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TPWD News Release — May 2, 2017

Lesser Known Parks Offer Exciting Alternative to Crowds, Closures

AUSTIN— With their popularity soaring, visitation at Texas State Parks has increased by more than half a  million visits in the past four years, making entrance into the system’s more popular sites difficult. Instead of waiting in line to enter a park, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff are recommending visitors explore some of the area’s lesser known sites that offer park goers less crowds and unique experiences for their family adventures.

On a regular basis, many popular sites such as Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Garner State Park, Government Canyon State Natural Area and Pedernales Falls State Park are having to close their gates early due to reaching the park’s visitor capacity.

These daily capacity limits are put into place at Texas State Parks to reduce the impact to natural resources, enhance the visitor experience and ensure the safety of park goers. Any campers with reservations will be allowed in to the park when gates are closed.

The parks closing most often are Balmorhea State Park, Brazos Bend State Park, Colorado Bend State Park, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Garner State Park, Government Canyon State Natural Area, Guadalupe River State Park, Inks Lake State Park, McKinney Falls State Park, Ray Roberts Lake State Park- Isle du Bois Unit and Pedernales Falls State Park.

For those set on visiting popular state parks, an alternative option to enter the site would be to visit on non-peak days such as weekdays.

Most parks update their Twitter pages notifying future visitors about closures. The Twitter handles for parks can be found on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department social media page. For visitors who don’t have Twitter, recent tweets about capacity can be found on the individual park page on the TPWD website.

Instead of waiting in line for the gates to reopen, visitors are encouraged to consider the following alternatives to their favorite central Texas state parks.

Lost Maples State Natural Area, Hill Country State Natural Area and Kickapoo Cavern State Park are three sites located within an hour of the beloved Garner State Park.

Lost Maples State Natural Area in Vanderpool is most known for its colorful display of fall foliage, but the park is much less crowded during the remainder of the year. The park has more than 10 miles of trails, including a trail that takes hikers along the top of a 2,200 foot cliff with a spectacular view of the hill country. The Sabinal River and Can Creek also run through the park and offer visitors a chance to cast a line. No fishing license is needed to fish in a state park or natural area, so it’s a great way to learn to fish in different areas of the state. If visitors want to stay overnight, Lost Maples also offers 30 campsites with water and electricity and six primitive campsites.

Hill Country State Natural Area in Bandera County covers more than 5,300 acres, with approximately 40 miles of multiuse trails that wind up grassy valleys, cross spring-fed streams, and climb steep limestone hills.  The West Verde Creek has spring-fed streams, and tanks in the park provide several swimming holes with limited fishing for catfish, perch and largemouth bass. Spring water is available for horses, but people should bring their own drinking water.

Large numbers of birds live in the site along with deer, armadillos, raccoons, ringtail cats, and rabbits, as well as various reptiles. Several different plant communities exist in the park, providing a range of habitats and illustrating the variety of the central Texas landscape.

Just south of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and Pedernales Falls State Park lie four hidden gems waiting to be discovered- Old Tunnel State Park, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, Blanco State Park and South Llano River State Park.

At Old Tunnel State Park near Fredericksburg visitors can enjoy hiking, bird-watching and general wildlife viewing on a half-mile nature trail. The highlight of a visit to Old Tunnel is the opportunity to view the emergence of a bat colony from the tunnel from May through October.  Visitors can view the bats from an upper viewing area located above the tunnel, from the lower viewing area tour just outside of the tunnel, or by making special group tour reservations for an adult or youth group. During emergence, the bats spiral upwards in a counter-clockwise direction in order to gain altitude. Aerial predators, such as red-tailed hawks, are sometimes seen catching bats as they emerge and terrestrial predators, such as raccoons, feed on fallen bats. The large, serpentine column of bats can travel as high as 10,000 feet and 60 miles each night to feed on agricultural pests such as the corn earworm, cutworm and webworm moths. Each bat can eat its weight in insects nightly, and the Old Tunnel colony by itself may devour over 25 tons of moths in one night.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site in Stonewall is a day use park that offers a one-of-a-kind way to discover the life history of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The park offers opportunities to picnic, fish, swim, and view the nature and wildlife that call the hill country home including part of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd. The park also houses the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Fam, which gives visitors a taste of life as it was in 1918. The interpreters wear period clothing, do the farm and household chores and conduct tours of the farm and house for visitors.

Just off highway 281 in Blanco lies Blanco State Park. This park offers a one-mile stretch of river for visitors to enjoy through fishing, swimming or paddling. Blanco State Park is part of the tackle-loaner program, meaning park goers can borrow a rod and reel from the park headquarters to use while at the park. This program is a great way to introduce the sport of fishing without having to make the initial investment. The park also offers areas for picnics, trails to hike and watch for wildlife and geocaching. Geocaching is a virtual scavenger hunt that helps visitors use a GPS to find hidden caches hidden around the state, including state parks.

For a map of all Texas State Parks, visit or download the Texas State Parks Mobile App, which can be found on iTunes and Google Play.