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Audio Tour Guide

Informative audio enhances self-guided tours at Caprock Canyons and Washington-on-the-Brazos.

By Liz Soutendijk

"It's like having a park ranger in the car with you," one visitor to Caprock Canyons State Park said about the 45-minute audio tour. Two Texas state parks use audio to enhance visitors' experiences. At Caprock Canyons, pick up a CD at the visitors center to enjoy while driving a road that meanders through the prairie, into the canyons and up to the rugged cliffs that mark the edge of the Caprock, a big tabletop plateau.

Listen to the story of bison as they roam the land in front of you. Take a deep breath and relax amid the scents of summer sagebrush, as Keith Riemer, West Texas singer/songwriter, sings at the end of the track. Hear accounts of Indians, explorers and early settlers woven throughout explanations of the canyon's natural history. Learn how wind, water and the passage of time eroded the now-exposed walls of this 660-foot-deep canyon that was once a solid landmass.

The audio also alerts visitors to native plants and animals to look for and highlights hiking trails, camping areas and the best spots to take photographs.

At the opposite end of Texas, Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site offers two audio tours. Park Ranger Bill Irwin said audio is a way to enrich the visitors' experience.

"It's one more way to help folks to imagine what that time was like," said Irwin. "There's not a lot of visual evidence left."

For the Washington Town Site audio tour, visitors pick up an MP3 player and headsets at the visitors center, walk out the back door and let their imagination take them back in time. Former Houston anchorman Ron Stone narrates the audio, which is interspersed with voices representing the residents of 1836 Washington and the delegates to the Constitutional Congress. Ambient sounds added to the track provide an immersive experience. Hear horses galloping, cows mooing and kids playing. Listen to townspeople talk about what they loved and hated about living in this frontier town where the Navasota and Brazos Rivers come together. Hear the passionate voices of the delegates declaring independence from Mexico and pounding out the Constitution of the new Republic of Texas while the war for independence raged and Santa Anna's troops marched toward Washington after the fall of the Alamo.

The Star of the Republic Museum furnishes the setting for the second Washington-on-the-Brazos audio tour. As you walk by the displays, the audio tells the significance of each diorama. Artifacts illustrate the history of Texas from the Native Americans through 1846, after the Republic of Texas became the 28th state to join the union. The audio also includes background sounds for a more realistic virtual experience.

"I got caught off guard by the sound effects when I heard buffaloes coming though," Irwin said. "I automatically turned around before I realized it was the CD."

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