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Park Pick: Picture Perfect

Outdoor experiences can be beyond words at Lake Somerville.

By Walt Bailey

Just as I pack up to leave the park, he receives a package in the mail containing a lens for his camera. “It’s the one I use to take pictures of flowers,” he explains. A self-taught photographer, Lake Somerville State Park ranger Tommy Snow often uses his camera to share the natural beauty of Lake Somerville with would-be visitors near and far.

Soon after he began his hobby, colleagues liked his pictures so much that they encouraged him to put them on social media, so these days, many of the pictures appear on the park’s Facebook page. Subjects include sunsets, wildflowers and the many birds and mammals found at the park, southwest of College Station.

Bird at Lake Somerville

Sunset over Lake Somerville

The burgeoning collection of images reflects Snow’s love of his work. A veteran of more than three decades of work with state parks, most of it right here at Somerville, Snow also takes pride in maintaining Somerville’s Birch Creek Unit, where he is assigned, so it’s ready for every visitor.

“We do our mowing early and clean the campsite grills as soon as campers leave,” he says.

Snow is always available to help park visitors. He’s been at the park so long, many repeat visitors know where he lives. When they knock on his door, he’s ready to provide directions, jump-start a car or even invite them inside to watch the weather on his TV.

With such passion for his job, Snow devotes much thought to what attracts people to Lake Somerville.

“Spring draws in people from all over for the white bass run,” he explains. In the summer, people come for boating, fishing and camping. Fewer people visit during the fall and winter months, but the park still hosts hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and campers, and anglers use the Birch Creek fishing jetty to catch crappie.

The 13-mile Lake Somerville Trailway connects the park’s Birch Creek and Nails Creek units.

Throughout the year, camping is the main draw. Because the park’s 20-plus miles of trails and 103 campsites are dispersed over a large area, people find it easy to connect to nature. Campers escape to secluded post oak forests and native bluestem prairies filled with white-tailed deer, bobcats, raccoons, painted buntings and even the occasional bald eagle.

“The unspoiled natural experience keeps them coming back,” Snow says.

The park also rents canoes, kayaks, basketballs, volleyballs and badminton equipment.

Lake Somerville is in Central Texas, about halfway between Austin and Houston. The Birch Creek Unit of Lake Somerville State Park is on the north side of the lake, and the Nails Creek Unit is on the south side.

For more information on the park, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/lakesomerville.


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