Enjoy Spring at a Texas State Park

With the redbuds and bluebonnets blooming, it’s time to get outside and enjoy spring in Texas.

(Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

“Much of Texas is still way behind its average annual rainfall, but it looks like winter rains in many areas of the state will make for an excellent spring,” says Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith. “Weather forecasters say we may still be in for more drought, so it’s a good idea to make the most of spring while it lasts.”

With apologies to a certain late night talk show host, here are the top 10 reasons to head outdoors and enjoy a great spring:

1. The fish are biting. The white bass, which travel like salmon upstream to lay and fertilize their eggs each spring, are already running in East Texas and in streams with sufficient water. The action should be starting any day now in Central Texas, with Colorado Bend State Park a perennial hot spot. Black bass are also heading into the spring spawning season with several ShareLunkers already on the board at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. Plan a visit to TFFC for an up-close and personal look at these amazing fish. Likewise, conditions along the coast are heating up and a tour of Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson offers a front row view of some impressive saltwater specimens.

Devils River Horsemint (Credit: Chase A. Fountain, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

2. It’s that time of year…Wildflowers. The wildflowers are beginning to bloom in all but the most drought-stricken parts of the state. Prime public viewing and photographic opportunities can be found in traditional wildflower havens such as Lyndon B. Johnson and Washington-on-the-Brazos state historic sites, as well as East Texas destinations like Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway, and Tyler and Purtis Creek. Sandy soils typically produce some of the better wildflower displays, so head to Palmetto, Inks Lake and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to see bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and other early bloomers. For wildflower sighting updates, starting March 15, call the Texas Department of Transportation Hotline at 1-800-452-9292. 

3. The camping is great. Take advantage of mild days and cool nights for overnight camping in more than 90 parks across Texas. Weekend campsites go early in the spring, so book your reservation early.

4. Go ahead, make some s’mores.In many parks, burn bans that were in place last summer and fall and have been lifted. Depending on the weather and altitude, it’s a wonderful time of the year to enjoy a campfire.

5. Hit the road, Jack. Well, hit the trail. Mild temperatures and relatively low humidity make it a perfect time to go for a hike. Not only will you enjoy the scenery and wildlife, from butterflies to game animals, you’ll burn off those s’mores you ate around the campfire.

6. It’s Texas history season. One hundred and seventy-six years ago, the Texas Revolution was underway. State parks at sites that played a role in the brief but sanguinary military campaign that gained Texas its independence from Mexico include Washington-on-the-Brazos, Goliad and the San Jacinto Battle Ground.

7. Go and park it. If you visit almost any of our state parks on weekdays, you’ll find them far less crowded than they are on weekends this time of the year. Try one of the typically less crowded hidden “jewels” such as Copper Breaks, Seminole Canyon, Caprock Canyons, Meridian, or Village Creek.

Goliad State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Head to the beach. If you don’t like crowds and partying, wait until Spring Break is over, and then pack your fishing gear, surfboards and sunscreen and head to the Gulf sands of Galveston, Goose Island, Mustang Island and Sea Rim state parks. You’ll not only enjoy great beaches, but a variety of camping options.

9. Go turkey hunting. Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season opens in March and Eastern turkey season starts in April. With an abundance of gobblers available, the prospects look good this season.

10. Spring is for the birds. Spring is one of the best times of year for birding. Discover more than 950 places in Texas to see our feathered friends by picking up a Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail or Great Texas Wildlife Trail map.

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Springtime in Full Bloom at Texas State Parks

What looks to be a promising wildflower season has started early this year and Texas State Parks remain some of the best and safest places to see and photograph a dazzling array of bluebonnets, mountain laurels, and other blooming flora, according to a state park news release.

This comes as good news for wildflower fans on the heels of last year’s record-setting heat wave and drought that make wildflower season a bust throughout most of a state that boasts more than 5,000 wildflower species. Most parts of Texas as of late, however, are benefiting from the late fall and winter rains and warmer-than-normal January and February temperatures.

Field of Blue Bonnets (Credit: Chase A. Fountain, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department botanists and state park natural resources specialists concur with Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s prediction of an impressive wildflower season thanks to well-timed moisture in central, eastern, and northern parts of Texas.

Even in drought-stricken West Texas, state park field reports show exceptions to the rule of a poor wildflower showing.

“The rains and snow, coupled with recent suitable temperatures have proven to be the perfect combination for a beautiful and prolific Mexican gold poppy blooming season,” reports Adrianna Weickhardt, interpretive ranger for Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso. “We’ll be celebrating with the Poppies Festival at nearby Castner Range on March 31.”

“It’s a great spring in East Texas,” says TPWD botanist Jason Singhurst, who has been seeing lots of sandyland bluebonnets (Lupinus subcarnous) that are expected to reach full bloom in coming weeks.

Singhurst also looks for good crops of Texas groundsel, bluets, white trout lily, mayapples, and other flowering flora in the piney woods and post oak savannah of East Texas. He recommends Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway, and Tyler and Purtis Creek state parks as good wildflower-viewing locations in East Texas.

Roadside Flowers (Credit: Chase A. Fountain, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

TPWD botanist Jackie Poole concurs with her fellow botanist about a promising wildflower season and notes “some weird things happening” where spring bloomers are concerned around Austin.

“Texas mountain laurels already have bloomed ahead of agarita and Mexican buckeye that usually come first,” Poole says. “The drought may be causing some species to flower earlier or later than normal, but I’ve got a great crop of bluebonnets, as well as many other species, in my yard. Give us some sunny, warm days and things will really start to pop.”

Sandy soils typically produce some of the better wildflower displays, according to Poole, so wildflower lovers in central Texas should consider visiting Palmetto and Inks Lake state parks, as well Enchanted Rock State Natural Area north of Fredericksburg.

Just outside Bandera, park staff report “Hill Country State Natural Area has put on her spring bonnet with purple mountain laurel, hot pink redbuds, and bright yellow agarita bushes all ablaze. The fragrances are fabulous and the wildflowers are just starting up and promise to be in full bloom after early spring rains and sunny days.”

A healthy crop of bluebonnet rosettes spotted in mid-February are now starting to bloom in Goliad State Park, where spring arrived early, and park ranger Tammy Zellner promises “somewhat of a bumper crop this year.” In addition, she reports pink evening primrose, winecup, blue-curls, and Indian paintbrush are starting to put on blooms.

In parts of central and north Texas, Texans are already being treated to the colorful blooms of such flowering trees as redbuds, peach, pear, and Mexican plum. Judging from the profusion of pink blooms on peach trees recently spied around Fredericksburg and Stonewall, barring an unpredictable late spring freeze, peach lovers are in for a mouth-watering season.

Devils River Horsemint (Credit: Chase A. Fountain, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

Wildflower season at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site takes on special meaning this year during Texas’ year-long celebration of the 100th birthday of one of the state’s biggest wildflower champions, Lady Bird Johnson, who would have turned 100 years old this December. LBJ Park Superintendent Iris Neffendorf expects showy displays of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush along park trails and roads.

In honor of Mrs. Johnson, the park has installed a new wildflower display inside the Visitors Center to help with wildflower identification along the park’s nature trail that Lady Bird helped get developed and frequently strolled. On May 5 and 12, park will host a guided nature walk to highlight its flora, fauna and history.

Some of the most eye-popping wildflower crops to be viewed year-in, year-out are found in rolling, verdant Washington County. Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site between Brenham and Navasota offers great wildflower diversity among 293 acres of natural riverside beauty, as well as an informative primer on early Republic of Texas history. Rewarding patches also can be seen near Houston at Brazos Bend and Galveston state parks.

Details

Texas State Parks

Website: tpwd.state.tx.us

For updated statewide wildflower reports, visit the Texas Department of Transportation’s Website.

For photos, fun facts and other information about the 5,000 species of wildflowers found around the state, visit the Wildflower Guide and Program.

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