Making plans for summer vacation? It’s a beautiful world and there are many options, but sometimes the real adventure can be found in your own backyard.
Most Texans have fond memories of visiting our State and National Parks during family vacations or school field trips. Hiking, biking, canoeing and swimming made for busy days, while roasting marshmallows around a campfire underneath a breathtaking canopy of twinkling stars ensured peaceful nights.
If it’s been a while since you hiked Big Bend or canoed down the Rio Grande, this is the perfect year to become reacquainted with some true Texas gems. The National Park Service is commemorating their 100th anniversary this year and they are celebrating by encouraging everyone to “Find Your Park.”
Did you know that the 23rd Congressional District of Texas has seven National Parks in our borders?
Without question, Big Bend National Park is the best known and most frequented park. The views during the day are, in a word, breathtaking! And it only gets better at night. The lyrics, “the stars at night, are big and bright,” were surely inspired by a trip to Big Bend. It is truly a glorious sight that no one should miss.
Located near Del Rio is the Amistad National Recreation Area, often described as “an oasis in the desert.” The Amistad Reservoir is the perfect place for folks who enjoy fishing and other water activities. You can also camp, hike, see rock art and learn more about the large variety of local plant and wild life.
History comes to life at Fort Davis National Historic Site, where the legendary 10th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldier” regiments served from 1867 to 1885. You can step back into a 19th century frontier post and learn more about the important role the military played in the settlement of this part of Texas.
If riding the rapids is more your speed, head to the Rio Grande, Wild and Scenic River for an adventure your family won’t forget. The canyons and limestone cliffs surrounding the river provide a view that is unsurpassed.
Learn about more than 300 years of Southwest history at the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail. This “royal road” has many historical stops along the way, including the beautiful Ysleta Mission Church in El Paso and La Purisima Mission in Socorro. Also in Socorro is Casa Ortiz, and Los Portales and San Elceario Catholic Church are in nearby San Elizario.
The views are majestic at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and the variety of wildlife is phenomenal. And you might be lucky enough to find a fossil while backpacking on one of the more than 80 trails available.
Most of the country is at least familiar with the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, but not everyone is aware that there are four more missions in the area that make up the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. The Mission Reach hike and bike trail will lead you to Missions Concepción, San José, San Juan and finally Mission Espada, which is located in 23rd Congressional District. And the San Antonio Missions recently received international recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first in Texas to receive this exclusive designation. Come be amazed by beautiful architecture and learn more about the rich history surrounding these missions.
There is so much more that could be said about each of these amazing places, but words simply can’t do them all justice. They must be experienced.
This is National Parks Week and the perfect time to start celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks Service. Don’t wait – go #FindYourPark in Texas 23! For more information on specific park locations, please visit findyourpark.com.
Top image: National Parks Conservation Association Suzanne Dixon, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), and a park volunteer at Big Bend National Park. Photo courtesy of Will Hurd.