State Parks Getaways - January 2013

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2 kids, 2 adults biking along rocky slope

In This Issue:


Get Rollin’: Ride a Bike in Texas’ Best Places

two bikers, riding away, shady, flat trail

Want to bike among bluebonnets, pedal on a beach, cruise safely on a nice, flat road or give yourself a highly technical, mountainous workout? Texas State Parks can fill your wish.

To know before you go, you can review trail difficulty ratings and descriptions on the Biking activity page. Then check out a video roundup of what it’s like to bike in a variety of state park settings, including this featured video from Brazos Bend State Park. 

Park rangers suggest these destinations for a sampler of biking trails across the state:

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Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest Returns in February

rugged terrain, desert, 2 biker riding away

Tune up your bike and start training for the biggest mountain biking festival in West Texas! The third annual Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, February 14-16, will feature three full days of riding in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park and the Lajitas Trails. Most rides are guided, but you can choose to ride individually. Watch this video for a preview of the terrain in Big Bend Ranch.

Big Bend Ranch State Park will offer two new rides this year — the 21-mile Rock House Tour and a Geocache Ride — plus the popular 30-mile Rincon Loop, and the Contrabando Loop and Dome Trail. Kids can try shorter rides on the Lajitas trail system and in Big Bend National Park.

Bike companies will offer demo bikes. Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa will host the event, with camping and social activities, including swimming, hula-hopping, live music, and the Austin Bike Zoo.

Visit the Desert Sports website to pre-register and find out more.

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El Paso Epic Adventure Ad

Caddo Paddling Trail to Launch on Wetlands Day

family paddling canoe among cypress trees

Ten new canoe and kayak trails at Caddo Lake and Big Cypress Bayou will be joining the Texas Paddling Trails family on February 2 (World Wetlands Day), weather permitting. And what better place to be on World Wetlands Day than in a canoe or a kayak in Texas’ only natural and possibly grooviest swamp?

Over fifty miles of new loop trails range in length from 2.4 to 8.8 miles and eliminate the need for trailering. Six put-in and take-out points can be found in Caddo Lake State Park, the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area and Backwater Jack’s RV Park, our official trail partners.

Thick bald cypress and a tangle of aquatic plants thrive in the waters at Caddo Lake. Because the vegetation is so lush, much of the lake is really a maze of sloughs, bayous and ponds. The well-marked trails make it possible for visitors to explore this vast and mysterious area without getting lost.

The park affords excellent access to diverse fishing opportunities. (Remember, fishing is always free in Texas State Parks.)  Also popular are the park's quaint cabins, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

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Make a Date with Texas History – March 2

old white house, picket fence, green meadow,

If you’re new to Texas, you better learn this date - “March 2, 1836” - the date that Texas declared its independence from Mexico! It’s the annual occasion for a Texas-sized birthday celebration.

One of the best places to celebrate is Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Sitewhere buildings, exhibits, re-enactors and interpreters dressed in period clothing tell the compelling story of the genesis of a new nation. See them in action in this video.

The 295-acre site encompasses not only the old Washington town site, but a state-of-the-art Visitors Center with one of the state park system’s best-stocked gift stores, the Star of the Republic MuseumIndependence Hall and Barrington Living History Farm which illustrates life at that time.

Check the events calendar for details of this celebration and other history-related park events.

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CCC: Naturally Built for Generations to Enjoy

looking up, cabin wall, old stone chimney

Did you ever wonder about a state park’s well-worn patio, an elegant archway, or that well-used stone table holding your picnic?  Twenty-nine state parks are graced by iconic rustic structures built in the 1930s and 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Men lucky to make $1 a day constructed roads, bridges, and cabins, created hiking trails and campsites and crafted furniture that are still in use seventy years later. These parks are now managed by TPWD.

Constructed from native materials, they were designed to be accessories to nature — complementing the landscape instead of competing with it. The jobs created by this initiative of President Franklin Roosevelt for young men aged 17-25 taught skills and kept food on the table for millions of families during the Great Depression. Veterans of the CCC program talk about its impact on their lives in this video

An exhibit at the Bullock Texas State History Museum running Feb 1 to June 30 highlights the history of the Corps in Texas and includes photographs, maps, postcards and original CCC-crafted furniture as well as original enrollee booklets and camp newsletters.

Seventy years later, the CCC buildings are the product of an architectural vision of people and nature and how they interact. To learn more about the creation and philosophy behind the CCC architecture in Texas, read Russell Roe’s recent story, ”Nature by Design,” in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. 

Will the next state park you visit have some iconic CCC structures? Find out where they are.

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Donations Made a Difference. Thank you.

prairie, rocky hills, sunset sky, Caprock Canyons

A little over a year has passed since we first reached out to Texans to help state parks overcome a critical situation caused by record heat, drought and devastating wildfires. To date, we have received more than $2 million in donations. Thank you for hearing our plea and responding with such generosity. 

Donors helped us to keep state parks open by providing a wide range of essential operations and maintenance needs, including:

  • Removing hundreds of thousands of dead and hazardous trees as a result of the drought of 2011  
  • Beginning the restoration of Bastrop State Park following the destructive 2011 wildfire that burned 95 percent of the park 
  • Completing critical repairs to public facilities, utility systems and operating equipment  
  • Maintaining the grounds in public use areas  
  • Acquiring basic safety equipment for employees carrying out their daily work 
  • Maintaining emergency response services for visitors including law enforcement, search and rescue and fire protection 

Cooler temperatures bring a perfect time to visit Texas State Parks. It’s also the one of the most enjoyable ways to help your parks because visitor fees pay for about 50% of all park operating costs.

Remember, you can donate $5 or more when you register your vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, RV, trailer, etc.) by mail, at the county tax office or online in counties which offer online payment.

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Blanco State Park: Small Park With a Big Punch

adult, child fishing on bank of small lake near dam

Just about all popular features in a state park can be found in Blanco State Park, a small state park with a big agenda. The Blanco River makes a great spot for fishing, swimming, biking and camping (screen shelters and full hook-ups). Enjoy your picnic at a stone picnic table created by the skilled workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933-34, whose work still benefits park visitors today. Take a park tour in this video.

“Buffalo Soldiers Outdoors Day” on February 9 is a great opportunity to visit. Did you know that during the Indian Wars campaign from 1866 to 1892, Native Americans had such great respect for the fighting abilities of black solders that they called them "Buffalo Soldiers" because of the strength and courage they displayed during battle?

Today, the storied history of the Buffalo Soldiers is kept alive by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Buffalo Soldier Heritage and Outreach program. This event will be a day of storytelling and interpretive programs about these under-recognized and heroic soldiers.

And anglers can still land a few rainbow trout at this park this winter (the last stocking scheduled stocking is set for February 15). Read what that can be like in this Park Pick story from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Not up for fishing? Stroll four blocks to nearby Blanco for casual shopping and dining.

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