Monday, February 13, 2012

Texas Parks and Wildlife

If you love the outdoors, I've got a good deal for you.

Our state park system, Texas Parks and Wildlife, provides a State Park Pass that is good for one year for all state parks. The first pass costs $70; at the time you purchase this pass, you can also purchase additional passes for other members of your family for a mere $15. Donna and I make this purchase each year. So, for $85, we gain entry to all the state parks across Texas. If you happen to be 65 years of age or older, this price is further reduced.

With the pass, daily entrance fees to all parks and state natural areas across the state are waived. You do, however, still have to pay for overnight camping. However, without the pass, you would have to pay not only the camping fee but the daily fee as well. I find this to be a great deal, for we camp throughout the year. When we aren't camping, we often are visiting parks on a day-use basis, as recounted in some recent blog entries regarding San Angelo State Park.

I find this to be a great deal. By comparison, current ticket prices for 1 day at Six Flags Over Texas are $56.99, though by purchasing online you can get them cheaper than this. So, a family of 4 would spend well over $100 at Six Flags for 1 day of fun; and I don't deny that it would be fun. But for only $70, that same family of 4 could visit the state parks of Texas every day for a year.

And what can you do at the state parks? Well, different parks offer different forms of recreation.

For the history buff, there are parks boasting Texas history. These include places like Fort Richardson State Park in Jacksboro, established shortly after the Civil War to protect settlers against raiding Comanche and Kiowa Indians. The fort is well preserved and includes seven of the original buildings which have been restored: the post hospital; the officers' quarters (Commanding Officer); a powder magazine; a morgue; a commissary; a guardhouse; and a bakery, which baked 600 loaves per day. There are also two replicas: officers' and enlisted men's barracks. The officers' barracks houses the Interpretive Center. There are other parks throughout the system that have similar historical significance. The Battleship Texas is even in the state park system.

For active people, there are all sorts of activities at state parks, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, swimming, river rafting, and fishing. Fishing in the state park system, by the way, does not require a license; in addition to fresh water fishing, you can also do salt water fishing at several parks, such as Galveston Island and Mustang Island State Parks. And this list is by no means exhaustive. At Enchanted Rock, just north of Fredericksburg, you can enjoy some challenging rock climbing. Rather than going up, perhaps you like going down. If so, then visit Longhorn Cavern State Park and take a cave tour. Some of my best memories are of the days when my daughter was young and we would camp at South Llano River State Park. We would spend our days in the river, shooting under the bridge and then riding our floats downstream.

For those who love wildlife, the parks offer numerous opportunities to view animals in their natural habitat. Bentsen State Park in the Rio Grande Valley is famous for its birding opportunities. Caprock Canyons  provides the opportunity to see bison roaming the prairie much as they did before the great slaughter following the Civil War. Other Texas wildlife, from Longhorns to deer to armadillos, can be found throughout the parks.

And then there are the parks that preserve natural scenery. One of my favorites of these is Lost Maples, which has stands of bigtooth maples in its protective canyons. Sometimes the parks protect and preserve native American artwork, such as the drawings at Seminole Canyon near Langtry and Del Rio and the drawings at Hueco Tanks east of El Paso.

And I've just scratched the surface. Our state parks offer myriad opportunities for recreational and educational activities, for the old and young alike.

Get out there and purchase a park pass and start enjoying the great outdoors.

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