The vast landscapes of the Lone Star State can leave visitors wondering just what to do with their time here. Some aspects of Texas don’t hold true to the saying “bigger is better,” and some of the best kept secrets across the state include some of our lesser known Texas State Parks.
Goose Island State Park – Aransas County
Along the Gulf Coast in Aransas lies Goose Island State Park, a smaller 320-acre recreational area that beckons birdwatchers, nature-lovers, and anglers from across the state. Those accustomed to mere sandy beaches on the coast might be surprised to find the shoreline here comprised of a bulkhead, oyster shells, marsh grasses, and mud flats, and although the waters look inviting, swimming isn’t advisable. Fish from the massive pier or rent a motor boat to get onto the waters for endeavors that are more exhilarating. Hiking is plentiful along groomed trails where you can spot rare birds and other native wildlife.
Don’t miss stopping by the Big Tree on Goose Island, a 1000+ year old Live Oak that’s in contention as one of the oldest and largest in the nation at 44 feet high with a 35-foot trunk circumference. Often referred to in Native lore and Texas history alike, the Big Tree is a rumored site of the Karankawa native’s cannibalistic rituals, where coastal pirates would make deals, and the Comanche also rendezvoused beneath its branches.
Village Creek State Park – Lumberton
Dubbed the “biological crossroads of North America” by ecologists, this amazing national preserve nestled along a Neches River tributary can only be described as unworldly. This is truly East Texas Big Thicket country, where backwater sloughs and primitive forest converge and support a host of slithering reptiles, carnivorous plants, more than 200 intriguing bird species, and blankets of flowering plants. Hike Village Creek’s 8 miles of trails or paddle thought this riparian wonderland with a rental canoe or kayak. Fishing in the park is license-free, so take a chance and dip minnow or two in the stream along with your toes.
Inks Lake State Park – Burnet
This gem surely isn’t unknown by Texans who flock to one of the most popular Highland Lakes parks, Inks Lake State Park. Although word of the park’s spectacular granite outcroppings, generous camping sites, gentle waters, and abundance of wildlife has yet to go nationwide, many locals come here to relax next to the lake’s tranquil waters and hike the Pecan Flats Trail.
This constant-level lake attracts scuba divers, water skiers, and anglers seeking the generous crappie, bass, and catfish amid the waters. The park’s tackle loaner program will hook you up with fishing essentials like rods, reels, and bobbles – free of charge. Kayak motorboat, and canoe rentals complete with life vests, paddles, and even instructional guidance if you like, with ranger-led paddling excursions being offered on many weekends. Proximal to numerous other Texas State Parks and sites of interest, you won’t regret stopping by Inks Lake.
Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site – Val Verde County
Submerge yourself in 12,000 years of Texas history as you gaze upon the stunning Native rock art at Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site. Pictographs of animals, shamans, and fantastical figures grace the walls of Fate Bell Shelter dating back to 4000 years ago. Discover the park’s connection to the Seminole scouts of the late 19th century and the Transcontinental Railroad, or view the primitive Lower Pecos artifacts on display at the Visitor Center.
Hiking and biking opportunities abound, with ten miles of groomed trails and a newly opened segment that skirt the massive canyon rim offering breathtaking views of the canyonlands below the Pecos and Rio Grande Rivers. Camping here is limited to about 50 sites, so make a reservation if you want the full outdoor submersion experience.
There is something special about spending time in nature, and even more so when it’s a hidden gem. Enjoy these Texas park treasures that are off the more well-traveled trails.
Author Bio: Not a native Texas by birth, Ms. Mastic moved to Central Texas in 2006 and has really enjoyed working and exploring the state, especially its outdoors. She actively writes blog posts about the Highland Lakes region in Central Texas. Visitors can learn more about the area at Facebook and Twitter.