Texas state parks visitors embrace growing geocaching craze

Photo by Chase A. Fountain/TPWD

Seeking new ways to combine their children’s love of digital devices with the health benefits and fun of being outdoors, many parents are turning to geocaching, a hunt for hidden “treasures,” or caches, using the latest technology.

More than 90 state parks located throughout Texas are increasingly embracing such visitors by offering more than 1,074 geocaches, or prize-filled containers, which can be located online in advance or by using a smartphone application. In addition, many state parks have begun to host Geocache 101 workshops, free with normal park entry, to teach newbies the basics of this modern day twist on an old-fashioned treasure hunt.

“There’s been an 82 percent increase in the number of geocaches in our state parks in the past three years,” said Robert Owen, Texas State Parks outdoor education specialist. “Geocaching is family-friendly and more accessible than ever thanks to new Smartphone technology. You no longer have to have a GPS device to find the cache locations.”

Geocaching participants find coordinates, share photos and tips, and learn all the particulars about the activity. After finding the latitude and longitude of a hidden cache, geocachers are guided to within 12 feet of its location. Then, geocachers search the surrounding terrain until they locate the “goodies” in a container that might be as small as a film canister or as large as an ammo box. These treasures are never buried, so no shovel is needed.

Geocaching, which is the hunt for more than 3 million items hidden by people worldwide, is also supported by online communities, including http://www.geocaching.com. According to the website there are 11,788 caches within 100 miles of downtown Beaumont.

Stephanie Molina, director of marketing for the Beaumont CVB, said the activity is already becoming popular in Southeast Texas.

“Go look, you’ll be amazed at what’s already out there,” Molina said. “There are plenty of them hidden in the area, and a ton of them already around Beaumont.”

Molina added that the CVB plans to market Southeast Texas area geocaching in the near future.

“I know Conroe has a program already developed,” she said, “and I had planned on doing it this year, but we’re working on other things right now that are taking priority over it.”

Molina added that local parks would most likely be involved in the planning.

Youngsters will especially enjoy the Texas State Parks Geocache Challenge that kicked off Oct. 1, 2012, and is ongoing. Last year, nearly 11,000 geocache “finds” occurred in state parks alone, and hundreds of children learned interesting facts and stories about Texas history, conservation and stewardship of Texas State Parks, while also earning prizes.

For more information and to find coordinates of prize-filled caches in Texas State Parks, visit http://texasstateparks.org/geocache.

 

State parks offering an introduction to geocaching workshop this fall

Austin area

Lockhart State Park

Inks Lake State Park

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Dallas/Ft. Worth area:

Purtis Creek State Park

Cedar Hill State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Lake Mineral Wells State Park

Martin Creek State Park

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Houston area:

Stephen F. Austin State Park

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San Antonio area:

Guadalupe River State Park

Lake Corpus Christi State Park

Goliad State Park and Historic Site

Government Canyon State Natural Area

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