State Parks Getaways – October 2020

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6 Parks for Starry, Starry Nights   

Milky Way, video link

Watching the night sky is rewarding this time of year because we've got meteors, Mars and the Moon putting on a show. The darker the sky, the more you can see, so visit parks far from city lights for the best view. Our internationally-recognized Dark Sky Parks are perfect for stargazing, but any of these parks will give you an awe-inspiring view of the night sky:

  1. Cooper Lake – NE of Dallas
  2. Lake Somerville – NW of Houston
  3. South Llano River – W of Austin, Dark Sky Park
  4. Lake Arrowhead – S of Wichita Falls
  5. Big Spring – NE of Midland
  6. Falcon – Rio Grande Valley

Don't miss these celestial happenings:

  • Blue Moon – October's second full Moon on 10/31 
  • Mars – very bright now and visible through November 
  • Leonids meteor shower – peak 11/16-17 

Check out our stargazing list of helpful tips and resources. Whether you do a quick trip or stay overnight at a park, read the required safety guidelines and make reservations before you head out. 

Campers – Try Dutch Oven Cooking

Ranger John and Dutch oven - video link

A Dutch oven is a cast iron pot and lid used for outdoor cooking, and it was an essential utensil for pioneers and early cowboys. Perfect for camping, you just add your ingredients to the pot, then cover it in hot coals or place it into a campfire.

It's a good idea to start with a recipe made for Dutch ovens, and Ranger John Herron of Huntsville State Park put together a fun video, Dutch Oven Chili Recipe, that shows a simple way to make chili and cheesy bread. Try it!

Dutch oven with chili and cheesy biscuits

To pick up some entertaining Dutch oven tips, listen to our podcast, Dutch Oven Cooking.  

If building campfires is new to you, check out the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine story, Three Steps for a Perfect Campfire

Whether you're camping in a state park or in your own backyard, try making chili in a Dutch oven. But be ready to face the eternal question, beans or no beans?

Get a free State Parks Guide when you pledge to "Take Care of Texas."

State Park Guide and link

Park Names Reflect Our Hispanic Heritage

Hispanic family

Did you know that some park names are rooted in Spanish, a language spoken by early explorers and settlers of Texas? Here are some park names that may surprise you with their meaning:

  • Palo Duro = Hard Stick
  • Palmetto = Little Palm
Lake Casa Blanca State Park with video link
  • Lake Casa Blanca = White House Lake
  • Estero Llano Grande = Grand Estuary Flat

Discover the meanings of other park names in the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine blog post, Hispanic Heritage Month – Your State Parks.

From Intern to Parks Director – Meet Rodney Franklin

Rodney Franklin

Rodney Franklin is a friendly guy and an excellent leader who knows our parks inside and out, attributes which helped him reach his position as Texas State Parks division director.

He grew up in Powderly and at 16 began his Texas State Parks career with a summer job at a historic site. After earning a degree at Texas A&M, Rodney built on his management skills at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park and then became superintendent of Cooper Lake State Park. A park superintendent has to wrangle a lot of moving parts as well as lead, which Rodney did with finesse, resulting in his eventual promotion to division director in 2018.

Managing a lot of moving parts is just one thing Rodney enjoys about his job. "There are many good things about working for Texas State Parks. One aspect that has remained constant since my early days is the diversity of the work. As director, the topics, issues, challenges and discussions are as diverse as the landscapes in the parks. Knowing that my work supports our staff, mission and allows future generations to enjoy our natural gems is a great feeling," he says. Get to know more about Rodney and his career in the 2010 video, Rodney, Park Superintendent.  

If you'd like a career in State Parks, we offer many opportunities. Or join us as a volunteer, we can always use a helping hand. Who knows where it could lead?

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