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Photos in the August/September 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 feature Bastrop State Park and a list of parks with great biking.


This Month's Features

Bastrop State Park: Rolling with the Punches

Neither rain nor fire nor collapsing dams can knock out Bastrop State Park.

By Melissa Gaskill

Consider Bastrop State Park our own Rocky Balboa. Knock it down — it just keeps getting back up.

The first punch came in the form of a wildfire in September 2011 that raged across 34,000 acres and affected 96 percent of the park. Firefighters heroically saved the park’s historic cabins using water and firebreaks, but thousands of trees burned, along with vast swaths of grasses and other vegetation.

The next punch came in May 2015, when heavy rains washed out a dam and drained a 10-acre lake.

The third blow: the Hidden Pines Fire, which ignited Oct. 13, 2015, and burned 4,500 total acres, including some within park boundaries.

The latest punch came this year when Bastrop experienced a damaging flood on the one-year anniversary of the 2015 Memorial Day flood, forcing the closure of park roads and campgrounds.

Yet the park, while perhaps a bit battered and bruised, still bustles with activity. Visitors book cabins and campsites, picnic in day-use areas, hike many of the trails and cycle happily down hilly Park Road 1C between Bastrop State Park and its neighbor, Buescher State Park.

(read more)

Safe on the Shore

Beach-nesting birds need our help to protect their young.

By Kacy L. Ray

The sun begins to peek out from the Gulf horizon, sending its first tendrils of morning warmth across the water and the sprawling sandy beaches of the Texas coast. Just above the high tide line and beyond the dunes, gulls and least terns shout greetings and warnings to one another.

It’s June, and least terns hide their small, speckled eggs and camouflaged chicks on the sandy beach, fending off gulls and other predators. Chicks emerge from their eggs wet but quickly dry to a soft, downy coat. Within hours, the least tern chicks scamper after their parents begging for food while nearby plovers learn to fend for themselves.

Wilson’s and snowy plovers stealthily lead their downy broods of flightless chicks through dunes, low-lying beach vegetation and an array of beachgoers and vehicles, searching for the perfect fiddler crab flat or ephemeral pool where their young can forage until they learn to fly. These secretive, sandy-colored plover broods have been known to travel several miles on foot to find safe places to forage.

As these birds work to raise their young, they face the dangerous weather elements typical of the Gulf Coast — hurricanes, tropical storms and flooding — as well as increasing human encroachment. Nesting bird populations are declining because of these natural dangers and the effects of coastal development and oil spills.

The birds are running out of places to raise their young safely, but we can help them if we know what to look for and what to do.

(read more)

The Unknown Army

Buffalo Soldiers connect kids with Texas history beyond the textbook.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

“So, who were the Buffalo Soldiers?”

Surrounded by schoolkids at Blanco State Park, Luis Padilla, who’s portraying a first sergeant with the U.S. 9th Cavalry, poses the question while rocking back and forth on his heels. He’s “riding” horseback, outfitted in 1870s military jacket, black knee-high boots and a muskrat hat that covers his ears. Beside him, a third-grade girl wearing a too-big military jacket and campaign hat mimics his every move.

Instantly, hands shoot up in the air, and a chorus of young voices shouts out the answer.

“The first professional black soldiers in the U.S. Army!”

Padilla grins and gives his volunteer sidekick a thumbs-up. From beneath her wide-brimmed hat, she grins back.

(read more)

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2015 Hunting Forecast

This year's rains have brought bright prospects for fall hunting. TPWD experts tell us just how good it might be for deer, dove and more in this digital-only magazine extra.

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Keep Texas Wild

It's not just for kids. If you like nature-related topics in an easy-to-read format, you can find three years of our popular Keep Texas Wild issues and the teacher resources to go along with them.

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