Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Texas Rains Close Some State Parks & Limit Use at Others!

Parts of Texas have been in and out of drought since 2009, and now it appears that recently, the Rain Gods have chosen to give Texas far more than its fair share of rain. Many Texas lakes, rivers and creeks are flooded or swollen, and because many of our Texas State Parks are located on these bodies of water, many parks are experiences closures or partial closures. Other parks are open with alerts.

Bastrop State Park Camping  TPWD Copyright

Atlanta State Park was closed due to flooding on May 11, and the closure is expected to last at least through June 9. Brazos Bend State Park closed on June 3 and is expected to be closed through 21 June. Lake Whitney State Park closed 5 May due to flooding; there is no news regarding its reopening. Lake Somerville State Park & Trailway is closed due to flooding, and will probably remain so until early July. Stephen F. Austin State Park is closed through September 1 due to flood damage. 

Atlanta State Park on Wright Patman Lake   TPWD Copyright

On June 6, the trails were closed at Abilene State Park. Bastrop State Park is open, but the lake dam was destroyed during the May 2015 flood, and Park Road 1C connecting Bastrop and Buescher State Parks is closed due to flood damage. Other areas of the park are closed due to flood or fire damage. Most of the trails at Buescher State Park are closed due to the October 2015 Hidden Pines Fire. Some camping areas and the trails to the Colorado River are closed at Colorado Bend State Park. The last update on Cooper Lake State Park was May 27th when some facilities were closed. All primitive campsites and the trails north of the Paluxy River were closed on June 1 at Dinosaur Valley State Park. The SH 91 Bridge, the main route to Eisenhower State Park, is closed; take Exit 70 off U.S. 70.  The park’s swimming beach, fishing pier, boat ramp, and ATV and bike trails were closed on June 2nd. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area was open today but some trails often close after a heavy rain. The day use picnic area at Galveston Island State Park is closed, and the park was not accepting new campsite reservations through this past Sunday. Garner State Park is open, but temporary, short term closures are common Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day Weekend because of the popularity of the park and the nightly dances!. Guadalupe River State Park is open but all trails, the Chaquita Falls area, and backcountry sites were closed June 1. Many areas of  Inks Lake State Park are closed through at least 13 June. Inks Lake is closed to recreational boating due to flood debris. The campsites at Lake Arrowhead State Park were closed May 27. Lake Brownwood State Park is open, but Lake Brownwood is closed due to lake flooding. Some trails at Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site are closed due to damage by heavy rains. The south end of Mother Neff State Park closed May 26 due to flooding of SH 236. The north end of the park is accessible by SH 236. Pedernales Falls State Park is open, but the river is dangerously high. This park is prone to flash floods during heavy rains so be on the alert! Purtis Creek State Park is open, but the fishing pier and dock lights are not working. The Boardwalk Nature Trail was temporarily closed on June 5 at San Jacinto Battleground SHS. The Gambusia Nature Trail Boardwalk has been closed at Sea Rim State Park since 7 May. Many areas of  Village Creek State Park have been closed since May 30 due to flooding. Only some trails and a few campsites remain open. The trails and picnic areas at Washington-On-The-Brazos State Historic Site are closed. Several boat ramps and some campsites at Ray Roberts Lake State Park have been closed since June 3. The FM 380 section of the Greenbelt Corridor has been closed due to prior flood damage. Parts of the equestrian trail remains closed and the only open equestrian trailhead is located at the Elm Fork Unit.

Eisenhower State Park Yacht Club   TPWD Copyright

We still have some areas of Texas experiencing drought and some parks are open with alerts for other reasons. The Calliham Unit at Choke Canyon State Park is open, but the South Shore Unit boat ramp is closed due to low lake levels. The Devils River at Devils River SNA has low water flow. Because of low lake levels, only kayaks and canoes may be launched from the Lake Colorado City State Park boat ramp. Since March 14, the main route to the park has detours due to the construction of a new bridge. Lake Livingston State Park is open, but there are some facility closures due to park improvement operations. Martin Creek Lake State Park has been invaded by the Argentine Ant, an invasive species, so be prepared to treat around your vehicle and camping equipment. The Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area always closes when the park has reached its 250 person limit. The drinking water at Possum Kingdom State Park is non-potable due to high salt content. At Sheldon Lake State Park the elevator at the observation tower has been closed for maintenance since 29 May. The Bent Pine Trail is also closed due to flooding. During times of high winds or other extreme weather, call to see if the Wyler Aerial Tramway at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso is open.

Devils River State Natural Area   TPWD Copyright

Sunday, April 10, 2016

TPWD Makes Your Texas Fishing Experiences Better!

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department works to make almost every aspect of your Texas fishing experiences better! It keeps Texas waters clean (a large subject for another blog), offers fishing lessons for kids and adults, and provides fishing without a license in Texas State Parks! It hosts KidFish events for children at neighborhood ponds, and will even stock a town’s swimming pool with fish in order to provide children a fishing opportunity when local ponds are unavailable. One of the greatest things it does is keep Texas bodies of water stocked with healthy, quality fish! TPWD fish hatcheries produce millions of fingerlings each year for stocking purposes, work to produce quality largemouth bass fingerlings through its Largemouth Bass ShareLunker Program, and manage fish research programs. 

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Fish Stocking Truck  TPWD Copyright

The ShareLunker program began in 1986 as a way to improve Texas’ largemouth bass population by selectively breeding trophy fish. It is limited to largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more. Fish must be weighted on certified or legal-for-trade scales. Possession of the live fish must be transferred to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department representative within 12 hours after capture. Since the program’s inception, more than 400 largemouth bass have been donated from 55 public reservoirs and more than a dozen private lakes. As the program grew it became apparent that a new fish hatchery that was specifically tailored to the program was needed. Specifications called for the facility to be built within 50 miles of Lake Fork, because the majority of big fish are caught there. In 1998, the Edwin L. Cox, Jr., Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas was completed. Call (903) 681-0550. 24 hour pager: 1-888-784-0600.

Falcon Reservoir - Bryan Aubin's 14.4 Pound ShareLunker Bass   TPWD Copyright

Texas Fresh Water Fisheries:
The TPWD Freshwater fisheries produce fingerlings for use in stocking Texas’ reservoirs. Each year, the TPWD Freshwater Fisheries produce more than 7.5 million bass fingerlings, 1.2 million catfish fingerlings, 5.8 million striped bass and hybrid bass fingerlings, and 1 million other species of fish fingerlings. The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is Athens, Texas houses one of the state’s five fish hatcheries. Its main focus is Largemouth Bass fingerlings. It produces 3 to 4 million Florida largemouth bass fingerlings annually, and produces over 70 million koi carp (goldfish) as food for the bass. The center’s Lunker Bunker produces the fingerlings from largemouth bass entered into the ShareLunker Program. The center also raises channel catfish fingerlings, and has holding tanks for rainbow trout fingerlings. The indoor and outdoor aquariums display species of native fish, waterfowl, alligators, and amphibians. The center offers tours, and hosts many fabulous events each year. It offers hunter education classes, fly fishing instruction for beginner and intermediate levels, and hosts the annual Texas State Fish Art Contest.  The A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos specializes in rearing fingerling sportfish for lake stocking. Tours are available. The Dundee State Fish Hatchery is located in Electra, Texas, just below the dam at Lake Diversion. This hatchery produces striped bass and hybrid striped bass fingerlings. Tours are available. The John D. Parker East Texas State Fish Hatchery, Texas’ newest hatchery, is located at Brookland, Texas. This hatchery produces largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish, and forage fish fingerlings. Tours are available on Tuesdays and Fridays.  The Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery is located in Graford, Texas, immediately below the Possum Kingdom Reservoir Dam. Tours are available on Tuesdays at 2pm, and Fridays at 10am. 

Dundee State Fish Hatchery    TPWD Copyright

Texas Salt Water Fisheries:
The CCA Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi produces juvenile red drum and spotted seatrout for release in Texas bays. The center offers tours, Kidfish events, many special events, and angler education to the public. Sea Center Texas is located in Lake Jackson. This center is a marine aquarium, fish hatchery and nature center. The visitor center has interpretive displays, a touch tank, and aquariums, and offers a variety of educational programs, including tours. Its marine hatchery can produce up to 15 million juvenile red drum and speckled trout each year for stocking Texas’ bays. The center’s wetlands offer incredible birding.

Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson       TPWD Copyright

Texas Research Fisheries:
The Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Center in Palacios, Texas studies genetic variability, and age, growth and reproductive characteristics of marine fish. The Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center in Mountain Home, Texas explores what is not yet known about fish. The Fish Health and Genetics Laboratory is located in San Marcos at the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery. 

Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Center  TPWD Copyright

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Spend Spring/Summer Break in Glen Rose/Granbury Area!

The historic town of Glen Rose is located on the Paluxy River in the Texas Prairies and Lakes Region of Texas, 160 miles north of Austin, 54 miles southwest of Fort Worth, and 75 miles southwest of Dallas. The town is known for its dozens of well-preserved petrified wood buildings, and its downtown historical buildings, including the 1893 Somervell County Courthouse, and the 1934 Somervell County Jail.  Outdoor attractions include the Glen Rose Bird Sanctuary on the Square, the Glen Rose River Walk, the ever popular Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, the fish stocked Wheeler Branch Reservoir (Lake) & Park, the stocked Towne Lake, and Big Rocks Park on the Paluxy River. The city owned Oakdale Park on the Paluxy River offers tent campsites, cabins, RV sites with full hook-ups, the Hang-Out building, and the seasonal Plunge Swimming Pool. Dinosaur Valley State Park on the Paluxy River is a favorite of children, and offers dinosaur prints, camping, a seasonal concession, 2 playgrounds, trails, the Blue Hole Swimming area, and equestrian use.

Dinosaur Valley State Park     TPWD Copyright

Other Glen Rose attractions include Bernard’s Mill & Art Museum, the Somervell County Historical Museum, the Creation Evidence Museum Archaeological Excavation, “The Promise” Theatre Production (Sept-Oct), the Land of the Dinosaurs Theatre, the Somervell County Heritage Center, and the Comanche Peak Steam Electric Power Plant & Visitor Center. The town and the Somervell County Expo Center host rodeos, bluegrass festivals, and other events throughout the year. An annual Rattlesnake Round-up is held in early March in Walnut Springs, Texas, 12 miles south of Glen Rose. The Glen Rose Farmers’ Market is held on Fridays. Glen Rose has several good restaurants, including Loco Coyote Grill, Storiebook CafĂ©, Riverhouse Grill, Hammond’s BBQ, and the Bernard Street Bakery.

Downtown Glen Rose        NZ Russ CC BY-SA 2.0 

The historic town of Granbury, the county seat of Hood County, is located on the Brazos River, 16 miles slightly northwest of Glen Rose. The historic courthouse square features the 1890 Hood County Courthouse, the 1886 Opera House, and the 1914 Depot which now houses the Genealogical Museum. Other museums include the Hood County Jail Museum, the Granbury Doll House Museum, the Yeats-Duke 1858 Yeats-Duke Working Museum & Teddy Bear Shop, the U.S. Veterans Museum, and the Bridge Street History Center Museum. The 1903 Granbury Light Plant and Waterworks’ 1923 and 1938 diesel engines are powered up during special town events. The Light Plant is open by special appointment. Arts include the Granbury Theater Company, the Big City Music Revue, the Lake Granbury Art Association and Stanley House Gallery, the Dora Lee Langdon Cultural & Education Center at Tarleton State University, and the Brazos Chamber Orchestra. The City of Granbury Wi-Fi Network covers approximately 10 square miles. Take the exciting Ghosts & Legends tour. The Brazos Drive-In Theater has been closed for screen repairs, and should reopen spring, 2016. The town hosts many annual events including General Granbury’s Birthday Party the third weekend in March, the annual Cruisin Car Show Memorial Day Weekend, the three day 4th of July Celebration, and the Labor Day Granbury Biker Bash. The City of Granbury Airport’s Pancake Breakfast Fly-In is held on the fourth Saturday, April through September. The Barking Rocks Vineyard tasting room is open on Saturdays, 12pm-5pm, or by appointment. The Revolver Brewing offers brewery tours on Saturdays. Granbury has several really good restaurants, including Grumps Burgers, the Rib Shack, Stumpy’s Lakeside Grill at the Lake Granbury Marina, Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, Eighteen Ninety Grille and Lounge, Joe’s Pizza and Pasta, and the Pearl Street Station. Granbury outdoor attractions include Lake Granbury, the Granbury City Park on Lake Granbury, the Granbury disc golf course, a skate park, the Hidden Oaks Golf course, and Brazos River kayaking and canoeing,

Granbury - Hood County Courthouse     bk1bennet CC BY-ND

Granbury Revolver Brewing      steevithak CC BY-SA

The historic 1906 Bluff Dale Tabernacle, the historic 1891 CR 149 Paluxy River Suspension Bridge, and the Bluff Dale Vineyards & Tasting Room are located in Bluff Dale, Texas, 15 miles southwest of Granbury, and 23 miles northwest of Glen Rose. The Acton State Historic Site, the site of Elizabeth Crockett’s grave (Davy Crockett’s widow), is located in Acton, Texas, 23 miles north of Glen Rose, and 7 miles east of Granbury. While in Acton, check out Fall Creek Farms’ "you-pick em" strawberry patch, and the 74 acre Acton Nature and Education Center. The Windmill Farm in Tolar, Texas (8 miles southwest of Granbury) is open daily for drive through tours, and is open for guided tours by appointment. Lake Cleburne and Cleburne State Park are located 24 miles northeast of Glen Rose, and 23 miles southeast of Granbury. The state park amenities include the 116 acre spring-fed Cedar Lake, 5.5 miles of mountain biking trails, hike and bike trails, tent campsites, screened shelters, a boat ramp and boat dock, a designated swimming area, playgrounds, and more! Camping is also available at Meridian State Park & lake, 23.7 miles southeast of Glen Rose, and 40 miles south of Granbury, Texas.

Cleburne State Park Cedar Lake    Earl Nottingham, TPWD Copyright

Bluff Dale Vineyards & Tasting Room    Vinotrails CC BY-SA

Saturday, January 23, 2016

We Do Have An Official Texas State Bison Herd!

Charles Goodnight moved to Texas in 1846, became a cowboy in 1856, and served with the local militia fighting Comanche Raiders. In 1857, he joined the Texas Rangers. In 1870, Goodnight married Mary Ann (Molly) Dyer, a teacher from Weatherford. Charles founded the Panhandle Stockman’s Association, and he and Mary worked hard to preserve their herd of American Bison on their JR Ranch. As a matter of interest, at the age of 91, by then a widower, Charles married Connie Goodnight (no relation); Connie became Connie Goodnight Goodnight. Lonesome Dove movie character Woodrow F. Call was based on Charles Goodnight’s life. According to the March 2011 article in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine on the Caprock Canyons State Park bison herd (American Bison), in 1994 the state was considering taking over the last remnants of Charles Goodnight’s wild bison herd. The problem was the JR Ranch did not know where the herd was located. A plane was used to scout for them and spotted them, but the herd thundered off. In 1996, the ranch donated the herd to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Since that time the 79 member herd has been moved to the state park and is undergoing dramatic changes. A breeding project has been undertaken to introduce more genetic diversity to the herd and ensure its survival. The bison now have 700 park acres to roam. As time and money allows, the territory will be expanded to cover more of the Caprock Canyons State Park, a territory that once belonged to the JA Ranch. This may be the last genetically pure bison herd in the U.S. The American Bison is only distantly related to the American Buffalo.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Let’s Play Washers! The Perfect Home or Beach Game!!

Washer tournaments are becoming more popular at festivals across the state! In fact, the January 15-16 YAGA’s Annual Chili Quest & Beer Fest in Galveston features not only over 100 craft beers, but also a Washer Tournament – washers and beer go together!! So let’s learn how to play! To set up your own washer course at home or at the beach, paint four washers (2 3/8 inch in diameter) one color; paint four more another color. Remove the contents, paper and ends from two 10 ounce Rotel tomato cans. Clean the cans. Pace off 20-21 feet and poke a screwdriver to mark each end of the washer course. Clean a two foot area round the screwdrivers and gently slop the space down to the center. Bury the cup with the lip at ground level. When standing at each cup you should be able to see the opposite cup. Play with two teams of one, or two teams of two. When playing with four people, place the two best players from each team at the same cup, and their partners at the opposite cup. Fight over which team throws first. Thereafter, the winning thrower’s team throws first. There is a special throwing technique but I can’t explain it in writing. See South Padre Island beach images below.

Beginning Throw - R Arm Will Go Back From Here

Follow Through - Open Fingers and Let Washer Go

For scoring purposes, I will assume the washers are red and green. You will need a measuring device that is accurate to the millimeter! The eight washers are thrown. A red washer is closest to the cup or in the cup. Score only those red washers that are closer to the cup than the closest of the green washers. Score 3 points for each washer in the cup. Score 2 points for lippers (washers touching the edge of the cup). Score one point for each of the other qualifying red washers. If a red washer is in the cup and a green washer lands on top of it, green wins and receives 3 points for the green washer AND 3 points for the red washer. 

Scoring is Serious Business!