Texas State Parks Ideal Fall Destinations

The 92 Texas State Parks offer a safe, economical, and fun environment for enjoying the great outdoors this fall. Although the past year’s extreme weather conditions have taken their toll on a number of state parks natural resources, wildlife, and lake levels, there remain dozens of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)-operated sites where the impacts are minimal, according to a TPWD new release.

Enjoy a relaxing day at Buesher State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In east Texas, sandwiched between Angelina National Forest to the north and the Big Thicket National Preserve, lakeside Martin Dies Jr. State Park is faring well. Park superintendent David Weeks reports that Lake B. A. Steinhagen remains at full pool level and is expected to maintain that level through the winter.

Martin Dies now has 38 canoes for rental to tackle the park’s four official Texas paddling trails where the waters are still flowing and wildlife abounds. The paddling trails offer excellent opportunities for birding, wildlife viewing, and nature photography.

Despite the dry conditions, Weeks predicts fall color on most park trails should still be good. A good time to take to the trails will be October 29 when Martin Dies hosts its Haunted Halloween Hike. On November 26, the park will hold its Cowboy Campfire.

Cooler fall nights make for more comfortable camping, Weeks notes, and when winter finally arrives, campers will be glad to know new heaters have been installed in campground restrooms and showers.

Located roughly 50 miles east of Dallas, Lake Tawakoni State Park reports good lake access via a four-lane boat ramp and decent fishing, though the reservoir is about six feet lower than normal.

“The wildlife has been more active than normal because of the drought,” says park superintendent Donna Garde, “so we’re getting more gray fox, mink, and deer sightings. And from November through February, we offer favorable long-term camping rates for our full-service campsites.”

Camping at Galveston Island State Parks. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Central Texas, Buescher State Park still offers a bucolic Lost Pines experience since it was untouched by the early September wildlife that burned most of its sister park, Bastrop State Park, 11 miles to the west. The park boasts small, quiet campgrounds and an excellent trail system that winds through the hills amid the loblolly and hardwood forest that covers much of the park.

The 25-acre lake still has plenty of water and recently has been stocked with 900 pounds of catfish, according to Buescher State Park superintendent Cullen Sartor. And, he notes that park-goers need to remember that fishing within the boundary of any Texas state park requires no fishing license. In addition, the park rents canoes and kayaks to access the lake.

And, outdoor lovers shouldn’t forget that fall is a great time to visit a seaside state park. Texas boasts four such parks: Sea Rim State Park on the uppermost Gulf Coast, and further south Galveston Island, Goose Island, and Mustang Island state parks.

Sea Rim and Galveston Island state parks have bounced back from recent hurricanes and are welcoming campers, bird watchers, anglers, and kayakers in increasing numbers. Half of the 44 worn-out seaside shade shelters have been replaced with new ones at Goose Island and the others will be replaced over the next couple of months.

Keep an eye out for the endangered whooping cranes that winter in the area and enjoy the new boardwalk over the recently restored marsh. At 4,093-acre Mustang Island State Park, visitors can cruise the beach, pitch a tent, and even build a campfire, a rarity in rain-starved Texas.

From your home base of Goose Island State Park explore Rockport-Fulton and Port Aransas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite the spring wildfire that struck 1,500-acre Possum Kingdom State Park in North Texas, the park has made a great comeback, has received some rain and welcoming an increasing number of visitors. The lake level is down some, but the park’s boat ramp remains one of the few still open and the county’s burn ban has been lifted, so campfires are okay again. The campgrounds are open and all but one cabin, which sustained slight fire damage, are available for overnight stays.

Many state parks offer reduced camping fees during “off-peak” fall and winter months, especially for campers planning a longer stay.

Reservations for accommodations and campsites can be made by calling the reservations center in Austin at (512) 389-8900 or online through the TPWD website.

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Worth Pondering…

I am humbled by the forces of nature that continuously -mold our great state of Texas into a beautiful landscape complete with geological diversity, flora and fauna. It is my goal as a photographer to capture that natural beauty and share it with others.

—Chase A. Fountain

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