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Lake Texana State Park

Anglers and birders alike will enjoy this southeast Texas gem — but watch out for alligators.

The Navidad River begins as runoff from Fayette County farmland, meandering 74 languorous miles through the coastal plains to merge with the Lavaca River and flow on to the Gulf of Mexico. East of Edna in Jackson County, just upstream from its conjunction with the Lavaca, the Navidad River has been dammed to form 11,000-acre Lake Texana, which takes its name from a Republic of Texas-era town that once existed near the rivers’ junction.

In this once-untamed lowland prairie where Native Americans, Spanish, French and Anglo explorers hunted and fished to sustain themselves, today’s Texans find refuge and a wealth of recreational opportunities at Lake Texana State Park. The 575-acre park offers easy access to the lake for fishing, boating and skiing, as well as more than 100 wooded campsites and an expansive day-use area for kicking back to enjoy the park’s natural beauty and abundant wildlife.

Only about a third of the parkland has been developed, leaving some 400 acres of open grasslands, brackish sloughs, tree-lined shores and mixed oak woodlands full of mustang grape vines, flowering trumpet creeper, jungle-like palmetto and Spanish moss-draped trees. That translates into ample elbow room for the roughly 200,000 people who visit Lake Texana State Park each year.

Park Manager David Lopez says many visitors are surprised to see alligators cruising the coves and creeks that flow through the park. “They don’t know why we have alligators in the park,” he says. “But the fact is that many Texas’ rivers are populated by alligators, and they tend to congregate in nice, protected coves like we have.”

Park interpreters capitalize on the unusual park resident by conducting periodic programs about the American alligator for school children and other park patrons.

Lake Texana State Park proves popular, too, with anglers from as far away as Houston and Corpus Christi. The lake’s proximity to the coast, which is about 30 miles away, often results in on-shore winds that create wave action, which combines with runoff from surrounding grain and cotton fields, to produce turbid waters. Nonetheless, fishing is usually quite good. Channel and flathead catfish, as well as crappie, prove the most consistent catches.

Hikers, birdwatchers and other nature buffs should explore the 1.3-mile Lake Texana Nature Trail that traverses creek bottomlands, providing up-close views of the park’s fauna and flora, as well as wooden butterfly homes erected to protect the winged beauties from predators. Wooden footbridges spanning a creek add a scenic touch to the trail and afford excellent vantage points for spotting critters that call the waters home.

A growing number of birders are finding their way to Lake Texana, too, because of the impressive number of bird species spotted in the park. More than 220 species of avifauna have been documented to date, drawn by the overlap of coastal prairie, hardwood bottomland and riparian habitats. Migrating songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds and scavengers like the Mexican buzzard (cara cara) are frequently seen at the park.

— Rob McCorkle

The park is located six miles east of Edna on State Highway 111. For more information about Lake Texana State Park, call (361) 782-5718 or visit <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/ parks/lake_texana>.

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