There are 102 state parks in Texas, stretching from Resaca de la Palma near Brownsville in the south to Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo in the north; from Franklin Mountains in El Paso in the west to Sea Rim State Park in Sabine Pass to the east. Wherever in Texas you are, you are likely to be near (for Texas-native values of “near”) a state park. State Parks come in all sizes, as well, from the largest, the 311,000-acre (126,000 hectare) Big Bend Ranch State Park in Marfa to the smallest, the 16.1-acre (6.5 hectares) Old Tunnel State Park in Fredericksburg.
With a Texas State Parks Pass, which in 2015 costs $70, you and your guests can have unlimited visits to the parks of the Texas State Park System. “Guests” generally works out to anyone in the same noncommercial vehicle with the pass holder. Holders of Texas State Parks Passes also get discounts on purchases in the stores of the parks and also on overnight camping, which can be done in a tent or in a recreational vehicle/RV.
This is not an ad, it’s more of a testimonial. On and off (mostly on) for the last ten years or so, I have been the proud holder of a Texas State Parks Pass. And we take pretty good advantage of our pass. Generally, my “guest” is actually a household member, my son (who has decided that he would like me to call him Alex in blog posts). Occasionally, Alex and I will bring a friend (or two) with us to a park.
Being that Alex does not have a driver’s license yet, we haven’t wandered too far afield too often. I am a native Chicagoan. Where I grew up, anything farther than about 20 minutes away by car is far. I have adjusted somewhat to the Texans’ idea of “close,” which is something along the lines of three or four hours (before we moved down here, Texans would tell us that San Antonio is close to Mexico, to Houston, and to the Gulf; the closest of these is two and a half hours away0. However, an hour, maybe as much as three for something really important, is about my maximum. We have made it as far as the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site to the east, Mustang Island State Park to the southeast, Garner State Park to the west, and McKinney Falls State Park to the north. Mostly, though, we stay pretty close to the city. We visit Government Canyon State Park once or twice a year, and Guadalupe River State Park a little less frequently than that. We also go to Lost Maples State Natural Area every few years. In another year or so, once Alex has a driver’s license, we will be able to go farther, since we will have two drivers.
I don’t know if we exactly get $70 of activity out of the pass, but we do pretty well. It is nice to be able to go to a state park on a whim. It is also a nice feeling to know that I am helping support the conservation and preservation work that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does.