Texas State Outdoors

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Texas State Parks

Atlanta State Park
1475 acres on Lake Wright Patman Dam in Cass County, a few miles southwest of Texarkana. Texas acquired the land in 1954 by Department of the Army License which expires in 2004 with option to renew to 2054. Caddo Indians, the most culturally advanced tribe in Texas, once made this area their home. The Caddos settled the area peacefully as farmers, unlike their nomadic and warlike brother, the Apaches and Comanches. Excavations conducted by the Smithsonian Institute produced many graves and artifacts, and archaeologists found evidence of a house pattern with post molds still intact. The park offers swimming in a designated sandy beach area (no lifeguard on duty) on Wright Patman Lake, a nature trail and a hiking trail of five miles, water skiing, boating, and fishing. Wright Patman Lake is also a popular fishing spot. The reservoir covers 20,300 acres and has an average depth of 7.6 feet. There are 170 miles of shoreline. On shore, the activities include walking, nature study, hiking, camping, picnicking, or jogging along roads, trails or shorelines. Bicycling is popular along the hilly park and area roads. The park hosts the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Tri-State Bike Tour each October. For information call: (903)796-6476


Balmorhea State Park
San Solomon Springs has provided water for travelers for thousands of years. Artifacts indicate Indians used the spring extensively before white men came to the area. In 1849, the springs were called Mescalero Springs for the Mescalero Apache Indians who watered their horses along its banks. The present name was given by the first settlers, Mexican farmers who used the water for their crops and hand-dug the first irrigation canals. Along with motel-type accommodations, the park's main attraction is a large (77,053 sq. ft.) artesian spring pool that is open daily and fed by San Solomon Springs. The springs also fill a 'cienega' (desert wetland) and the canals of a refugium, home to endangered species of fish, assorted invertebrates, and turtles. The pool differs from most public pools in several respects: the 1 3/4-acre size, the 25-foot depth and the 72 to 76 degree constant temperature. It also has a variety of aquatic life in its clear waters. With a capacity of more than 3 1/2 million gallons, the pool has plenty of room for swimmers, while offering a unique setting for scuba and skin diving. For information call: (915)375-2370


Possum Kingdom State Park
Activities include camping, picnicking, lake swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, nature study, boating, and water skiing. This park has 6 cabins that accommodate 4 in each and 1 that accommodates 8; campsites with water and electricity (premium campsites are available); campsites with water; walk-in primitive campsites (50-100 yards, fire ring only); a trailer dump station; picnic tables; a fishing pier; restrooms with showers; a fish-cleaning facility; a concrete boat ramp with a courtesy dock; playgrounds; and 2 miles of hiking/nature trails. For information call: (940)549-1803


San Angelo State Park
Regional archeological findings indicate some 18,000 years of Native American occupation, starting with the Paleo-American hunters of giant Ice Age mammals and ending with the crucial military defeat of the Comanches in 1874. The non-Indian history of the area begins with 16th- and 17th-century Spanish exploration and the establishment of missions for the semi-settled Jumano Indians of those days. By the 1800s, German immigrants began to own land in the region. The increasing need to protect California-bound travelers led to the establishment of Fort Concho. From then on, farmers, ranchers, and sheep herders all contributed to the settlement of Concho Country, with San Angelo (originally Santa Angela) becoming the county seat in 1883. Activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding on multi-use trails, lake swimming and wading, fishing, boating, and bird and wildlife observation. The park has a hunting program with a State Park Annual Hunting Permit and special drawing hunts for deer and spring turkey. For information call: (915)949-4757


McKinney Falls State Park
The park is named for Thomas F. McKinney, who came to Texas in the early 1820s as one of Stephen F. Austin's first 300 colonists. Sometime between 1850 and 1852, McKinney moved to Travis County and his property on Onion Creek, where he became a prominent breeder of race horses with his own stable and private track. He built his large two-story home, stone fences, and the first flour mill in the area with slave labor. Preserved in the park are the ruins of his trainer's cabin and the stabilized ruins of his own homestead. Information on Thomas F. McKinney and the history of the park's land use is interpreted in the Smith Visitor Center. Camping, hiking, mountain biking, road biking, picnicking, fishing, and wildlife observation are other activities. Swimming is now allowed in Onion Creek. For information call: (512)243-1643


Camping and Hiking in Texas

Abilene State Park
Original park construction was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the early 1930's. A portion of the official Texas longhorn herd and two buffalo are located on site. Comanches frequented what is now the park, using the groves of 4000 native pecan trees as campgrounds, much like the present park's picnic area. The park offers camping, hiking, nature study, swimming (summer), picnicking, fishing in Buffalo Wallow Pond in the park and nearby Lake Abilene, and bicycle riding and walking on park roads. Facilities include restrooms with and without showers; a playground area; a summertime 40' x 110' swimming pool; a 10' x 30' wading pool for children; a game area with a sand volleyball pit; a horseshoe pit; a basketball goal; a large open area for baseball, soccer, football, and kite flying. There are developed campsites with water nearby with a table, a grill, individual site parking; campsites with water; campsites with water and electricity; a group trailer area (sites with water and electricity); large trailer sites with water and electricity; a one-mile nature trail; trailer dump stations; and screened shelters. Special rates are available; seasonal camping fees December through February. There are group recreation halls for day or overnight use (1 air-conditioned); group day-use areas (picnic tables under moderate shade. For information call: (915)572-3204


Big Spring State Park
Comanches and earlier Indian groups frequently visited the park area in the past, probably attracted by the permanent source of spring water. Spaniards may have first visited the area as early as 1768. However, the first recorded mention of the spring is from an October 3, 1849 entry in the journal of Captain R. B. Marcy of the U. S. Calvary on his return excursion from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Other visitors to the park and spring include cattle drovers, and immigrants moving to new territories, as can be seen by carvings they left behind (circa 1917, turn of the century). Today the City of Big Spring occupies the area and is involved in several businesses such as agriculture, tourism, and the refining of petroleum. Nearby, Interstate 20 transports high volumes of traffic east and west across Texas. Shortly after the State of Texas acquired the park property in 1934, the park was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was created during the "Depression" to employ young men unable to find jobs. Using limestone quarried on the site and quality workmanship, the CCC built the pavilion, headquarters, residence, pumphouse, and restroom. Their biggest project was the three-mile drive that loops around the mountain following the ledge of limestone rimrock capping the bluff. Retaining walls for the drive were built using large blocks of limestone, some weighing as much as two tons, and mortarless masonry techniques. Dramatic views from the CCC-built loop road is one of the featured attractions of the 382-acre park. Early morning or sunset, joggers, walkers, and cyclists circle the loop, enjoying these views as they exercise. Campers enjoy stargazing or watching the sun set off of the 200-foot bluff. An elaborate Fourth of July fireworks display is one of the largest in the region. Other activities include camping, picnicking, nature study, and sightseeing. For information call: (915)263-4931


Caddo Lake State Park
This lake was the only natural lake in Texas until it was artificially dammed in the early 1900's when oil was found and for flood control in 1914. A new dam replaced the old one in 1971. Caddo Indian legend attributes the formation of the lake to an earthquake. The park's original improvements were made by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Facilities include restrooms with and without showers; picnic sites; campsites with water; campsites with water and electricity; campsites with water, electricity, and sewer; and shelters. Weekly rates available on campsites only. Facilities also include an interpretive center; a launching ramp; a playground; 1 1/2 miles of hiking trails; a 3/4-mile nature trail; and a trailer dump station. The recreation hall (day or night use - capacity 100/50) is a large building for family/group meetings. The building is cooled by an attic fan and window air-conditioners and heated with panel heaters and a fireplace. Approximately 100 chairs and 10 tables are provided within the building; restrooms without showers are located inside; outdoor grill; no kitchen; and no sleeping facilities. There is a private concession at the park that is open March - November, everyday except Wednesday. They offer canoe rental and pontoon boat rides. John Boats are available within four miles. For information call: (903)679-3351


Caprock Canyons State Park
The park offers day-use and camping facilities; hiking; horseback riding; mountain bike riding; boating on a no-wake lake (120-surface-acres, 30' when full); fishing; lake swimming; a scenic drive; guided tours; and seasonal concessions offering boat, bike, and horse rentals. Almost 90 miles of multi-use trails range from the very difficult in rugged terrain to the disabled, with less than 1% grade. About 25 miles of the trails include cliffs and drop-offs, with steep climbs and descents that are recommended only for the experienced equestrian and mountain bike riders. There are 13 trails in all, (some still under construction), including 6 along the rail-trail, which are each approximately 10 miles long and provide parking lots at each trailhead. A shuttle service is available for those wishing only one-way hikes or rides - fee charged. (Arrangements must be made ahead of time with the park.) Water is usually available for animals along the trails, and some potable water is available at selected sites; but is it highly recommended that personal water is carried for each adventurer. The development of the trails change on a daily basis. For information call: (806)455-1492


Sea Rim State Park
The park is named for that portion of the Gulf shoreline where the marsh grasses extend into the surf in a zone termed Sea Rim Marsh. The park's coastline contains a biologically-important zone, wherein salt tidal marshlands meet the Gulf waters. These marshlands formed when silt from the Sabine River delta was carried down the beach by longshore currents. Attractions include camping; wildlife observation; birding; beach combing; a nature trail; canoeing and kayaking; air boat tours; beach swimming; fishing; canoe rentals; and public waterfowl hunting (in season). For information call: (409)971-2559


Hunting and Fishing in Texas

Bastrop State Park
Original improvements were made by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The park opened in 1937. It is the site of the famous "Lost Pines," an isolated timbered region of loblolly pine and hardwoods. The park provides opportunities for backpacking, camping, picnicking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, golfing, bicycling, wildlife viewing, hiking, and special tours. For information call: (512)321-2101


San Angelo State Park
Regional archeological findings indicate some 18,000 years of Native American occupation, starting with the Paleo-American hunters of giant Ice Age mammals and ending with the crucial military defeat of the Comanches in 1874. The non-Indian history of the area begins with 16th- and 17th-century Spanish exploration and the establishment of missions for the semi-settled Jumano Indians of those days. By the 1800s, German immigrants began to own land in the region. The increasing need to protect California-bound travelers led to the establishment of Fort Concho. From then on, farmers, ranchers, and sheep herders all contributed to the settlement of Concho Country, with San Angelo (originally Santa Angela) becoming the county seat in 1883. Activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding on multi-use trails, lake swimming and wading, fishing, boating, and bird and wildlife observation. The park has a hunting program with a State Park Annual Hunting Permit and special drawing hunts for deer and spring turkey. For information call: (915)949-4757


Colorado Bend State Park
The park currently offers the outdoor enthusiast access to primitive camping, hiking, fishing, which at certain times is terrific, swimming, mountain biking, birding, and nature watching, and guided tours. When Lake Buchanan is near normal levels, the river is navigable from the park's boat ramp all the way to the lake, approximately 10 miles. This is a trip on slow moving water through the beautiful canyon lands of the Colorado. For information call: (409)295-5644 or (915)628-3240


Huntsville State Park
The heavily-wooded park adjoins the Sam Houston National Forest and encloses the 210-acre Lake Raven. The park offers camping, hiking, biking, boating, miniature golf, horseback riding, fishing, swimming in unsupervised swimming area, boat rentals, and nature study. For information call: (409)295-5644


Lake Arrowhead State Park
Lake Arrowhead itself is a reservoir on the Little Wichita River and covers approximately 16,200 surface acres, with 106 miles of shoreline. Built primarily as a water supply by the City of Wichita Falls, the lake is also a major recreational site for the North Central Plains. The park offers fishing; lake swimming on unsupervised beach; water skiing; disc golf; picnicking; camping; nature study; hiking; horseback riding, boating; plus seasonal groceries. For information call: (940)528-2211


Lake Texana State Park
Lake Texana was named for the historic town of Texana, founded in 1832, near the junction of the Navidad and Lavaca rivers downstream from the present dam site. Activities include camping; boating; water skiing; jet skiing; sailing on the main lake; canoeing; picnicking (tree-shaded tables and grills); swimming (undesignated swimming area; no lifeguard on duty); hiking; good birding; and fishing. For information call: (361)782-5718


Other Texas Outdoor activities

Texas also offers the following outdoor activities:
  • Boating
  • Climbing
  • Golfing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Swimming