservation at your favorite campsite or cabin.

Become a card-carrying supporter of Texas State Parks with a State Park Pass which provides a year’s worth of waived entrance fees (overnight fees still apply). A State Parks Pass can be purchased during your next visit to a state park or by calling our Customer Service Center at 512/389-8900. Choose between purchasing a single holder pass for $70 (admits one car load of visitors each trip) or the two card holder option for $85 which admits two cars of visitors. You may add a secondary holder anytime after the original purchase for $25.