Wednesday, June 8, 2016

See Texas Lakes Closures & Partial Closures!

Some Texas Lakes Are Closed or Partially Closed to Boating!

The recent Texas rains have been so heavy that they could cover the whole State of Texas in eight inches of water. Central Texas lakes closed to recreational boating include Lake Travis, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Austin, (Town Lake) in downtown Austin. In other parts of Texas, Lake Worth (Fort Worth) and Lavon Lake (Wylie, TX) are closed to boating. All campgrounds and boat ramps on Proctor Lake (Proctor TX) are closed. Murrell Park and all boat ramps on Lake Grapevine (Grapevine TX) are closed.

Belton Lake    USACE

Many other lakes have partial park and/or boat ramp closures, including Aquilla Lake (Hillsboro TX), Bardwell Lake (Ennis TX), Belton Lake (Belton TX), Benbrook Lake (Benbrook TX), Lake Georgetown (Georgetown TX), Joe Pool Lake (Grand Prairie & Cedar Hill TX), Lake O' the Pines (Jefferson TX), Lewisville Lake (Lewisville TX), Navarro Mills Lake (Dawson TX), Ray Roberts Lake parks (Denton TX) Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Zavalla TX), Wright Patman Lake (Atlanta TX), and Lake Somerville (Somerville TX). Lake Waco closures include all marinas and campgrounds, except Bosque Park Day Use. Lake Whitney closures include all campgrounds and marinas.

Lake O.C. Fisher 2011 Drought    Travis Dowell, USGS

On the flip side, some lakes are still experiencing drought problems. The swimming beaches at Hords Creek Lake near Coleman, Texas are closed due to drought. All boat ramps on O.C. Fisher Reservoir are closed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Add Lake Travis to Central TX Lakes Closed To Boating!

Lake Travis    Rahel Eden Copyright

An indefinite ban was imposed on Lake Travis boating today after heavy rains and high waters swept lawn chairs and other debris into the lake. LCRA officials said it could be days or weeks before the ban is lifted, depending how much more rain falls and where it falls. Monday's rains at Mansfield Dam Park submerged some of the benches, barbecue pits, part of the boat ramp, and other amenities. This ban is in addition to the recreational boating bands on Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake). 

Mansfield Dam Park Boat Ramp 3/21/09  Rahel Eden Copyright 

Mansfield Dam Park Picnic Area 3/29/09  Rahel Eden Copyright

Lake Travis Cypress Creek Park Boat Ramp 3.21/09  Rahel Eden Copyright

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Few Central Texas Lakes Closed Due to Rains

June 3, 2016: Due to heavy rains, the recreational boating ban on Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake has been extended until Monday, June 6 at 12pm.

Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake)  Michael Rutledge  CC BY

Lake Austin    Rahel Eden Copyright

June 3, 2016: The LCRA has temporarily suspended recreational boating on Inks Lake, Lake Marble Falls, and Lake LBJ.

Lake Marble Falls   Public Domain

Lake LBJ at FM 1431  Rahel Eden Copyright

Inks Lake    Rahel Eden Copyright

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Plan a Great Trip to El Paso Today!!

El Paso, Texas, the county seat of El Paso County, is an incredible city located in the Chihuahuan Desert many miles from most anywhere in Texas! It is bordered by New Mexico, and the Rio Grande River/Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It is probably because of its isolated location that it has transformed itself into a “mini-state within a state” with so much to see and do that residents can live there for years and never be bored, and visitors can’t hope to experience all that is El Paso in a week or two! This is definitely the town that “Never Stops Entertaining!” El Paso is rich with history. The Folsom points found at Hueco Tanks State Park are evidence that the El Paso area has been settled by humans for thousands of years. In the 16th century, Spaniards named the Franklin Mountains pass El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North). The Spanish mission towns of Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario are located near El Paso. Ysleta was established in the 1650s, and the latter two towns were established by 1862.

El Paso Aerial View    Secretary of Defense CC BY

El Paso is the home of Fort Bliss which was established to protect settlers and travelers from hostile Indians, and to protect U.S. lands acquired after the Mexican War. A replica of the 1854-1868 fort was constructed in 1948. Its adobe buildings include Sutler’s Store, a kitchen, blacksmith, barracks, harness shop, a carpenter’s shop, and the pottery. The buildings are filled with replica period pieces representing the year 1857. Admission is free. Other Fort Bliss museums include Old Ironsides Museum, and the U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Heritage and Education Center.

Adobe Replica of the 1854-1868 Fort CC BY 

Other interesting El Paso sites include the historic El Paso WPA Post Office Mural, the Chamizal National Memorial, the 1914-1918 Saint Patrick Cathedral, Union Station (the first international train station in the U.S), the historic (and recently renovated) San Jacinto Plaza, the Tigua Indian Reservation Cultural Center & Speaking Rock Entertainment Center, the Sierra de Cristo Rey site, the historic Concordia Cemetery (Boot Hill), and the Socorro, San Elizario, and Ysleta Missions. El Paso is currently in the process of reconstructing its historic 4.8 mile trolley line. The line will feature six restored vintage President’s Conference Committee streetcars that were used in El Paso until 1974.

Mount Christo Rey       MJCdetroit CC BY-SA 3.0

Museum lovers could easily spend a week visiting the many other El Paso museums, including The National Border Patrol Museum, the Railroad & Transportation Museum of El Paso, the El Paso Holocaust Museum & Study Center, the Centennial Museum and Gardens, the El Paso Museum of History, the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, the El Paso Medical Heritage Collections Museum, the War Eagles Museum, and other fascinating history museums. Art museums include the Lynx Exhibits, the El Paso Museum of Art, and the International Museum of Art. The 19 room 1875 Magoffin Home State Historic Site features vintage photos, art, and period pieces.  

El Paso Railroad Museum    mr_t_77 CC BY-SA

El Paso is rich in performing arts. The town’s fabulous facilities include the Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Center, the Shakespeare on the Rocks Theatre Company at the Chamizal National Memorial, the Magoffin Auditorium at UT El Paso, the Abraham Chavez Theatre, the UT El Paso Dinner Theatre, and the El Paso Playhouse. Performances include the El Paso Opera, the El Paso Symphony, the El Paso Ballet, Broadway shows, and the Showtime Concert Series. The Sun Bowl, McKelligon Canyon Pavilion at Franklin Mountains State Park, the Don Haskins Center, and other venues host nationally recognized music artists.

Abraham Chavez Theatre CC BY

There is always something going on in El Paso! Annual events are plentiful and varied – Alfresco! Fridays (concerts), summer Shakespeare, Cool Canyon Nights summer concerts at McKelligon Canyon, mountain bike races, 5Ks and marathons, triathlons, beer, Margarita & food festivals, championship bull riding, rodeos, live music festivals, a poppy festival, Comic Con, a balloon festival, street festivals, the Ysleta Mission Festival, art festivals, El Paso Zoo events, and many Christmas festivities. Other entertainment includes the El Paso Chihuahuas minor league baseball team, the Sunland Park, New Mexico Racetrack and Casino, the El Paso Speedway Park, Wet N Wild Waterworld in Anthony, Texas, the Western Playland Amusement Park in Sunland, New Mexico, and the El Paso Rhinos Hockey team. Winter public ice skating is available at the Rhinos Hockey rink. There is always something going on at the Judson F. Williams Convention Center, including garden shows, conventions, trade shows, and many special events. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the area wineries, the farmer’s markets, and many outstanding restaurants, including CafĂ© Mayapan, Nolita Corner Bistro, Zino’s Greek and Mediterranean Cuisine, The Healthy Pizza Company, The Magic Pan, Cattleman’s Steakhouse, the Happy Monk, and many more!

El Paso StreetFest Mechanical Bull CC BY

El Paso is an education mecca! The Tech H2O Center teaches Chihuahuan Desert water management, and has wildlife and flora viewing areas, a Xeriscape garden, the Rio Grande Auditorium, an amphitheater, an exhibit hall, two classrooms and an outdoor plaza. Tours are available by reservation. Area learning institutions include the University of Texas at El Paso, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso, Howard Payne University El Paso Campus, Vista College, and the El Paso Community College. The Jane Burges Perrenot Research Center’s historical documents, archives, over 7,500 vintage postcards, and an extensive collection of vintage photos are available to the public for research. El Paso’s public libraries are outstanding and offer many children, youth and adult programs.

University of Texas El Paso     Adrian Garcia CC BY

El Paso really shines with its outdoor facilities and activities. Sites include the El Paso Zoo, the Centennial Museum and gardens, Feather Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, the El Paso Wilderness Park (& Archaeology Museum), the El Paso Municipal Rose Garden, and the El Paso Community Gardens. The El Paso Parks Department manages many beautiful parks, swimming pools, skate parks, and many hike and bike trails, and hosts a large number of athletic programs, including tennis and swimming clubs. Ascarate Park and 48 acre Lake is very popular and offers great fishing, sports fields and sports courts, and an aquatic center. The non-profit Ascarate Fishing Club for Children is extremely popular with the kids. There are several area fishing ponds. The walking trail along the Rio Grande River offers stunning river views. The Franklin Mountains and Franklin Mountains State Park are located within El Paso’s City limits. The park offers camping, mountain biking (some of the best in Texas!), hiking and rock climbing, and hosts many public events. The Wyler Aerial Tramway is one of the town’s most popular tourist attractions, and offers stunning views of the surrounding area. The nearby Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site is world famous for its rock climbing! Birding is excellent at Keystone Heritage Park, the Fort Bliss ponds, the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park and other area sites; many bird checklists are available. Golf is a popular sport. The non-profit First Tee of Greater El Paso promotes character development in youth through its golf program offered to children ages 5-18.

Franklin Mountains State Park Mountain Biking   TPWD Copyright

Wyler Aerial Tramway


Saturday, March 12, 2016

TPWD Oversees the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd!

We do have an official Texas State Longhorn herd!

Fort Griffin State Historic Site Cattle Round-Up              charlie llewellin CC BY-SA

 In 1936, Fort Worth businessman Sid Richardson believed Texas was about to lose the Texas Longhorn. He believed the longhorns were closer to extinction that the buffalo. He discussed this issue with Texas Historian J. Frank Dobie of Austin, Texas. The two reached an arrangement to establish a Texas State Longhorn herd. Richardson would provide the funding and Dobie would find and select the longhorns. Dobie enlisted the help of longtime cattle detector, rancher and longhorn raiser, Graves Peeler. They traveled throughout South Texas selecting 20 head. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department volunteered to protect and preserve the herd. The longhorns were initially placed at Lake Corpus Christi State Park. Richardson then asked Dobie and Peeler to locate another herd. It was difficult to find more quality longhorns. Dobie and Peeler had to drive hundreds of miles on both sides of the Rio Grande River. By the end of 1942, they had located a few more and these were placed at Lake Brownwood State Park. By 1948, the longhorns had been removed from Brownwood and Christi State Parks. Twenty one longhorns had been relocated to Fort Griffin State Park (now Fort Griffin State Historic Site), and the remaining longhorns were sold. The longhorns have been one of Fort Griffin’s greatest assets, attracting visitors from all over the world. Since 1948, Fort Griffin has been the official home and manager of the herd. Fort Griffin places longhorns in other state parks for exhibition, range management, and breeding purposes. Currently, portions of the herd are located at Copper Breaks State Park, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and San Angelo State Park.

San Angelo State Park Longhorn Herd            TPWD Copyright

Big Bend Ranch State Park has a longhorn herd that is part of its legacy, but their herd is not a part of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd, and in recent years they have reduced the size of the herd in order to focus the use of park funds on other areas.

 Big Bend Ranch State Park Calf Branding    charlie llewellin CC BY-SA


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Learn Glass Blowing Art at Texas Glass Blowing Studios!

You may have seen glass blowing demonstrations at Wimberley Glassworks in Wimberley, Texas, and thought it would be fun to learn the art! It would be fun and it would be great to be able to make your own Christmas ornaments, lamp shades, bowls, and decorative art. Several studios in Texas offer classes and workshops. Sand-N-Fire Studio Glass in New Caney offers glass bead and marble making classes for those of all skill levels, and offers fusion classes throughout the year. The Beeville campus of Coastal Bend College offers summer classes in the art of glass blowing.

Wimberley Glass Works

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Vetro Glass Blowing Studio in Grapevine offers a large variety of classes and workshops, and offers tours of the facility. In Fort Worth, the non-profit SiNaCa Studios Glass Art & Gallery offers glass art lessons for those of all skill levels, from beginners to professionals. It also teaches glass arts in youth programs, and offers community gallery shows. Dallas’ Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass Studios operates a full service art glass studio, and hosts classes and workshops in stained glass techniques, fusing, and beadmaking.

In Central Texas you can learn the art in San Antonio and Austin. In San Antonio, Caliente Hot Glass Studio offers individual and group lessons. In Austin you can learn the art at East Side Glass Blowing, Helios Fused Glass Studio, and at the Glass Monkey School of Glass Blowing. Glass Monkey will prepare you for a career in glass blowing. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Learn How to Camp at TPWD Outdoor Family Camping Workshops!

Texas Parks & Wildlife Outdoor Family Camping Workshops are family camping sessions designed to teach camping skills to those who do not know how to camp. Everything is provided from tent to broom. Gear includes a coffee pot, dishes, cooking pots, a camp stove, a battery operated fan and lantern, air mattresses, and a tent. Basic skills taught include pitching a tent, making a campfire, cooking on a propane camp stove, and Dutch oven cooking. Wildlife viewing, fishing, geocaching, kayaking, and many other outdoor activities are offered depending on the park and its facilities. After making reservations, families will be sent a packet of information which includes a list of groceries the family must bring. Those interested in this program may sign up for E-Mail Updates on currently scheduled workshops. Brazos Bend State Park (Gulf Coast) and Cedar Hill State Park (Dallas Area) are hosting Outdoor Family Camping Workshops the weekend of March 12, 2016. Other scheduled workshops include Estero Llano Grande State Park (Weslaco, 9 April), Franklin Mountains State Park (El Paso, 16 April), and Brazos Bend SP (23 April). Garner State Park’s workshop on the weekend of 1 April has a waiting list - always make reservations early at this popular state park! Workshops will continue through spring, summer and fall.

Supplies are Provided - You Bring Food

The Dutch Oven was designated the official State Cooking Implement by the Texas State Legislature for a reason - there is nothing more wonderful than an early morning spent outdoors enjoying the smell of bacon, biscuits, and hash browns (with onion) frying/baking in a Dutch Oven! Add cool or cold weather, and the scene is perfect! You may also cook cobblers, cornbread, stews, and other foods in the oven. Many of the Texas State Parks, Texas State Historical Parks (Fort Smith and others), and private historical parks, such as the George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond, Texas, offer Dutch Oven cooking demonstrations on weekends. Local chapters of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society host cooking demonstrations, and offer information, cooking classes, a cookbook, teachers for novices, and organized family cook-outs. You may also cook with Dutch ovens in your own kitchen, and many of you may be able to cook in your backyards. Besides being a fun hobby, Dutch oven skills may be useful when your electricity is out. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Some Public Libraries Help You Entertain Your Kids While You Travel!

We all know most Texas’ public libraries provide traditional library programs, children, youth and adult programs, summer programs, genealogy resources, public access computers with internet connections, and free Wi-Fi. But did you know that a number of these public libraries are also providing a fairly new service called Hoopla Digital. This is a Netflix type service that permits library members to download movies, e-books, music and other entertainment to their personal devices. Up to five may be downloaded each month either from the library or online. The library pays a fee (sometimes a large fee) to Hoopla Digital in order to provide you this free service. So next time you are traveling remember that your child’s travel entertainment may be available from your public library! Towns whose libraries currently offer this service include Austin, Pflugerville, Abilene, Angleton, Cedar Park, Denton, Farmers Branch, Frisco, Houston, Hurst, Irving, Lewisville, Longview, Euless, Richardson, Rosenberg, Humble, Spring, Clear Lake City, Seabrook, El Lago, Katy, Crosby, Cypress, Tomball, La Porte, Kingwood, Jacinto City, Galena Park, Highlands, Conroe, Magnolia, Montgomery, New Caney, the Woodlands, Needville, Fulshear, Katy, Sugar Land, Stafford, and Missouri City. Click on the Town menu bar at the top of the page for more town information.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Powderhorn Ranch A Texas State Park By 2021?!

The 2014 Powderhorn Ranch purchase was a joint effort by the TPWD, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Conservation Fund, and the Nature Conservancy of Texas. The Nature Conservancy will hold a permanent conservation easement on the property, and has a contract through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to provide habitat management for the first the first two years. The land will be transferred to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2018. 

Denman Family Ranch House & Pier   Earl Nottingham, TPWD Copyright

The 17,351 acre ranch has the largest remaining undisturbed tracts of native coastal prairie habitat left in Texas. The ranch has 3.7 miles of frontage on FM 1287, 4.4 miles frontage on SH 185, 4.0 miles frontage on Live Oak Bayou, 5.5 miles frontage on Matagorda Bay, and 5.9 miles frontage on the shoreline of Powderhorn Lake, a tidally influenced, secondary bay off Matagorda Bay. Habitat consists of tidal flats, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, oak mottes, and tallgrass prairie. TPWD will use a portion of the ranch near the old air strip to create a state park which will offer canoeing and kayaking, kayak fishing, wade fishing, hiking, camping, hunting and other activities. The remainder of the ranch land will be a Wildlife Management Area. A possible opening date would be in 2021. Until that time the park may be open for limited uses, such as fishing, hunting, paddling, and use by birding and scout groups.

Fringe Marshes    Earl Nottingham, TPWD Copyright

“If ever there was a sportsman’s paradise, it’s the Powderhorn Ranch,” says Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. “The place is literally teeming with fish and wildlife.” The wetlands are critical year-round for waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. Spring birding can be incredible. The woodlands and scrub, and freshwater wetlands provide important “fall-out” areas for migrating songbirds, including painted buntings, tanagers, warblers, and grosbeaks. Powderhorn Lake is #032 on the Calhoun Birding Loop of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, Central Gulf Coast Region. Wildlife also includes feral hogs, Sambar deer, axis deer, a variety of fish species (including spotted sea trout and redfish), blue crab (in tide pools), oysters, and alligators.

Tide Pools     Earl Nottingham, TPWD Copyright

The ranch is located just northwest of Port O’Connor, and approximately three miles south of a unit of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, three miles north of the north end of Matagorda Island, 13 miles northeast of the Welder Flats Coastal Preserve, 20 miles east of the Guadalupe Delta WMA, and 28 miles southwest of the Mad Island WMA.

Powderhorn Ranch Acquisition Map    Earl Nottingham, TPWD Copyright