Photos in the November 2016 issue
The Year of state parks
Welcome to our 2016 series: The Year of State Parks. Each month’s cover and lead story will feature one of Texas’ iconic state parks. An accompanying State Parks List will focus on parks across the state that offer similar attractions and activities. This month, we featureTyler State Park and a list of parks with gorgeous CCC works.
This Month's Features
Tyler State Park debunks the myth of ‘no fall color’ in Texas.
By Melissa Gaskill
Leaves decorate the sandy trail like seashells on a beach, in shades of yellow and red and shapes resembling stars, spear points, paw prints and candle flames, ranging in size from as small as my little finger to as big as my face. I’m walking the Lakeshore Trail at Tyler State Park, discovering the magic of fall here where East Texas Pineywoods meets Post Oak Savannah.
The park’s location at this intersection makes for noteworthy tree variety: shortleaf and loblolly pines and hardwoods including southern red, post, blackjack, black, bluejack and water oaks, as well as sweetgum, eastern red cedar, pecan, sassafras, black walnut, sugarberry and slippery elm.
These trees spend summer days turning sunlight into food through photosynthesis, a bit of alchemy performed by a substance called chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color. When days grow shorter and temperatures colder in fall, many trees take this as a signal to prepare for winter. They stop producing chlorophyll, and, as it fades, we begin to see pigments already present in the leaves — orange carotene, yellow xanthophyll and red anthocyanin. The leaves of some trees simply turn brown, and evergreens, as the name implies, have green leaves all year. For leaves that do turn, the timing depends on arrival of the first cold snap, while intensity of color results from other weather factors, such as temperatures and the amount of rainfall throughout the year.
Successful wildlife management results in plentiful deer on the Rolling Plains.
By Russell A. Graves
Even before the sun rises, I see deer stirring in the creek bottom to the east. For perhaps 15 miles, that skinny creek winds its way through the rugged redlands, on its way to spilling mineral-rich water into the Pease River, creating prime white-tailed deer habitat.
All morning long, I watch them pick their way along the creek and feed on what’s left of the browse after a November freeze forced the vegetation into its winter slumber. There’s a smattering of bucks and does both old and young, but I’ve yet to see “the one.”
Observing deer and thinking about how they’re thriving helps pass the time in a blind that’s just beyond the reach of modern civilization. From my perch, only a single house is visible, and poor cellphone service is a happy inconvenience.
If I’d hunted this spot 20 years ago, I might not have seen a whitetail all day. More than three decades of concerted and coordinated wildlife management efforts set the stage for one of the most robust and celebrated wildlife management success stories — the expansion of white-tailed deer populations in parts of Texas where historically they’ve been scant.
Blue Mountain Peak Ranch’s return to the past earns top conservation award.
By Katy Schaffer
It’s the summer of 2001, and Richard and Sally Taylor push their way through thick, scratchy patches of Ashe juniper in the stifling Texas heat. They scramble around knots of weeds and tangles of tree roots. Brilliant patches of wildflowers weave and bob their heads at a sudden, welcome breeze.
They’d already seen the land from above via a small airplane, but they wanted to get a feel for what it really looked like from the ground. The Taylors wanted to touch the land, to experience it with all their senses.
After they finish exploring, the Taylors stop to look out over the gently rolling hills blanketed in green treetops as far as the eye can see. With sweat pouring down their faces, Richard and Sally grin widely at each other. They know they’ve finally found it.
“This is it,” Richard says. “This is what we’ve been searching for.”
Fifteen years later, the Taylors’ Blue Mountain Peak Ranch, that tough-yet-beautiful parcel of land Richard and Sally bought in 2001, has become a showcase of stewardship, earning the 2016 Leopold Conservation Award, the state’s highest honor for private land conservation.