Since it was first published in 1996, Official Guide to Texas State Parks and Historic Sites has become Texans' one-stop source for information on great places to view scenic landscapes, tour historical sites, camp, fish, hike, backpack, swim, ride horseback, go rock climbing, and enjoy almost any other outdoor recreation.
This revised edition includes five new state parks and historical sites, completely updated information for every park, and many beautiful new photographs. The book is organized by geographical regions to help you plan your trips around the state. For every park, Laurence Parent provides all of the essential information:
- The natural or historical attractions of the park
- Types of recreation offered
- Camping and lodging facilities
- Addresses and phone numbers
- A locator map
- Magnificent color photographs
So if you want to watch the sun set over Enchanted Rock, fish in the surf on the beach at Galveston, or listen for a ghostly bugle among the ruins of Fort Lancaster, let this book be your complete guide. Don't take a trip in Texas without it.
This guide is divided into seven geographic regions within Texas. Each section begins with some general information about the region, followed by descriptions of every park within that region listed alphabetically. The state map and table of contents in the front of the book will aid in finding specific parks. In addition, color-coded symbols appear at the top of each page, with a different color used for each region.
A short essay provides some historical, biological, and geological background on each park, along with park highlights and recreational opportunities. The Depression-inspired Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is frequently mentioned as having been responsible for the skillful construction of many of the buildings and other facilities that are still in use today at numerous parks. A short Visitor Information section at the end of each description gives a brief summary of park size and operating schedule, camping availability, and facilities. It also lists the nearest town with services such as gas stations, restaurants, and lodging. The park's address and phone number allow you to call or write for more information. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's website, www.tpwd.state.tx.us, gives additional information. Before visiting a park, checking the website for park schedules and recent changes is highly recommended.
At campgrounds described as having partial hookups, water and electricity are available. Those described as having full hookups also have sewage connections. Most parks with campgrounds have a dump station even if no sewage connections are available.
Camping reservations are not necessary at the state parks. However, on spring, summer, and fall weekends, campgrounds at many parks often fill up, so reservations are advisable at those times. Campgrounds can sometimes fill up on summer weekdays, particularly at some popular water-oriented parks on lakes, rivers, or the coast. All camping reservations are handled through a central reservation number, (512) 389-8900, in Austin. Be sure to call that number, not the individual state parks, to reserve a site. Reservations can also be made online via the Internet address in the section above.
Most parks, especially those with campgrounds, are open every day all year. Some parks, particularly state historic sites, may have more limited days and hours. An effort has been made to give some idea of operating times in the description of these parks. However, schedules sometimes change, both seasonally and for operational reasons. Before driving long distances, you may want to call ahead for a current schedule. In winter, a few of the larger parks with campgrounds may close for a short time to allow public hunts.
Rules and regulations
Regulations are aimed at both protecting the park and providing a pleasant experience for visitors. To preserve the parks, please refrain from removing plants—including wildflowers—as well as minerals and artifacts. Firewood gathering is not allowed, but many parks sell bundles at headquarters. Otherwise, bring your own.
Please don't litter, damage park facilities, or leave fires unattended. Firearms and hunting are not allowed except during special hunts. Public display and consumption of alcohol are prohibited. Be courteous to your campground neighbors and keep music and voices low at night.
In the dry desert flatlands on the north side of the Davis Mountains, the clear, cold waters of San Solomon Spring gush forth, creating a startlingly green oasis of fields and tree-lined canals for many miles downstream. The spring produces between 15 and 26 million gallons per day from a deep pool in Balmorhea State Park. Its waters irrigate 10,000 acres in the farming towns of Balmorhea, Saragosa, and Toyahvale, and even form a small lake.
Most of the spring's water comes from precipitation falling on the Davis and Apache mountains. The water seeps underground, then flows slowly through subsurface faults and porous rock layers, known as aquifers, to several springs in the Balmorhea area. San Solomon Spring, an artesian spring, is the largest. Artesian springs are under pressure and flow out above the water table, whereas gravity springs flow from below the water table.
Unfortunately, heavy groundwater pumping has lowered area water tables and dried up many West Texas springs. Comanche Springs in Fort Stockton had flow rates comparable to San Solomon and irrigated more than 6000 acres before it stopped flowing in 1961. Two artesian springs near San Solomon Spring, Phantom Lake and Giffin, still flow, although at much reduced rates. Additional groundwater pumping could cause these two springs, and possibly even San Solomon, to fail.
These desert springs are effectively islands, separated from each other by miles of desert. Unique species of plants and animals evolved in the highly localized spring environments. Two endangered species, the Comanche Springs pupfish and the Pecos mosquito fish, live only in the park and a few other West Texas springs.
For thousands of years, San Solomon Spring provided water to early peoples. Later, the spring was a watering hole for Spanish explorers, gold-seekers, and other West Texas travelers. Some Mexican farmers built the first irrigation canals in the mid-1800s. Other more elaborate systems were added over the following years. During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the pool around the spring, bathhouse, residences, and motel units. The huge pool is 1.75 acres in area and 25 feet deep, and has a capacity of 3.5 million gallons. With a constant fresh inflow, chlorination of the constant 72- to 76-degree water is unnecessary.
San Solomon Spring has drawn people for thousands of years and still does today. People from near and far flock to the pool during the hot summers for swimming and relaxation. Scuba divers come from all over to dive in the clear, deep pool. They swim by perch and schools of minnows and hunt for reclusive catfish hiding under rock ledges. The spring itself boils up through the sandy bottom in the deepest part of the pool.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in partnership with local groups and federal agencies, has restored part of the original San Solomon Spring Ciénega, a desert wetland at the park. Visitors can enjoy some of the ciénega's unique aquatic inhabitants through an underwater viewing window.
46 acres. Open all year. Hot in summer. Pool is open all year from 8 AM until a half hour before sunset. Swim at your own risk. Open to certified divers and classes. Small campground with partial hookups and showers. Motel units, some with kitchenettes, are popular; reserve ahead. Limited visitor services available in Balmorhea. All visitor services available in Fort Davis, Pecos, Fort Stockton. For information: Balmorhea State Park, Box 15, Toyahvale, TX 79786, (432) 375-2370.