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Treasure Quest

We reveal the 43 natural wonders just outside the three major cities of Texas.

By Rob McCorkle

No doubt about it, Texans are urban. Of the roughly 20 million people who live here, the majority live in three urban regions: Houston, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth. City dwellers need respite from city hassles: the long work weeks, the traffic jams, the noise and the visual clutter. To make matters worse, many Texas cities are starved for green space.

But where to go? According to TPWD research, a 90-minute drive is the limit for most day-trippers. So we drew a circle around each of these metropolitan areas and identified the state parks within 75 miles of each city. Whether you want birds or bicycling, canoes or horseback riding, a simple picnic or even an easy overnight camping trip, we've got the spots for you.

So get out of town. See the rest of Texas.

HOUSTON AREA

1. Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site

In early March 1836, while Santa Anna's army was besieging the Alamo, 59 Texians met in a drafty, unfinished, wood-frame building at Washington-on-the-Brazos to declare independence from Mexico. Shortly after issuing the Texas Declaration of Independence they fled east, pursued by the Mexican army. The town they left behind was never more than a rough collection of a dozen or so buildings situated on a bluff above the Brazos River, but it is now hailed as the Philadelphia of Texas.

The unfinished building where the signers met, called Independence Hall, has been recreated at its original site. A handsome limestone visitors center presents memorabilia of the Texas revolution, along with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits.

The galleried home of Anson Jones, the Republic's last president, has been moved to the site. Reenactors attired in period dress assemble at the Barrington Living History Farm - a cluster of handcrafted log buildings, a garden and cropland - to perform spinning, blacksmithing, farming and other chores typical of rural life in an 1850s Brazos Valley cotton farm.

The park's picturesque setting on a pecan tree-shaded bluff makes it a natural spot for picnics. The winding trails through the magnolias and meadows of wildflowers create an idyllic setting, perfect for relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. Situated near Brenham, this 240-acre park is convenient for Houstonians who frequently travel to the area for its antiques and country inns.

2. Village Creek State Park

Perhaps the best way to get a taste of the Big Thicket is by paddling the wide and slow-moving bayou that gives its name to Village Creek State Park. Enter a primeval world of backwater bayous, carnivorous plants, alligators and water snakes, colorful birds and hundreds of species of flowering plants thriving in a pine-and-hardwood forest so dense that the early pioneers barely attempted to settle it. This may be one of the most pristine wildernesses in Texas, yet it is only 10 miles north of Beaumont near the Neches River.

Opened to the public in 1994, Village Creek State Park offers an entry to the ecological splendor found within the nearby Big Thicket, a 97,000-acre national preserve of what once comprised more than 3 million acres of dense forests and bottomland. Crisscrossed by sloughs and creeks and watered by vast tupelo-cypress swamps, this state park encompasses only 1,200 acres of the so-called "biological crossroads of North America," but it's rich in natural treasures. About 11/4 miles from park headquarters grows the largest river birch in Texas, measuring 90 feet high, 108 inches in girth and 59.5 feet in canopy spread. A colony of rare southeastern myotis bats has been known to inhabit the hollow of a large tupelo tree near Water Oak Trail.

Village Creek State Park has introduced just enough amenities to this untamed, primordial environment to make visitors comfortable. Eight miles of marked trails, interpretive programs on such subjects as raptors and wildflowers, and ample camping facilities cater to the weekend camper hungry for a taste of the heart and soul of the Big Thicket.

3. Brazos Bend State Park

By driving half an hour from southwest Houston, city slickers are almost certain to see alligators in the sloughs and wetlands of this 5,000-acre park. Nearly 30 species of mammals live in this nature wonderland on the Brazos River floodplain, including bobcats, river otters, deer and gray foxes, as well as 270 species of birds. The paved, ADA-approved, handicapped-accessible Creek-field Nature Trail is the first of its kind built in a Texas state park. The trail loops around a natural wetland area and features tactile information stations, two observation decks for wildlife viewing and guided hikes on weekends.

4. Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site

Fanthorp Inn in Anderson served as a stagecoach stop and post office during the Republic of Texas era, serving such historical figures as Sam Houston, Ulysses S. Grant and the republic's last president, Anson Jones. The 18-room structure was built in 1834 for English immigrant Henry Fanthorp and his wife Rachel. Fanthorp became the area's postmaster and, over time, the home became an inn. The building has been carefully restored with period furnishings, artifacts and exhibits, and offers visitors an opportunity once a month to ride in a replica of an 1850 Concord stagecoach.

5. Galveston Island State Park

Tens of thousands of people visit this 2,000-acre park to enjoy the sun and surf while staying at its extensive series of campsites, many with partial hookups and showers. The bay side of the island has its attractions, too. A $2.1 million wetland restoration project completed in 2000 has brought a new growth of seagrass and improved water quality, attracting more birds and markedly improving fishing in the park.

6. Huntsville State Park

For 65 years, Houstonians have headed north to this heavily wooded park, built by an African-American company of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression. The park is particularly busy during warm weather, when park patrons gather at the 210-acre Lake Raven to fish, swim and use rental canoes, kayaks and flat-bottom fishing boats. They also hike and bike the extensive trail system that runs through 2,000 acres of loblolly and shortleaf pines.

7. Lake Houston State Park

Situated on the northern tip of Lake Houston, only half an hour from the city, this 5,000-acre park is one of the last large tracts of wilderness accessible to the public on foot, on bike, on horseback or by canoe. Its piney woods teem with wildlife, much of it living in and around a maze of copper-colored creeks and bottomlands. A former Girl Scout camp attracts overnight guests who can rough it in one of 24 primitive campsites or sleep more comfortably in one of three timber lodges.

8. Lake Livingston State Park

The park is small - only 635 acres - but Lake Livingston, created by the damming of the Trinity River, is huge. With 84,000 acres there's room for both water-skiing and fishing. The spring white bass run is legendary, and fishing for striped bass and catfish is exceptional. Boat ramps and fishing piers provide easy access to the lake. The park also has a swimming pool with a bathhouse and an observation tower for viewing the park and the lake. Lake Livingston Stables rents horses for a leisurely ride through the woods.

9. San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site

All Texans owe themselves a visit to the battleground on Buffalo Bayou where Gen. Sam Houston's troops defeated Gen. Santa Anna's Mexican army in 1836 to win Texas' independence. Take an elevator to the top of the restored 570-foot San Jacinto Monument for a bird's-eye view of the battleground, adjacent marshlands and Battleship Texas moored nearby and open for touring. The museum is rich with historical artifacts, and the library chronicles 400 years of Texas history through manuscripts and books. A new, 510-foot boardwalk leads visitors to a restored marshland to glimpse alligators and waterfowl.

10. Stephen F. Austin State Park/San Felipe Historic Site

On a bluff overlooking the Brazos River, Stephen F. Austin established his first settlement in 1828. But the early Texans burned the settlement in their retreat from Santa Anna's army in 1836. A bronze statue of the "Father of Texas" keeps watch over the abandoned town site. A dogtrot cabin and a restored general store add to the historical interest. The 600-acre state park serves as a companion to the historic sites, offering campsites, hiking paths and an 18-hole golf course.

11. Sheldon Lake State Park

Only 13 miles from downtown Houston, this 1,200-acre, shallow lake and marsh is a biological island nestled in urban sprawl. Sheldon Lake welcomes thousands of students annually to its outdoor classroom, the 35-acre Environmental Education Center. The freshwater marshes attract more than 200 species of waterfowl, and several small islands serve as nesting rookeries for herons and egrets.

12. Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site

In 1958, Miss Ima Hogg, daughter of former governor James S. Hogg, donated her father's two-story Classical Revival manor to the state. Situated in Brazoria County on a sugar plantation owned by one of Austin's original 300 settlers, today the 66-acre park offers guided tours and activities interpreting the site's diverse heritage, as well as nature trails and landscaped picnic areas.

SAN ANTONIO AREA

13. Choke Canyon State Park

Torrential rains that sent floodwaters surging down the Frio and Nueces rivers and into the 26,000-acre Choke Canyon Reservoir in 2002 have broken a drought that drastically dropped water levels during the last several years. That spells good news for the several hundred thousand boaters, anglers, campers, birders and others who flock annually to this recreational refuge midway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

The park's Calliham and South Shore units abut the reservoir, providing more than 3,000 acres of classic South Texas brush country. This mix of thick thorn scrub, chaparral and riparian woodland provides habitat for javelinas, Rio Grande turkeys, coyotes and white-tailed deer. Both units provide exemplary birding. Using marked birding trails and blinds, visitors are likely to see species such as the crested caracara, black-bellied whistling duck and pyrrhuloxia. A 14-passenger golf cart at the Calliham Unit takes visitors for wildlife and birdwatching tours.

Both units cater to anglers with boat ramps, fish-cleaning stations and shade shelters. Primitive campsites, RV sites with 50-amp service and screened shelters are available. The mostly undeveloped North Shore unit draws equestrians who can ride their horses over 18 miles of trails crisscrossing 1,700 acres.

The sports complex at the Calliham unit is without peer in the state park system. Built in the 1980s by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, it includes a spacious gymnasium, an Olympic-size swimming pool (open summers only), shuffleboard and tennis courts.

14. Garner State Park

Opened in 1941, Garner State Park still reigns as the most popular state park for overnight camping. Half a million people visit the park annually, including generations of families from Houston and San Antonio, who make a visit to Garner and the Uvalde area a summer ritual.

After a day of swimming and tubing the cypress-lined banks of the Frio River, scores of campers head to the venerable concession building to dance to jukebox classics, spilling onto the patio under starlit skies. Each May, top musicians such as Ray Price perform at the annual Homecoming Concert and Dance to raise funds for the park. Music is so associated with this park that it was once the subject of a pop song. There is even a "Cowboy Sunset Serenade" performed by a singing park ranger.

The rustic limestone cabins stay booked months in advance, as do most of the 40 screened shelters and more than 300 campsites. During holiday weekends the park is often filled to capacity, forcing park staff to turn away day users until parking spots open up. To enjoy a more peaceful park experience, visitors should try going to the park during off-season or in the middle of the week.

Colorful wildflowers splash the riverside, canyons, mesas and cliffs in the spring. Recreational pursuits encompass everything from miniature golf to hiking and nature study.

15. Landmark Inn State Historic Site and Bed and Breakfast

Built in 1849 as a frontier store atop a bluff overlooking the Medina River in Castroville, Landmark Inn is one of two state-operated bed-and-breakfast establishments. Less than half an hour from San Antonio, the inn is a place to get away not only from the city, but from modern life. The 10 rooms are furnished in 19th century antiques and have no telephones or televisions, making the inn a favorite of romantic couples, who have left intimate, poetic and sometimes humorous entries in the room journals.

A one-night package includes dinner at the nearby Alsatian Restaurant for less than $100. The next morning, guests help themselves to a breakfast of Alsatian pastries, yogurt and fruit in the detached Vance House. The pace is leisurely. There's history to absorb.

Castroville was settled by Swiss, French and German immigrants who gave the town its Alsatian flavor in food, architecture and customs. Throughout its many reincarnations, the inn has served as a frontier mercantile, a mail stop, residence, boarding house and hotel. Forty-niners headed for California stopped here, as did Robert E. Lee, then a U.S. cavalry officer who helped improve the Medina River crossing. Other visitors have included Abner Doubleday, the father of baseball, and William "Bigfoot" Wallace, a legendary Texas scout. Crushed granite paths lead guests to the banks of the Medina River, where visitors can view crumbling remains of the mill, hydroelectric power plant and an underground canal dug by hand in 1854 to divert the river to the mill.

The four-acre grounds, planted with a variety of Texas natives and a collection of heirloom plants, attract an impressive array of butterflies and birds. Landmark Inn is a popular setting for weddings and family reunions.

16. Admiral Nimitz Museum State Historic Site - National Museum of the Pacific War

The Nimitz Steamboat Hotel in the heart of Fredericksburg was the boyhood home of Chester W. Nimitz, the fleet admiral who led the navy to victory in the Pacific during World War II. The hotel is part of a nine-acre museum complex that commemorates the Pacific War with displays of Allied and Japanese war artifacts, art and archives. A Garden of Peace behind the hotel commemorates Pacific veterans. The 23,000-square-foot George Bush Gallery showcases 700 historical items, including a midget Japanese sub, that put visitors in the middle of a Pacific War environment.

17. Blanco State Park

Located four blocks from Blanco's charming town square, this Hill Country gem contains one mile of the spring-fed Blanco River that draws sun-baked legions from nearby Austin and San Antonio to swim, tube, fish and camp. Bring your own volleyball and net, horseshoes and floats to make the most of the facilities. Blanco State Park was the seventh of 56 New Deal parks Civilian Conservation Corps workers built in Texas.

18. Casa Navarro State Historic Site

Sadly overlooked by Alamo City tourists and locals alike, Casa Navarro State Historic Site preserves the homesite of 19th-century Tejano statesman and civic leader José Antonio Navarro. The self-educated Navarro, who communicated exclusively in Spanish, is best-known as one of two native Tejanos who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836. The park, near El Mercado, celebrates Mexican culture through rare historical documents and folkways demonstrations.

19. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Tonkawa Indians named the huge, pink granite rock, believing ghost fires flickered at the top and that a Spanish conquistador had cast a spell on it. The rock is actually a batholith, an underground rock formation uncovered by erosion. Rock climbers, campers and others keep the 1,600-acre park busy year-round. Situated near Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock entered the state park system in 1984, and is registered as a national historic site and landmark.

20. Guadalupe River State Park

This Hill Country park offers four miles of river frontage along rocky bluffs of the Guadalupe River. On weekends a bluff overlooking the river teems with picnickers who claim the picnic tables and grills, or spread blankets beneath giant cypress and pecan trees. On Saturdays, parkgoers can take a guided morning hike into the otherworldly Honey Creek State Natural Area, where a spring-fed creek flows through exotic ferns, palmettos and waist-high grasses.

21. Hill Country State Natural Area

Covering 5,000 acres of the former Merrick Bar-O Ranch near cowboy-centric Bandera, the Hill Country State Natural Area is one of the few state parks offering overnight equestrian campsites. These include corrals, picket lines, water troughs, tables and fire rings. The draw is 36 miles of trails through mostly undeveloped nature. For those seeking more creature comforts, try the group lodge, a rustic ranch house that sleeps up to 12 people.

22. Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site

Operated in conjunction with the National Park Service, the park honors the 36th president of the United States and his beloved Hill Country ranch, dubbed the Texas White House. Bus tours leave the visitors center for the LBJ Ranch, the one-room schoolhouse he attended, his reconstructed birthplace and the family cemetery. Family and presidential memorabilia are popular with visitors. The Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm recreates farm life in 1917. A new exhibit, "A Hill Country Heritage: The Land and People That Inspired a President and First Lady," opened on August 27, 2002, on what would have been LBJ's 94th birthday.

23. Lockhart State Park

This 263-acre park, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, offers creekside camping, a nine-hole golf course, a large swimming pool, shaded picnic area and handsome hilltop recreation hall with a commanding view. The manager of the park, Mike Masur, has a special connection to the place. The land on which it sits was once owned by his grandfather.

24. Lost Maples State Natural Area

A relict stand of uncommon Uvalde bigtooth maples is the star of this 2,000-acre park along the spring-fed Sabinal River. When these trees turn a vivid red in late October and early November, the 250 parking spaces are filled on the weekends. So think about a mid-week excursion. Lost Maples comes alive during the spring with back-to-nature campers and birders intent on capturing a glimpse of endangered golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos.

25. McKinney Falls State Park

This former homestead of racehorse breeder Thomas McKinney - one of Stephen F. Austin's Old 300 - is only 13 miles from the State Capitol in Austin. It offers mountain biking, hiking, fishing and camping beneath towering pecans on the banks of Onion Creek. Spring brings a profusion of bluebonnets and other wildflowers and an influx of people leaving urban pressures behind to commune with the white-tailed deer that roam the grounds.

26. Palmetto State Park

Named for the dwarf palmetto found in its swamps, this 270-acre riparian refuge near Gonzales resembles the tropics more than the surrounding brush country. This botanical wonderland attracts more than 200 bird species. An old-fashioned ram pump forces artesian water into a 1930s-era cistern and water tower for release into a swampy woodlands along a nature trail, replicating historical wet conditions in the face of increasing aridity. The San Marcos River flows through the park, making it a favorite for canoeists.

27. Pedernales Falls State Park

In the heart of LBJ country, the spring-fed Pedernales River flows over 300-million-year-old limestone riverbeds and cascades 500 feet down a series of stair-stepped falls. Normally, the river is a gentle place for swimming, tubing, fishing and sightseeing, but rains can turn the river into a dangerous torrent suddenly, so visitors must stay alert. Bird watchers can seclude themselves in four blinds erected near feeders and drip baths that attract more than 100 species, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

28. Sebastopol House State Historic Site

When landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted toured Texas in the mid-19th century, he declared Seguin "the prettiest town in Texas." At the heart of the city is Sebastopol House, a charming, boxy Greek Revival structure made of limecrete, the 19th century precursor to concrete. Only 20 of more than 90 buildings made with this technology survive in Seguin. The Sebastopol House, presumably named for the Russian naval base on the Crimea, was rescued from the wrecking ball by local citizens in the 1960s and eventually restored to its 1880s appearance by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

DALLAS/FORT WORTH AREA

29. Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway

To get a sense of just how insignificant Mother Nature can make you feel, head for Lake Mineral Wells State Park's Penitentiary Hollow. Stone steps laid more than 50 years ago lead to the hollow's floor. Trails wind through a lakeside labyrinth of giant boulders, 60-foot-tall trees, soaring rock walls and narrow canyons that dwarf visitors. Both trails on the hollow's floor and an overlook on a nearby bluff afford stunning views of the 646-acre lake.

Here bathers cool off at the swimming beach, while anglers and others rent paddleboats, canoes and trolling boats to cruise the usually tranquil lake. The lake's south side also offers 100 picnic sites for day use, as well as access to the nearby Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway.

Opened in 1998, this 20-mile-long, multi-use trail was converted from an abandoned railroad right-of-way at a cost of $2 million. It runs from just northwest of Weatherford to downtown Mineral Wells, a city once famed for its mineral waters, which were thought to cure many ailments.

Now tourists head to Mineral Wells for the healing powers of camping, hiking and rock climbing. A low-water crossing spanning Rock Creek, alongside a concrete dam built in 1919, leads to the north side of the park and 16.5 miles of sylvan trails. Here, too, are four wooded camping areas offering 148 campsites, including primitive backpacking sites, an equestrian campground, screened shelters and sites with hookups for recreational vehicles. The new Lone Star Amphitheater, which opened last fall, is the site of weekend interpretive programs. Expect to share the rocky terrain around Lake Mineral Wells with rock climbers. The park's 40-foot sandstone cliffs, sculpted overhangs and boulders draw rock climbers by the dozens from Fort Worth and Dallas. (See "Extreme Finds" for more about rock climbing in this park.)

30. Cedar Hill State Park

Only 18 miles south of downtown Dallas, Cedar Hill State Park was opened in 1991 as an urban nature preserve and quickly became the annual leader in state park visitation. The park was planned for crowds, with two boat ramps and more than 300 campsites.

The park's major draw is the 7,500-acre Joe Pool Reservoir, which gives the park 100 miles of shoreline and attracts sailors, water skiers and anglers. Nature lovers are drawn to the park's five native tallgrass prairie remnants, which are listed on the federal endangered species list.

The park has historical significance as well. Many of its 1,800 acres were part of 19th century farmer John Anderson Penn's homestead. Many of his farm buildings have been restored as part of the Penn Farm Agricultural History Center. The center provides a glimpse into agrarian life as it evolved from using horses and mules to modern farm machinery. Daily guided tours lead visitors through the old barns and outbuildings, some dating to the 1860s and used by the Penns for more than a century.

The Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association (DORBA) has built a biking trail 15 miles long that crisscrosses the varied terrain, offering choices for both novices and experts. Every summer, the park welcomes 200-plus teams of adventure racers who compete in a series of physical challenges including running, biking, kayaking and a special test that changes from year to year. The Texas Hi-Tec Adventure Race is broadcast on the Outdoor Life Network.

31. Bonham State Park

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built this intimate, 261-acre park around a small lake located near the town of Bonham, northeast of Dallas. This small, quiet park has a laid-back atmosphere that's perfect for escaping the stress of city life. It also features a newly renovated indoor complex that sleeps 94 and includes a game room. The 65-acre man-made lake offers swimming, fishing and canoeing. Powerboats are allowed, but skippers must keep their noise and their wakes down by obeying the 5-mph speed limit on the tiny lake.

32. Lake Tawakoni State Park

The newest park in the state system, this 376-acre park opened in 2002 and isn't too crowded. The park may be small, but it sits on a 36,700-acre reservoir with five miles of shoreline and a four-lane boat ramp. There are 78 campsites, 40 picnic areas and more than five miles of hiking trails. The park also has a Group Youth Area that can be reserved for groups of up to 35. The park staff is working to maintain and enhance more than 40 acres of native prairie grass rarely found in East Texas. This habitat has drawn many birders, who have confirmed 128 bird species in the park.

33. Purtis Creek State Park

This large park (1,582 acres) is known for its heavily wooded, thus well-shaded campsites, and the great bass fishing on its 355-acre lake. The small size of the lake requires a limit of 50 boats at a time. During the summer months, the park also conducts daily educational programs on subjects that range from ecology to history. Every summer (June 7 this year) Purtis Creek State Park hosts a Kids Fish and Play Day. This free event includes fishing, wildlife exhibits, a rock wall and a free hot dog lunch.

34. Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site

In 1889, Confederate veterans from Limestone and Freestone counties gathered at an encampment to remember fallen comrades and to support the widows and orphans of the war. In 1892, the group permanently moved to a tract of land where Jack's Creek enters the Navasota River. The site contains two 19thcentury buildings and a vintage Civil War cannon. Every March the site plays host to the Living History Days. During this weekend-long event, hundreds of volunteers show up to relive life in the 19th century, and to reenact Civil War battles. In October the park hosts the Jack's Creek Bluegrass Festival, featuring two days of camping and great bluegrass music.

35. Lake Whitney State Park

The park borders and has access to the long and winding Lake Whitney, created by the damming of the Brazos River in 1951. This 23,000-acre reservoir offers great boating and fishing. The park offers hiking, biking, camping and excellent birding, with 194 identified species. On the first Saturday in June, the park hosts a youth fishing tournament. The park also has a 2,000-foot paved runway for small aircraft. Pilots often fly into the park in the morning, spend the day at the lake or in the park, then take off for home in the afternoon.

36. Meridian State Park

Created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935, this small, 72-acre park contains a large dining hall, a boat dock, a playground and 10 miles of hiking and biking trails. The park prides itself on its quiet and relaxing atmosphere, suitable for family getaways. Every January the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks the small lake in the center of the park with rainbow trout, drawing many anglers. Depending on the weather, trout fishing can last well into the spring.

37. Cleburne State Park

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps created this park around 116-acre, spring-fed Cedar Lake west of Fort Worth near the Brazos River. The lake offers great fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking and pedal boating, and the park offers camping, hiking and biking. There are roughly seven miles of mountain biking trails throughout the park that offer many varieties of terrain: from fast, smooth flats to rough, rocky downhills. The technical and wooded trails form a loop, making this park a favorite of riders from around the state.

38. Dinosaur Valley State Park

Some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in the world are located in the riverbed of the Paluxy River, which cuts through the middle of the park. Along with these fossils are two giant fiberglass replicas of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and an Apatosaurus. Activities at the park include camping, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding in a separate 100-acre area (no horses provided). Visitors interested in seeing the dinosaur tracks in the riverbed should call the park in advance to check on river conditions.

39. Acton State Historic Site

This park, the smallest in Texas (.01 acre), consists of the monument and burial site of Elizabeth Crockett, the second wife of Davy Crockett. She married Crockett in 1815 in Tennessee and died in 1860. Because Davy Crockett died fighting for Texas at the Alamo, Elizabeth Crockett was eligible for a land grant, but didn't submit her claim until 1853. By this time all choice land had been taken, and she was forced to give a surveyor half of her allotted land for locating a tract worth claiming. This land was in northeast Hood County, near Acton, where she is now buried in Acton Cemetery.

40. Fort Richardson State Historical Park

The federal government established Fort Richardson in 1867 to defend against Comanches in the area. After operating for a little more than 10 years, the government abandoned the fort in 1878. Today the site boasts seven of the original buildings, and two replica buildings. Guided tours are available every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. In 1998 the park opened Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway, which runs 10 miles along Lost Creek and the shores of Lake Jacksboro and Lost Creek Reservoir. The trail is perfect for hiking, biking or horseback riding.

41. Ray Roberts Lake State Parks

Ray Roberts consists of three parks bordering a massive 30,000-acre reservoir built on the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. The Isle du Bois Unit on the south shore of the lake and the Johnson Branch Unit on the north shore provide swimming beaches, shaded picnic areas and several miles of biking, hiking and ADA-accessible trails. The Ray Roberts Greenbelt runs between Ray Roberts Dam and the headwaters of Lake Lewisville. The greenbelt offers 20 miles of trails - 10 for equestrians and 10 for hiking and biking.

42. Eisenhower State Park

Lake Texoma provides the backdrop for this beautiful little park. Full access to the lake is provided at both a public boat ramp and a privately run marina, the Eisenhower Yacht Club. The yacht club is a full-service marina offering fuel, boat rentals and boat repair. The park's seven-acre mini-bike area is popular, and dirt bike, four-wheeler and go-cart riders can wander wooded trails and jump and bump in a large field.

43. Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site

The home in Denison where Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in 1890 is preserved on this six-acre site. After a yearlong restoration of its interior to an 1890s appearance, the birthplace was reopened this spring and rededicated with members of the Eisenhower family present. Tours of the birthplace are offered Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The site may be rented for functions such as weddings or meetings.

For More Information About Day-Trip Parks

Use the telephone numbers below to contact the parks featured in this story. For more information about any state park, go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us and click on "Parks."

Houston Parks

  • Brazos Bend State Park, (979) 553-5101
  • Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site, (936) 873-2633
  • Galveston Island State Park, (409) 737-1222
  • Huntsville State Park, (936) 295-5644
  • Lake Houston State Park, (281) 354-6881
  • Lake Livingston State Park, (936) 365-2201
  • San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, (281) 479-2431
  • Sheldon Lake State Park, (281) 456-2800
  • Stephen F. Austin State Historic Site, (979) 885-3613
  • Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site, (979) 345-4656
  • Village Creek State Park, (409) 755-7322
  • Washington-On-The-Brazos State Historic Site, (936) 878-2214

San Antonio Parks

  • Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site - National Museum of the Pacific War, (830) 997-4379
  • Blanco State Park, (830) 833-4333
  • Casa Navarro State Historic Site, (210) 226-4801
  • Choke Canyon State Park/Calliham unit, (361) 786-3868 and South Shore unit (361) 786-3538
  • Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, (915) 247-3903
  • Garner State Park, (830) 232-6132
  • Guadalupe River State Park, (830) 438-2656
  • Hill Country State Natural Area, (830) 796-4413
  • Landmark Inn State Historic Site, (830) 931-2133
  • LBJ State Park and Historic Site, (830) 644-2252
  • Lockhart State Park, (512) 398-3479
  • Lost Maples State Natural Area, (830) 966-3413
  • McKinney Falls State Park, (512) 243-1643
  • Palmetto State Park, (830) 672-3266
  • Pedernales Falls State Park, (830) 868-7304
  • Sebastopol House State Historic Site, (830) 379-4833

Dallas/Fort Worth Parks

  • Acton State Historic Site, (817) 645-4215
  • Bonham State Park, (903) 583-5022
  • Cedar Hill State Park, (972) 291-6641
  • Cleburne State Park, (817) 645-4215
  • Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site, (254) 562-5751
  • Dinosaur Valley State Park, (254) 897-4588
  • Eisenhower Birthplace State Historical Site, (903) 465-8908
  • Eisenhower State Park, (903) 465-1956
  • Fort Richardson State Historical Park, (940) 567-3506
  • Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway, (940) 328-1171
  • Lake Tawakoni State Park, (903) 560-7123
  • Lake Whitney State Park, (254) 694-3793
  • Meridian State Park, (254) 435-2536
  • Purtis Creek State Park, (903) 425-2332
  • Ray Roberts Lake State Parks: Isle du Bois Unit, (940) 686-2148; Johnson Branch Unit, (940) 637-2294

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