Cool weather sets up perfect East Texas state park escape

Just recently, I was kayaking on B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir near Jasper and couldn’t help but notice the number of tent and RV campers in the adjacent Martin Dies Jr. State Park. It was a cool Saturday morning and aside from folks cooking breakfast around their campsites, I saw hikers, bikers and lots of people on the water paddling rental canoes.

The great thing about living in East and Southeast Texas is that we have quick access to outdoor adventure in our many state parks. Three of the most popular quick escapes within a short drive from Beaumont are Lumberton’s Village Creek State Park, Jasper’s Martin Dies Jr. State Park and Huntsville State Park. They are very popular city-slicker escapes that offer a little bit of everything including waterfront camping.

One of the more unique things about Texas is that we have state parks, great state parks, scattered from one side of Texas to the other. And they offer more “green” outdoor activities than you can shake a stick at.

Texas State Parks director Brent Leisure encourages Texans to take advantage of the cooler weather to visit a state park. He notes that entrance and camping fees, State Park Pass purchases and patronizing state park stores all help fund state park operations.

“We understand that many Texans continue to experience difficult economic times,” said Leisure, “but our state parks continue to offer an affordable, safe and family-friendly alternative to many other forms of entertainment and recreation. We, too, have had to tighten our belts due to shrinking budgets, but by modifying days and hours of operations at some parks, we have kept the lights burning at all of our state parks.”

The best source of state park information can be found in the latest edition of the free 112-page Texas State Park Guide that has just now been released by TPWD.Leisure says the digest-size booklet puts at your fingertips everything you and your family need to know about more than 90 state parks and special park programs, such as the Geocache Challenge, free fishing and the Texas Outdoor Family camping program.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department also has created an online digital page-turner replica of the Texas State Park Guide. This will make it easier than ever to discover the amazing variety of state park destinations and special park interpretive programs that await today’s adventurers.

“The new edition highlights dozens of park sites located near Texas’ major metropolitan areas that are perfect for a relaxing day trip or an economical weekend getaway,” says Leisure.

The park guide also includes information for those who prefer not to rough it in the great outdoors. State parks offer a diverse mix of “soft” accommodations, ranging from modified screened shelters, rustic bunkhouses and cabins to a sprawling, historic ranch house and full-service lodges.

For convenience, the park guide is broken down into the state’s seven tourism regions that are easily located by flipping to the color-coded, centerfold Texas State Parks map. A brief snapshot of the outstanding features found at each park within each region provides photos and pertinent information about each site, including its GPS coordinates for the tech-savvy adventurer.

The Facilities & Activities Index at the back of the book provides a breakdown of what each site offers, including the types of campsites and trails to be found there. Book a campsite online at www.texasstateparks.org or make a camping reservation by calling (512) 389-8900.

Free copies of the Texas State Park Guide, sponsored by Toyota, can be picked up at any state park and TPWD offices.

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