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Picture This
Our chief photographer shares his insights.

Best Parks for Pics

By Earl Nottingham

Whether you’re looking for shots of pretty flowers or weathered wood, our photo guru can tell you where to go.

I’m often asked if I have a favorite state park. That’s akin to asking if I have a favorite child. I find that parks, like children, have their own unique personalities and qualities; and in a state as wide as Texas there’s something to love about each one. Even so, I’ll admit that I do have several favorites based on their photographic qualities.

Grand Landscape — Big Bend Ranch State Park

For mountain vistas, rugged canyons and breathtaking sunsets, Big Bend Ranch is the place to be. With almost 300,000 acres of Chihuahuan desert wilderness amid volcanic mountains, the park is a diverse mix of geology, ecosystems and human history.

Autumn Color — Daingerfield State Park

Autumn color in East Texas depends on rainfall and temperature. But at its peak, Daingerfield State Park is a palette of dazzling reds, oranges, yellows and golds against a background of pine. Towering sweetgum, oak and maple trees are accented by smaller plants including sumac and beautyberry.

Nostalgia — Sauer Beckmann Farmstead at LBJ State Park and Historic Site

This working farm depicts daily life in 1918. Costumed interpreters carry out the day-to-day activities of rural life, gladly allowing photographers a chance for portraits as well as photos of farm animals and nostalgic trappings of the era. If you’re into windmills and weathered wood, this is your place.

Wildflowers — Inks Lake State Park

For the serious wildflower photographer, all roads lead to the Texas Hill Country. With its pink granite outcroppings and clear streams, Inks Lake is an artistic setting for many of the state’s wildflowers, including bluebonnet, paintbrush, coreopsis, wine cup, indian blanket and black-eyed susan.

Wildlife — South Llano SP

South Llano State Park is unique in that it is one of the more “photographer friendly” parks in terms of close-up access to wildlife. Numerous mammals and birds can be viewed from several observation and box blinds strategically placed around the park.

History — Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site/ Barrington Farm

Texas began here with the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836. Now, the Republic of Texas era is reproduced in the park at Barrington Living History Farm, the home of the Texas Republic’s last president, Anson Jones.

Coastal — Galveston Island State Park

Pristine sand dunes against picture-perfect seashore are a slam dunk at Galveston Island State Park. However, a value-added feature is the inland section which offers boardwalks and observation areas located around coves and bayous. You’ll get close-up views of waterfowl and mammals.

Texana — Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Take one look at the park’s multihued canyons, and you’ll feel immersed in the Old West. Even today, the aromas of leather and horsehide are a reminder of days gone by. The park is a wealth of landscape, wildlife and historic images throughout the year.

Winter — Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway

You’ll have to be quick because a winter snow doesn’t usually last long in the Texas Panhandle. If you’re lucky enough to get to Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway on the morning following a snow, you’ll be rewarded with vistas of red rock canyons layered with white beneath a clearing winter sky.

River — Frio at Garner State Park

Among the many rivers that cut a swath through Texas state parks, the Frio River at Garner State Park is arguably the most photogenic. Framed by ancient cypress trees and towering limestone bluffs, the jade-green river runs clear, cool and constant.

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