Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine
Barton Warnock Visitor Center in Big Bend Ranch State Park is one of the lesser-known parks in the system, but a can’t miss on your trip out West. Photo by Gary Nored
Our Year of State Parks in 2016 featured some of Texas’ most iconic properties, but sometimes these popular parks are crowded. Here are a handful of names that might be less familiar, but their natural beauty makes them hidden gems.
CLEBURNE STATE PARK
A scenic 3-mile roadway winds around the serene, spring-fed, 116-acre lake with a beautiful 1930s-era stone masonry dam and bridge. Close to Fort Worth, Dinosaur Valley State Park and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, the park offers geocaching and 5.5 miles of mountain biking.
LAKE BOB SANDLIN STATE PARK
Connect with the pioneer lifestyle by attending Dutch oven cooking classes or visiting the graves of Fort Sherman’s settlers. The lighted pier is a nighttime hot spot for crappie and bass. Bald eagles winter on the lake; every fall, watch the changing colors of dogwood, redbud and maple trees.
BONHAM STATE PARK
This park near the Oklahoma border features a no-wake lake and hand-built local limestone and eastern red cedar structures: a dance terrace, picnic tables, water fountains and barbecue pits. Nearby attractions include Eisenhower State Park and Sam Bell Maxey House State Historic Site.
FORT PARKER STATE PARK
An hour east of Waco, this state park is named after nearby Old Fort Parker, a replica of the fort where Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped. Rent a kayak to experience otherworldly sunsets over Lake Springfield, formed by a CCC-crafted dam across the Navasota River.
BARTON WARNOCK VISITOR CENTER
Before you begin your excursion into Big Bend, stop here to give desert plants a name. There’s a self-guided 2-acre botanical garden and a nearly 100-acre environmental education center where you can learn prehistoric art painting, light drawing and night photography.