After finding damage to the swimming pool the pool was closed indefinitely. The parks system just didn’t have the funding to repair the structure. The TPWD Foundation along with the Apache Corporation have raised over $1 million and efforts continue. This pool is a unique park in our parks system and it will truly be a triumphant return for this oasis. Be sure and check out the Texas Monthly article on the fundraising efforts.
On a recent visit I found myself in the unfortunate predicament of having driven an hour to find the “park full” sign. While this would usually make me happy because it means the park is popular I really had my heart set on a hike today. After a quick discussion with park staff I found myself on a new trail. While you aren’t anywhere near the river or the falls this does mean you aren’t anywhere near the crowds. I left the park, yes that’s right, and took a left from the park entrance. About a half mile down there is a parking lot and a trailhead. The Madrone Trailhead. This 2.5 mile trail provides an escape from the crowds while providing great natural features and birdwatching you may not get in the rest of the park. At the end of this trail you can either walk back up the road to the parking or continue on to another trail.
I continued on to the Juniper Ridge Trail (black dotted line above) and took the left turn back towards parking. Really great trail with slightly more challenging paths than the madrone trail, but nothing too challenging for most. I’ve hiked this trail three times now and I’ve only seen one other person. To say this trail is underutilized is fair. You don’t see a lot of evidence of litterers either. But if you do please do the park staff a favor and pick up the trash and pack it out.
About two miles into this trail you are faced with more options. You can head back to parking or continue on to more trails. All of the rest of the park is accessible from these trails and I can’t wait to get out and keep exploring.
PSA: please remember to check in even though you are parking “outside” the park. The state parks are allocated funding, at least in part, based on the number of annual visitors. Not only are you stealing the daily access fee but you’re hurting the annual funding of the park. Additionally, you should let the park staff know you are hiking on this remote trail. That way if you get hurt or lost they will know where to start looking.
For those that haven’t heard you can now reserve your spot at our state’s parks using the online reservation system. This is great for those parks that are difficult to get to and then you do get all the way there and see the dreaded “park full” sign. Not any more. You can now reserve a day pass to popular parks like Enchanted Rock and not worry about there being space when you get there. Plan ahead though as parks are filling up faster than ever.
Though this park is in my backyard (almost) I don’t visit it as much as I would like. Hoping to change that I visited last weekend and discovered the beauty of the picnic trail and the onion creek hike and bike trail. Don’t worry the trail is wide enough to accommodate our biking friends who seem, at least in my experience, to think the trails are made for them alone. Ok, off my soap box. McKinney Falls State Park is still recovering from the floods a few years ago. The headquarters is still closed for repairs. Much of the Park is still open though. If you know which fork in the trail to take you can find some truly amazing sights in the backyard of the live music capitol of the world.
If you’re in the park to do some fishing I encourage you to not fish in the swimming hole and then complain about people swimming in your fishing spot. I witnessed quite the argument during my recent visit and it is completely unnecessary. The best fishing is up stream from the swimming holes anyways. Not going to give away my secrets but put a little effort into moving upstream and you will be rewarded. Here’s the only clue I’ll give.
I visited one of the more unique state parks recently. Dug out in part by the CCC about 100 years ago this park offers a very cool (always cool air in the cave) walk through geologic time and in this case more recent history with stories of a “bar” during prohibition and Texas Rangers rescuing a young girl from her kidnappers in a daring nighttime mission. If you haven’t stopped by for the tour I highly recommend. Also, there’s an observation tower in the back of the parking area that offers spectacular views of the hill country and makes for a great finish to your day if you happen to catch the hill country sunset after the last tour.
Did I mention a dog guarding the Queen’s throne? Here’s a sneak preview.
*i don’t post pictures of caves because it just doesn’t do it justice, the flash affects the bats and others on the tour, and I hope this lack of pictures encourages you to make your own visit.
This is one of my favorite parks. Not only is it close to my home base, but it offers so much as a park. Waterfalls, bird watching, wildlife, long challenging trails, and so much more. I’ve been to this park many times over the years and I’m still learning new trails and discovering new treasures every time I visit. Here’s some pics from my recent visit. It’s amazing how much two years of good rains has changed the river. Bouldering is still fun but it is a little more challenging to get to some features.
PSA: remember to stay on the park side of the river. The other side is private property and you can be arrested if caught trespassing. Also, there is no swimming above the falls. It is very difficult to see the rock formations just under the water and with just a little precipitation the water above the falls becomes violent in mere seconds.
Washington-on-the-Brazos will have its annual Texas Independence Day Festival on March 4th. This is a great FREE event for all Texans and non-Texans alike.
10am March 4th to 5pm March 5th
“There will be things to do all over the park: Star of the Republic Museum (collections and programs honoring history of early Texans); Independence Hall (where representatives wrote the Texas Declaration of Independence); and Barrington Living History Farm (where interpreters dress, work and farm as did the original residents of this homestead).
The birthday celebration features:
- Live music & performances
- Tours of Independence Hall
- Traditional crafts & demonstrations
- Living history presentations
- Historical encampments & commemorative programs
- Historic firearms & cannon demonstrations”
Texas Parks and Wildlife has published a great PDF of the 9 CCC sites to see in 2016.
You do have to enter an email address, but you can easily unsubscribe from their distribution list at a later time. The PDF is worth it.
I have visited several of the parks on the list and agree that the drive is more than worth it to see the amazing buildings built by the CCC at these parks.
Spoiler: The Indian Lodge at Davis Mountains State Park is on the list and can only be truly appreciated in person. Plus you can swing by Balmorhea State Park on the way in or out (why not both?).
For the bird enthusiasts out there now would be a great time to check out Lake Somerville.
picture below is from flag pond
Texas HB 158 is sitting on the Governor’s desk waiting to be signed. Why is this important for Texas State Park Funding?
SPORTING GOODS SALES TAX ALLOCATION
Since 1993, a portion of the sales tax revenue generated by sporting goods has been statutorily allocated to fund state park operations, capital, and local park grants. Prior to that, state and local parks were each allocated a one penny per pack tax on cigarettes, which probably set the precedent for providing equal allocations to state and local parks. The Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST) allocation was introduced because the cigarette tax proved to be a declining revenue source that bore no relationship to the mission of providing state park services.
In the years since passing this funding bill the legislature has capped the amount of funds that can be given to the parks. The “excess” money is used for anything else the legislature wants to use it for during that biennial. If you’ve visited any parks in Texas you will probably question the idea of “excess” funding. The parks are underfunded even though tax payers believe she/he pays a tax on sporting goods that all goes to the parks. In fact only about HALF of that tax revenue makes it to the parks.
How can you help? This legislative session there is a bill that removes the cap on allocating the sporting goods tax revenue to the parks system. Texas HB 158 has passed both the Senate and the House with little objection. Now the parks are waiting for Governor Abbot to sign the bill. The parks are running out of time. If you choose to support this cause I encourage you to write the Goveror a short note showing your support of this bill. You can submit a quick online note at the link below. I’ve also included the mailing address and phone number.
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711
State Capitol Bldg.
1100 Congress, Room 2S.1
Austin, TX 78701
Fax: (512) 463-1849