Relive & Explore The Past In Public Lands Of New Mexico

Relive the Wild West, explore exotic cultures, return to the dawn of recorded history, and travel back to prehistoric times.

New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glance into the future exploring the solar system and far beyond. And enjoy camping, hiking, biking, fishing, boating, birding, picnicking, photography, stargazing and much more. You can do all this and more for bargain prices in the public lands of the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico offers unlimited of unique opportunities.

In an earlier post Vogel Talks RVing discussed the unlimited opportunities available for outdoor recreation and camping at New Mexico’s 35 state parks—24 having ponds, streams, rivers, or lakes.

When planning a weekend getaway or summer vacation, consider coordinating visits to state parks, state museums, state monuments, and national parks in the area.

To get started, check out the following state museums and historical sites.

Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner: A unique new museum designed by Navajo architect David Sloan—shaped like a hogan and a tepee—and an interpretive trail, provide information about the tragic history of Fort Sumner and Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation.

Coronado Historic Site
Coronado Historic Site

Coronado Historic Site: In 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado—with 500 soldiers and 2,000 Indian allies—entered the Rio Grande valley near this site. Searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold, he instead found a dozen villages inhabited by prosperous native farmers.

El Camino Real Historic Trail Site: Journey along the historic Camino Real, the Royal Road of the Interior Lands. This 1,500-mile historic trade route that extends from Mexico City to Ohkay Owingeh, is one of the oldest trails in the US and, for more than a century, one of the longest.

Fort Selden Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fort Selden Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Selden Historic Site: Fort Selden was established in 1865 in an effort to bring peace to the south central region of present day New Mexico. Built on the banks of the Rio Grande, this adobe fort protected settlers and travelers in the Mesilla Valley from desperados and Apache Indians.

Fort Stanton Historic Site: Fort Stanton is situated on 240 acres and surrounded by 1,300 acres of undeveloped BLM land in south-central New Mexico. There are 88 buildings on this historic site, some dating back to 1855.

Jemez National Historic Landmark: A short drive from Albuquerque and Bernalillo, the Jemez National Historic Landmark is one of the most beautiful historic sites in the Southwest. It includes the stone ruins of a 500-year-old village and the San José de los Jemez church dating to 1621-22.

Lincoln Historic Site: A town made famous by one of the most violent periods in New Mexico history. See the Old Courthouse with exhibits detailing the Lincoln County War. Walk in the footsteps of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and other characters of the Wild West.

Lincoln Historic Site
Lincoln Historic Site

New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors: Originally constructed in the early 17th century as Spain’s seat of government for what is today the American Southwest, the Palace of the Governors chronicles the history of Santa Fe, as well as New Mexico and the region. This adobe structure, now the state’s history museum, was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1960 and an American Treasure in 1999.

New Mexico Museum of Space History: A visit to the Museum of Space History is a trip into the origins of our nation’s space exploration program. The Museum is composed of The Museum of Space History, The International Space Hall of Fame, The John P. Stapp Air & Space Park, Daisy Track, The Clyde W. Tombaugh IMAX Theater, and Astronaut Memorial Garden.

New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum: Located in Las Cruces, the Museum tells the story of agriculture from 800 years ago when Native Americans planted corn, squash, and beans to today’s agribusinesses and family farms. Explore the museum, both inside—where you can see art and other exhibits and outside—where you can meet cattle and other livestock face to face.

Fort Stanton Historic Site
Fort Stanton Historic Site

Museum of Indian Arts & Culture: A premier repository of Native art and material culture, the Museum tells the stories of the people of the Southwest from pre-history through contemporary art. Located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the museum shares its location with the other museums of Museum Hill: Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and Museum of International Folk Art.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on the Public Lands Of New Mexico

Worth Pondering…

If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

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White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon

The White Tank Mountains rise west of Phoenix, forming the western boundary of the Valley of the Sun.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Chandler to Buckeye, neat rows of beige roofs and asphalt streets turn to cracked desert dirt, a checkerboard of farm plots and residential communities, and the White Tank Mountains. Thousands of acres of rocky peaks rise steeply to up to 4,000 feet. They’re an icon in the westernmost part of the Valley, about 30 miles from central Phoenix.

Nearly 30,000 acres makes this the largest regional park in Maricopa County. Most of the park is made up of the rugged and beautiful White Tank Mountains. The range, deeply serrated with ridges and canyons, rises sharply from its base to peak at over 4,000 feet.

Infrequent heavy rains cause flash floodwaters to plunge through the canyons and pour onto the plain. These torrential flows, pouring down chutes and dropping off ledges, have scoured out a series of depressions, or tanks, in the white granite rock below, thus giving the mountains their name.

In 1863, when gold was discovered in central Arizona, one of the first roads heading north into that region passed by the eastern side of the mountain range. This road stretched from the Gila River into the new towns of Wickenburg and Prescott.

The road followed an old trail that took advantage of an important source of water in the middle of the desert. In the northeast portion of the White Tank Mountains was a natural basin or tank that held water year round. Named the “White Tank” for the white granite cliffs surrounding it, this large watering hole appears on maps and in journals as an important watering place from 1863 and 1895.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The White Tank was the only water for 20 to 30 miles during those first few years of Arizona Territory history and gives the mountains their name.

The White Tank cannot be seen today as it was destroyed sometime between 1898 and 1902. Heavy rains caused the collapse of the cliff above the tank, filling it in. The exact location of the tank is now a mystery.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers approximately 25 miles of excellent shared-use trails, ranging in length from 0.9 mile to 7.9 miles, and difficulty from easy to strenuous. Overnight backpacking, with a permit, is allowed in established backcountry campsites. Day hikes can provide some breathtaking views of the mountains and panoramas of the Valley below. Horseback and mountain bike riders are welcome, although caution is stressed as some of the trails may be extremely difficult.

One of the most popular trails in the park is the Waterfall Canyon Trail which leads to a dark pool in a narrow box canyon. Right after a good rain there really is a waterfall. This trail also houses the “Petroglyph Plaza,” some of the finest petroglyphs in the park.

In addition, there are 2.5 miles of pedestrian-only trails. These include two short trails that are hard-surfaced and barrier free. Waterfall Trail is barrier-free for 1/2 of a mile. The handicap accessible portion now ends about 1/10 of a mile past Petroglyph Plaza. The short loop of Black Rock Trail, which is about 1/2 mile long, begins at Ramada 4.

All trails are multi-use unless otherwise designated. All trail users are encouraged to practice proper trail etiquette.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers 40 individual sites for tent or RV camping. All sites are developed with a water hook-up and 30/50-amp electrical service, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, a fire ring, and nearby dump station. Most sites are relatively level and will accommodate big rigs. All restrooms offer flush toilets and showers. All sites in the campground may be reserved online.


White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Address: 20304 W. White Tank Mountain Road, PO Box 91, Waddell, AZ 85355

Directions: When traveling south on Loop 303, exit at Peoria Avenue, west (right) to Cotton Lane, south (left) to Olive Avenue, and west (right) 4 miles to the park gate; when traveling north on Loop 303, exit at Northern Ave., west (left) to Cotton Lane, north (right) to Olive Avenue, and west (left) 4 miles to the park gate (Note: There is NO off ramp on Loop 303 for Olive Avenue)

Phone: (623) 935-2505


Entry Fee: $6/vehicle

Camping Fee: $30

Camping Reservation Fee: $8

White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
White Tank Mountain Regional Park: West Valley Icon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

When I walk in the desert the birds sing very beautifully

When I walk in the desert the trees wave their branches in the breeze

When I walk in the desert the tall saguaro wave their arms way up high

When I walk in the desert the animals stop to look at me as if they were saying

“Welcome to our home.”

—Jeanette Chico, in When It Rains

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Best Kept Secret in World of RVing: Maricopa County Parks

One of the best kept secrets in the World of RVing are county park campgrounds.

Cave Creek Regional Park  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

County parks are often relatively small and off the beaten path. But if you’re looking for a quiet place to relax, do some bird watching, photography, hike a near-by trail, or do some great sightseeing, it might be well worth seeking out some of these neat spots.

A county park system worth checking out is Maricopa County Regional Parks in Arizona. The parks circle the Phoenix metropolitan area and are within a 45-minute drive from central Phoenix.

We discovered these county parks almost 30 years ago when camping at Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa while on a working travel sabbatical.

As well as returning to Usery Mountain several times, we have camped at or explored six additional regional parks—Buckeye Hills, Cave Creek, Estrella Mountain, Lake Pleasant, San Tan Mountain, and White Tank Mountain.

With 10 regional parks totaling more than 120,000 acres, Maricopa County Regional Parks feature the nation’s largest county park system. More than 2.1 million visitors annually enjoy affordable outdoor recreation activities available in this diverse park system .

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maricopa County Regional Parks began in 1954 to preserve the mountain areas for future generations to enjoy. A federal act in the 1970s called the Recreation and Public Purposes Act allowed Maricopa County to acquire thousands of acres of parkland from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at $2.50 an acre. A combination of leased and purchased land has allowed this department to develop a regional park system that preserves open space and provides the residents of Maricopa County with an opportunity to enjoy “Natural Arizona.”

Each county park has its own unique characteristics offering recreation to Valley residents and visitors alike. Some parks offer boating, picnicking, golf, archery and shooting ranges. Others have camping and recreational vehicle camping facilities. Most offer hiking, picnicking, and mountain biking.

So many local attractions and the great variety of outdoor recreation are sure to keep you coming back over and over.

The positive surroundings and the competently maintained facilities attract people from near and far including numerous snowbirds that have discovered this central Arizona gem.


Maricopa County Regional Parks

Phone: (602) 506-2930


San Tan Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
San Tan Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adobe Dam Regional Park

Location: 23280 N. 43rd Avenue, Glendale, AZ 85310

Phone: (602) 506-2930

Buckeye Hills Regional Park

Location: 26700 West Buckeye Hills Drive, Buckeye, AZ 85326

Phone: (623) 932-3811

Cave Creek Regional Park

Location: 37019 N. Lava Lane, Cave Creek, AZ 85331

Phone: (623) 465-0431

Estrella Mountain Regional Park

Location: 14805 West Vineyard Avenue, Goodyear, AZ 85338

Phone: (623) 932-3811

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Location: 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown, AZ 85342

Phone: (928) 501-1710

McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Location: 16300 McDowell Mountain Park Dr., Fountain Hills, Arizona 85255

Phone: (480) 471-0173

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Tan Mountain Regional Park

Location: 6533 West Phillips Road, Queen Creek Arizona 85242

Phone: (480) 655-5554

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

Location: 44000 N. Spur Cross Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85331

Phone: (480) 488-6601

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Location: 3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa, AZ 85207

Phone: (480) 984-0032

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Location: 13025 N. White Tank Mountain Road, Waddell, AZ 85355

Phone: (623) 935-2505

Worth Pondering…
The vast emptiness and overpowering silence of the desert and surrounding mountains sharpens your senses, enhancing self-contemplation, and stimulating creativity.

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Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis

On the northern side of the Coachella Valley, nestled at the feet of the Indio Hills, the Coachella Valley Preserve is the Old West just minutes from Palm Springs, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indio, and other desert cities.

Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Preserve is a natural refuge where visitors can discover rare and wonderful wildlife species. Enjoy some of the 20,000+ acres of desert wilderness and over 25 miles of hiking trails, most of which are well marked.

By a quirk of nature there’s water here, too, but it doesn’t usually come in the form of rain. The Preserve is bisected by the San Andreas fault, and this natural phenomenon results in a series of springs and seeps which support plants and animals which couldn’t otherwise live in this harsh environment.

Enjoy palm groves, picnic areas, a diverse trail system, and the rustic visitor center, the Palm House. Inside the historic building are trail maps as well as unique displays of the natural and historic features of the area.

The palm encountered in the oases within the Preserve is the California fan palm, or Washingtonia filifera. It is the only indigenous palm in California. The Washingtonia filifera has a very thick trunk and grows slowly to about 45 feet. Dead leaves hang vertically and form what is called a skirt around the trunk providing a place for various critters to live. Inflorescences, or fruit stalks, extend beyond the leaves and bear masses of tiny white to cream colored flowers.

Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the fall months, large clusters of small hard fruit hang from the tree. The palms may live 150 to 200 years.

No one knew just how significant a 6-inch lizard would be to conservation in Coachella Valley.

In 1980 a lizard small enough to fit in the palm of your hand brought the $19 billion Coachella Valley construction boom to a screeching halt.

When the lizard was placed on the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all development was jeopardized because it might illegally destroy habitat for the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard.

A six-year conflict ensued as environmentalists battled developers over the fragile desert habitat. Finally, the Nature Conservancy was called in to resolve the bitter stalemate, and the result was a remarkable model of cooperation through which endangered species and economic development could co-exist.

The Conservancy proposed creating a nearly 14,000-acre preserve that would provide permanent protection for the little reptile and other desert species, while allowing developers to build elsewhere in the valley. It was a great experiment in cooperation that produced astonishing results. The creation of the Coachella Valley Preserve proved that through consensus, economic development, and species protection can indeed be compatible.

Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From easy to moderately difficult, from flat terrain to steep grades, hikes of all varieties are available. There are also several designated equestrian trails, but there are no bike or dog-friendly trails.

One hike that is a sure bet for all levels, is through varying desert terrain to the McCallum Grove, about a mile from the Palm House visitor’s center. There are about a dozen isolated palm groves within the preserve, the largest being McCallum Grove.

There’s more water here than anywhere else in the preserve and the overflow allows a large and diverse community to thrive, including tiny freshwater crayfish called red swamp crayfish, desert pupfish, and the occasional mallard duck making a brief stopover during its annual migration.

After leaving McCallum Grove keep hiking west on marked trails out to “moon country”. You will come to an overlook that provides you with great views of the entire area.
From there you can return to the visitor’s center, or continue via the 4.2-mile Moon Country Trail Loop, or the more advanced Moon Country Canyon Extension, which adds an additional 1.63 miles roundtrip.

Other delightful trails include Pushawalla Palms, Horseshoe Palms, and Hidden Palms, which are all somewhat more strenuous hikes.

Coachella Valley Preserve is a great way to spend a day with its fantastic hiking trails, and beautiful vistas, but best of all it’s free and also easy to find. No matter how you choose to spend your time at Coachella Valley Preserve, you won’t be disappointed.

Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Palm Springs take Interstate 10 East to the Ramon Road exit. Turn left and follow Ramon Road and make a left turn on Thousand Palms Road. The entrance to the visitors center is located about two miles on the left.

Worth Pondering…

Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders.
—Edward Abbey

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Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis

Located along Sabino Creek 12 miles from downtown Tucson, Sabino Canyon is a popular destination for exploring the Sonoran Desert.

Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A paved road runs 3.8 miles into the canyon, crossing nine stone bridges over Sabino Creek. It begins at an altitude of 2,800 feet and rises to 3,300 feet at its end.

Sabino Canyon’s history is as diverse as it is fascinating. The Santa Catalina mountain range began its formation over 12 million years ago, 7 million years before the earliest known human walked the face of the earth. In around 5 million B.C., the mountains ceased formation around the Tucson area, setting the stage for future ecological action. Plant life first appeared between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago, and some of the earliest predominant human occupants of Sabino Canyon were the Hohokam people.

Soaring mountains, deep canyons, and the unique plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert found here draw over a million visitors a year to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. The wonders of the desert foothills and rocky gorges of the Santa Catalina Mountains are marvelous and accessible.

Sabino Canyon Tours offers two tram routes that provide access to Sabino and Bear Canyons. Along both routes riders are free to get off at any of the stops along the way.

Sabino Canyon tram is a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8 mile tour into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The trams have nine stops along the tour with several restroom facilities and picnic grounds located near Sabino Creek. The tram turns around at Stop #9 and heads back down to the Visitor’s Center, at which point riders may remain on board and hike back down. Trams arrive on average every 30 minutes.

Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tram drivers narrate the ride to the top of the trail, re­lating legends and pointing out features of interest: teddy bear cholla, a sandy beach that makes a good picnic spot, a formation atop a mountain that looks like Snoopy lying on his back.

A variety of trails are available along the way for hiking that range from easy to challenging. The main road is mostly flat and paved and crosses Sabino Creek over nine stone bridges.

Winding through the canyon, visitors who follow the road have views of the creek, the riparian vegetation, magnificent Saguaros on the canyon walls, and towering rock formations. Picnic areas are scattered along the road, as are trailheads leading to other sections of the National Forest or paralleling the road.

The only motorized vehicles allowed on the road that leads through the canyon are the Sabino Canyon trams and Park Service vehicles. Ramadas at the entrance give canyon visitors a place to sit and watch the wildlife while waiting for the shuttle.

Bear Canyon tram is a non-narrated 2 mile ride that travels to the trailhead of Seven Falls. This tram ride has three stops along the way for hikers to select their choice of trails. Visitors may get off the tram at any of the stops and re-board later. Trams arrive on average every hour.

Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If riding the shuttle does not stir your sense of adventure, there are miles of hiking trails that wander throughout the area and lead deeper into the Santa Catalina backcountry.

For those who just want a refresher course on its wonders, the nature trail at the visitor center offers wildlife and trailside interpretive information.


Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Sabino Canyon is a popular spot for hiking. Trams run on the main, easily navigated Sabino Canyon Trail, with nine stops along the way, and on the Bear Canyon Trail, with three stops. During the 20-minute trip to the end of Sabino Canyon Road, shuttle drivers recount the history of the canyon and point out sights along the way.

Bear Canyon tram rides, which are not narrated, travel two miles to the trailhead of Seven Falls, from which it’s about a four-hour hike to the falls.

Your ticket enables you to get on or off at any of the stops—but not in between them.

Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sabino Canyon: A Desert Oasis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Address: 5900 N. Sabino Canyon Rd. Tucson, AZ 85750

Directions: From Tanque Verde Road in Tucson turn north on Sabino Canyon Road 4 miles to the Sabino Canyon

Information/Tour Schedules: (520) 749-2861

Visitors Center: (520) 749-8700

Sabino Canyon Tram Fees: $8; children ages 3-12, $4

Bear  Canyon Tram Fees: $3; children ages 3-12, $1

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever. Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area.

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Texas Gulf Coast Habitat Becomes State Park

A multi-partner coalition including the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Foundation has announced the purchase of the 17,351-acre Powderhorn Ranch along the Texas Gulf Coast in Calhoun County.

Wetland Marsh Waterways at Powderhorn Lake
Wetland Marsh Waterways at Powderhorn Lake (Credit: Jerod Foster)

The acquisition will conserve a spectacular piece of property that is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie in the state. At $37.7 million it is the largest dollar amount ever raised for a conservation land purchase in the state and represents a new partnership model of achieving conservation goals in an era of rapidly rising land prices.

In years to come, Powderhorn Ranch is expected to become a state park and wildlife management area.

Safeguarding this natural treasure has been contemplated for more than 30 years by several conservation organizations and wildlife agencies including The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Along with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), these organizations are playing a critical role in the acquisition and long-term conservation of this property.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is spearheading the fundraising for the $50 million project, which includes the purchase of the property, habitat restoration and management, as well as a long-term endowment.

Aerial Photo of Fringe Marshes Along Powderhorn Lake
Aerial Photo of Fringe Marshes Along Powderhorn Lake (Credit: Earl Nottingham/TPWD)

The real estate transaction has been more than two years in the making. Powderhorn Ranch was previously owned by Cumberland & Western Resources, LLC, whose primary investors are conservation-minded citizens who sold the property below its market value to ensure its permanent safekeeping.

A significant portion of the funding for the project is being provided by NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was created with dollars paid by BP and Transocean in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NFWF has committed $34.5 million over the next three years, making this the biggest land acquisition in the nation so far using BP spill restoration dollars.

The acquisition will protect in perpetuity unspoiled coastal land with forests of coastal live oak and intact wetlands. This range of habitats is perfect for public hunting, fishing, hiking, paddling, and bird watching. These nature tourism activities currently bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the Texas coast.

Cactus and Wetlands Along Powderhorn Lake
Cactus and Wetlands Along Powderhorn Lake (Credit: Jerod Foster)

The property also includes thousands of acres of freshwater wetlands and salt marshes that offer vital fish and wildlife habitat, provide natural filtering to improve water quality, and shield people and property from storm surges and sea level rise. The ranch includes more than eleven miles of tidal bay front on Matagorda Bay and provides habitat for hundreds of species of birds and animals, including the endangered whooping crane.


Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation

Founded in 1991, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is the non-profit funding partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.


National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation’s wildlife and habitats. Chartered by Congress in 1984, the Foundation directs public conservation dollars to pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions.


The Conservation Fund

For nearly 30 years, The Conservation Fund has been saving special places across America. They have protected more than seven million acres nationwide including more than 193,000 acres of natural lands across Texas, including the Big Thicket National Preserve, Fort Davis National Historic Site, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, and along the Neches River and the Gulf Coast.


The Nature Conservancy 

Powderhorn Ranch Regional Context Map
Powderhorn Ranch Regional Context Map (Credit: Earl Nottingham/TPWD)

The Nature Conservancy has been responsible for the protection of more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide and the operation of more than 100 marine projects globally. In the Lone Star State, The Nature Conservancy owns more than 30 nature preserves and conservation properties across Texas.


Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) operates 95 Texas state parks, natural areas and historic sites, 46 wildlife management areas, three saltwater fish hatcheries, and five freshwater hatcheries.


Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

What Texans can dream, Texans can do.

—George W. Bush

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Man Charged For Feeding Bears

Do not feed wildlife!

This black bear wants his food food and he is waiting patiently. DO NOT FEED BEARS! (Source: Thomas J/
This black bear wants his food food and he is waiting patiently. DO NOT FEED BEARS! (Source: Thomas J/

How hard is that to understand?

In an earlier article I reported on an incident involving the feeding of people-food to a black bear 3. 4 miles outside the north gate to Banff National Park.

In a national park in Canada, feeding wildlife carries a maximum fine of $25,000. Officers in provincial parks and recreation areas can also charge people up to $250 for the act. But there are no provincial laws that would allow Fish and Wildlife officers to issue a fine in this incident.

Such is NOT the case in Vermont where a Montgomery (Vermont) man was charged by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department for intentionally feeding bears.

Jeffrey Messier, 54, was charged with feeding bears after Game Warden Sgt. Carl Wedin received a report of a bear being killed in self-defense at a neighboring residence on June 22, according to an agency report.

Sgt. Wedin responded and recovered the bear. Its stomach contained a large number of sunflower seeds.

The investigating warden went to Jeffrey Messier’s residence where he discovered evidence of bear feeding and encountered a bear walking around the residence. The bear showed no sign of being afraid of people and walked right up to the warden.

Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear (Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear (Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

The bear then approached a picnic table where sunflower seeds were placed. It was obvious to the warden that this bear had been intentionally fed on several occasions and had lost its fear of humans, according to a Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department news release.

Further investigation by Sgt. Wedin revealed that several other bears also came to the residence often enough to be named and that many of them in recent years may have been killed or injured in incidents with other landowners.

According to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, black bears are found in most forested portions of Vermont where they rely on wild foods such as berries, cherries, beechnuts, apples, and acorns to survive. But the department also points out that bears can easily become attracted to other foods such as birdseed, garbage, and pet food.

“Bears are normally shy and not aggressive toward humans,” says bear biologist Forrest Hammond.

“However, a bear that has been fed by humans soon loses its shyness and can become dangerous, especially to the landowner feeding the bears and to their neighbors. Often, as in this case, fed bears will seek similar foods elsewhere, and in the process cause property damage and scare people not expecting to find bears on their porches and in their back yards.”

“At this time we are responding to reports throughout the state of bears causing damage while attempting to get at chicken feed, bird seed, stored garbage, and food kept in screened porches. In most cases this does not end well for the bears.”

“People such as Mr. Messier that feed bears often think they are helping them,” said Hammond. “But in reality such behavior causes problems for other landowners and often ends with the death of the bears being fed. When we start receiving multiple reports of bears causing problems in an area we most often find that someone is intentionally feeding them.”

The intentional feeding of bears is illegal in Vermont. If convicted Messier faces a fine of up to $1,000 and a one-year revocation of his hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses.

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

bear-blog-deadbearDon’t be a contributor to food-conditioning.

Once a bear is food-trained, it is often impossible to un-train them. That is why wildlife experts often say a fed bear is a dead bear. Having a bear wreck your campsite is not only bad for you, but potentially deadly for the bear.

Bears that scavenge for food begin to associate food with humans, and become food-conditioned. Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and become a threat to campers as they roam through the area in search of an easy meal.

There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear; Park Rangers are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans.

Worth Pondering…

Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.

―John Wayne

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Camp Without Reservations This Holiday Weekend

TripTrist Travel Planners has encouraging news if you want to go on a camping adventure for the long 4th of July weekend.

Enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers. Somewhere in southeastern Arizona between Coronado National Monument and Parker Lake, a BLM-administered camping site with limited services. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers. Somewhere in southeastern Arizona between Coronado National Monument and Parker Lake, a BLM-administered camping site with limited services. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is possible to camp without reservations even though most sites in RV parks and campgrounds were reserved months ago.

There are three ways go camping without reservations.

Start by checking to see if any campsites are available due to cancellations. Users may set up an alert to be notified if a specific park has availability.

Next, look for campsites that don’t take reservations and get there early, preferable a day or two before the weekend.

If there is nothing available, do not disrepair. There are millions of acres of publicly owned land across the United States that allow dispersed camping.

What is Dispersed Camping?

Many people enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers.

Dispersed camping is the term used for camping OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere in the National Forest or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. These are public lands that the federal government oversees.

Dispersed camping is permitted in designated areas within Anza-Borrego State Park in southeastern California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dispersed camping is permitted in designated areas within Anza-Borrego State Park in southeastern California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As long as the general rules are followed, camp can be set up as close or as far from civilization as desired.

Dispersed camping means no services such as trash removal, and little or no facilities such as tables and fire pits, are provided. Some popular dispersed camping areas may have toilets.

There are extra responsibilities and skills that are necessary for dispersed camping. It is your responsibility to know these before you try this new experience.

Camping rules and regulations apply to make your experience safe, and to keep the natural resources scenic and unspoiled for other campers.

The following rules apply when camping in the wilderness:

Dispersed camping is allowed in a one-mile perimeter away from campgrounds and 100 feet from any stream. To prevent resource damage please keep your campsite within 150 feet from a roadway.

Bring your own water.

Be Bear Aware. There are bears on the National Forest, so camp accordingly.

Leave the area as you found it. Back out all trash and waste. Follow Leave No Trace guidelines.

When on camping on BLM land, don’t stay longer than 14 days

When camping in the National Forest, Don’t stay longer than 16 days.

Do not leave campfires unattended. Put fires dead out before leaving the campsite or don’t have a fire at, to eliminate the risk of starting a forest fire.

Dispersed camping is available in the national forest with access to Fish Lake in Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dispersed camping is available in the national forest with access to Fish Lake in Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a detailed description of the rules visit the Forest Service website or the Bureau of Land Management website.

When deciding where to go, start by looking at a map of the destination. For example, Californians might want to drive up to the Sierra Mountains to enjoy the cool air, a clear view of the stars, and refreshing mountain streams and lakes.

Open up Google Maps, look at map of the eastern California. All of the light green areas indicate National Forest or BLM land. Zoom in further and pick a target area. Keep in mind that vehicles must stay on existing roads and it is best to camp in previously used areas to reduce damage to the environment.

If you follow these tips you can save a safe, low impact, dispersed camping experience.


TripTrist Travel Planners

TripTrist is a website that provides a search engine for adventure travel and tours around the world. Choose from over 2,000 tours by locally owned and run tour operators. Travelers simply enter the location they would like to go and/or the activity they are looking for and browse from a list of exciting tour choices.

No need to visit dozens of websites to plan an adventure travel vacation, just use the TripTrist search engine.


Reserve America


US Forest Service


Bureau of Land Management (BLM)


Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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Take Only Memories, Leave Only Footprints

Get more out of life—take a hike!

Hiking the trails at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking the trails at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that we’re well into spring and getting ready for summer, it’s prime time to get out on the trail and enjoy the colorful wildflowers, wandering wildlife, and breathtaking views of the natural world.

One of the primary reasons hiking is such a transcendent experience is it offers the opportunity to get away from civilization to enjoy the beauty of the natural world.

June is one of the best months of the year for hiking because the wildflowers also bring a lot of other cool stuff such as butterflies and hummingbirds.

With so many exciting subjects to observe and photograph, it’s easy to forget that this is also one of the most fragile times of year for the natural world. So, it’s important to leave no trace when you’re out on the trail.

Or in the words of Chief Seattle, “take only memories, leave only footprints”.

Leaving no trace means you leave the wilderness as you found it or maybe a little better by picking up any trash you find. Whatever you bring in, you should also bring out. Pack out your trash and pick up any litter left by others. If everyone carried out additional debris left by others, litter problems would be quickly eliminated.

Hiking the trails at Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking the trails at Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It means the only things you take away are memories and photographs, and the only thing you leave behind is footprints. But, you should also be careful just where you leave those footprints.

Avoid stepping on plants (especially wildflowers), and stay on established trails as much as possible.

Read the signs posted at the trailhead. At some of the more popular trailheads, there’s often a large sign with a trail map, posted regulations, safety reminders, and sometimes special considerations for leaving no trace. Make sure you read and follow any rules specific to that trail.

Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.

Learn the local ecology before visiting a new location. This will help you understand what’s endangered, what’s invasive, and how careful you need to be while you’re hiking through that area.

Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.

Don’t feed the wildlife. NEVER feed wild animals. It not only ruins the wildness of the land, but it also makes the animal depending on human food.

To ensure you leave no trace, following are guidelines to follow when out on a trail.

Leave-No-Trace Principles

Plan ahead and be prepared.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

Dispose of waste properly and pack out your trash.

Leave what you find.

Respect wildlife and minimize impact.

Be careful where you step.

Be considerate of others.

Hiking the trails at Congaree National Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking the trails at Congaree National Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leaving a wilderness area just as you found it will also ensure that the next visitor enjoys that same wildness you did.

Above all, be aware that you are not alone in the woods. Other wilderness hikers and campers also enjoy the solitude. Make as little noise as possible while hiking.

Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

Worth Pondering…

May all your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view……where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you.

—Edward Abbey

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Top 100 Family-Friendly Fishing & Boating Spots

Getting out on the water to boat and fish is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with your family.


But, finding the time and the right place to fish can be a challenge.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) has made planning easy with its recently released list of the top 100 family-friendly fishing and boating spots in the U.S.

The RBFF released its Top 100 list to encourage Americans to get out on the water during National Fishing and Boating Week, June 1-8, 2014.

People are encouraged to visit their local parks and other fishing holes, perhaps one of the Top 100, during this week. Other ways to celebrate follow:

Free Fishing Days: Perfect for those who are new to the sport or who want to mentor others, most states offer free fishing days that allow the public to fish without having to purchase a fishing license.

Special Events: Sites all over the country will host events, such as fishing derbies, regattas, boating demonstrations, and festivals.

Kids Activities: Take Me Fishing Little Lunkers section offers games and information to learn before getting out on the water, and even certificates to commemorate their catch.

The RBFF Take Me Fishing campaign initiated a nationwide vote to provide families and outdoor enthusiasts with a recommended list of the best family-friendly places to experience the joys of boating and fishing as the weather warms up around the country.

“We enlisted the help of state fish and wildlife agencies to identify popular locations, and asked fishing and boating enthusiasts who belong to our communities to vote on their favorite spots that are easily accessible and where the fish are known to bite most often,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson.

The top 10 family-friendly places to boat and fish include state parks from Florida, Texas, California, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

In total, park and recreation areas in 24 states are represented in the Top 100.

NBFWBannerGalveston Island State Park (6th) is accompanied by eight other Lone Star State fishing and boating spots in the Top 100. The states of Florida, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania each are represented six times on the Top 100. Georgia, Illinois, and Wisconsin have five placements in the Top 100. North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, and Washington have four park and recreation areas on the Top 100 list.

Criteria for the top family-friendly places to boat and fish have some or all of the following qualities:

  • Within an hour’s drive of a major city or town, so they are easily accessible
  • Have a public body of water that is known for having plenty of common fish species such as bass, crappie, bluegill and trout; often times these public places are stocked with fish for all
  • Part of a park that also offers amenities families need like parking, restrooms, playgrounds, picnic areas, or campgrounds
  • Has plenty of places to cast a line, like a fishing pier or has boat ramps to allow you to reach other areas on your boat
  • Is recommended by other anglers

Who Hooked the Top 10 Spots?

The top fishing and boating spots for a memory-making adventure include:

Lake Berryessa, Napa Valley, California

Bahia Honda State Park, BigPine Key, Florida

Skyway Fishing Pier State Park,St. Petersburg, Florida

Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida

Kissimmee State Park, Lake Wales, Florida

Galveston Island State Park, Galveston, Texas

Lake Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley, California

Blue Springs State Park, Orange City, Florida

Table Rock State Park, Branson, Missouri

Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pennsylvania


Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF)

fishing_littlelunkersThe Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating and thereby increase public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve, and restore this nation’s aquatic natural resources.

RBFF’s centerpiece,, is the key destination for individuals to learn, plan, and equip for a day on the water.

Address: 500 Montgomery Street, Suite 300, Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: (703) 519-0013


Worth Pondering…

Everyone should believe in something; I believe I’ll go fishing.

—Henry David  Thoreau

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