Tag Archives: Texas

Angelina National Forest

Angelina National Forest

Texas

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Southern Region

402,231 acres (153,180 federal/ 249,051 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/texas/home

Overview

Angelina National Forest lies in the piney woods region of eastern Texas dominated by longleaf, loblolly, and shortleaf pine trees.  In 1935, land acquisition began to create Angelina and the three other nearby National Forests it is co-managed with (Davy Crockett, Sabine, and Sam Houston).  Sam Rayburn Reservoir bisects Angelina National Forest into a north and south section in the flooded Neches River Basin.

Highlights

Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Boykin Springs Recreation Area, Caney Creek Recreation Area, Black Branch Barrens, Bouton Lake, Aldridge Sawmill Historic Site, Sawmill Trail

Must-Do Activity

Other than Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the most developed portion of the National Forest is Boykin Springs Recreation Area.  The lake, campground, and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) structures are at the end of 2.5-mile long Forest Road 313 off Highway 63.  About twenty minutes away Bouton Lake (12 acres) is located seven miles down Forest Road 303 and offers primitive camping, fishing, and an overgrown hiking trail amidst bottomland hardwoods and baldcypress trees (please respect the private property on the west side).

Best Trail

The 5.5-mile out-and-back Sawmill Trail connects Boykin Springs Recreation Area to the Aldridge Sawmill Historic Site.  The trail goes through a burn and can be hard to follow in places due to multiple user trails, so be sure to follow the yellow-painted metal markers on trees.  The sawmill has been heavily sprayed with graffiti, but if you aim your camera up to the second story it does not look as bad.  The trail that used to connect to the sawmill from Bouton Lake has been closed since it crossed private property.

Watchable Wildlife

At Boykin Springs Recreation Area we spotted a pileated woodpecker, cardinal, robins, and crows.  The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker can be found in the longleaf pine forests.  On the Sawmill Trail we saw a copperhead snake near the creek and turtles in the pond at the end.  Hunters seek white-tailed deer, wild turkey, American woodcock, and bobwhite quail in the forest, which also provides wintering habitat for bald eagles.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A cool rock spillway originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1938 drains from the nine-acre lake at Boykin Springs Recreation Area.  It was reconstructed to its original appearance in the years after Hurricane Rita hit in 2005.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Forest Road 303 to Bouton Lake is a very good dirt road, but the west side of the lake is privately owned and a one-lane road leads to a gate, so unless you want to drive backwards for a ways just park as soon as you get to the camping area.

Camping

There are developed campgrounds at Boykin Springs and Caney Creek Recreation Areas, plus an undeveloped (and free) area to camp at Bouton Lake.

Wilderness Areas

Turkey Hill Wilderness

Upland Island Wilderness

Related Sites

Big Thicket National Preserve (Texas)

Davy Crockett National Forest (Texas)

Sabine National Forest (Texas)

Nearest National Park

Hot Springs (Arkansas)

Conifer Tree Species

baldcypress, longleaf pine, shortleaf pine, loblolly pine

Flowering Tree Species

laurel oak, blackjack oak, post oak, overcup oak, swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, water oak, black hickory, water hickory, red maple, American beech, American holly, yaupon holly, southern magnolia, sweetbay magnolia, swamp red bay, water tupelo, water elm, winged elm, Carolina ash, green ash, wax myrtle

Explore More – Other than looking cool, what function do the knees serve that protrude from the baldcypress root system?

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Waco Mammoth National Monument

Overview

Columbian mammoths grew up to 14 feet in height, much larger than woolly mammoths that reached about 10 feet.  About 65,000 years ago, a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths died in a ravine here due to unknown causes, possibly a flood or drought.  Then about 51,000 years ago, another three mammoths died at the same spot before the onset of a new glacial period.  Many of the fossils have been left in situ within the Dig Shelter, but others are on display at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex.

Highlights

Dig Shelter tour, Eagle Trail

Must-Do Activity

Established in 2015, this National Monument was already developed for visitors by the city of Waco and Baylor University.  As such, annual America the Beautiful passes provide no discount for the guided tour to the Dig Shelter where the 65,000-year-old Columbian mammoth and camel bones have been excavated.  First discovered in 1978, this dig site has since had a building constructed around it, making it a pleasant place to visit year round.

Best Trail

From the paved Mammoth Trail, there is the short Deer Loop that connects to the longer Eagle Trail.  Located south of Waco Mammoth National Monument, Cameron Park in Waco has trails along the Brazos and Bosque Rivers.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Dig Shelter is only viewable on a guided tour (admission charged).

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/waco/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$5 per person for the tour (no discount for America the Beautiful pass)

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Many private campgrounds can be found around Waco, Texas, in addition to six Corps of Engineers campgrounds on Waco Lake that take reservations.

Related Sites

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (Nebraska)

Explore More – A small tooth was discovered here from a cub of what fearsome Ice Age predator?

Fort Davis National Historic Site

Overview

The base of the Davis Mountains is the wonderfully scenic setting for Fort Davis National Historic Site, originally active from 1854 to 1891.  It was manned by U.S. troops except after Texas seceded during the Civil War, which is ironic given that it was named for Jefferson Davis.  Confederate forces obviously saw this as enough reason to occupy the remote frontier fort for a year.  The park preserves its 1867 layout, when the fort was rebuilt following five years of abandonment.

Highlights

Museum, film, historic buildings, Davis Mountains State Park

Must-Do Activity

After the Civil War, Fort Davis became famous for posting African-American “Buffalo Soldiers.”  Maybe this is why they chose to cast 7-foot-2-inch tall Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the cowboy hat-wearing narrator of the park’s introductory film.  That in-and-of-itself is worth the price of admission.  The dry Chihuahuan Desert air has preserved the 21 remaining buildings well.  Throughout the day, bugle calls on the loudspeaker will hearken you back to frontier days. 

Best Trail

A self-guided trail leads around the 523-acre property and enters six buildings: the commanding officer’s quarters, lieutenants’ quarters, barracks, commissary, hospital, and officers’ servants’ quarters.  There are other trails here and in neighboring Davis Mountains State Park, but be aware that the fort sits at 4,900 feet of elevation.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The morning we visited, mule deer were feeding on the lawn in front of the restored buildings.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/foda/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Access roads paved

Camping

If you enjoy spending time at this beautiful spot, consider camping in adjacent Davis Mountains State Park, which offers good stargazing.

Related Sites

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Explore More – Who was the first black graduate of West Point military academy briefly stationed here (before a controversial court-martial later overturned in 1976)?

Amistad National Recreation Area

Overview

Amistad translates as “friendship” from Spanish, which is fitting given that this reservoir is shared by the U.S. and Mexico.  Marinas and boat ramps provide access to the lake for watersports, like fishing and waterskiing.  The 254-foot tall dam across the Rio Grande was built in 1968 and serves as a customs station in Del Rio, Texas.  The National Park Service (NPS) runs a free museum nearby.

Highlights

Panther Cave pictographs, Seminole Canyon State Park, watersports

Must-Do Activity

Amistad National Recreation Area is also famous for its 4,000-year-old pictographs, which can most easily be accessed on guided tours of Seminole Canyon State Park, 45 miles outside Del Rio, Texas on Highway 90.  Admission is charged for the museum and tour, but provides the only way to see the colorful artwork in Fate Bell Shelter.  Viewing fossils in the limestone was an added bonus on the tour.

Best Trail

The pictographs in Panther Cave can be seen from afar by hiking a trail in the state park or up-close by boating to the dock and climbing a steep stairway. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you are unable to hike down into the canyon, the Seminole Canyon State Park museum has a replica of the rock art.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/amis/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Boating passes start at $4 for a 1-day pass, $8 per person to tour Seminole Canyon State Park

Road Conditions

All major roads paved

Camping

Two NPS campgrounds are available at Governors Landing and San Pedro and there is a campground at Seminole Canyon State Park.

Related Sites

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas)

Waco Mammoth National Monument (Texas)

Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Explore More – How many miles of the Rio Grande do the park’s boundaries encompass?

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Overview

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is composed of two separate sites located 14 miles apart in Johnson City and Stonewall, Texas.  Museums here highlight the significant legislation that passed during his presidency from 1963-1969, including the pivotal Civil Rights Act, and, for nature lovers, the Wilderness Act.  Additions to the National Park Service (NPS) system during his presidency were extensive, including five sites in his home state of Texas (see Related Sites below).

Highlights

Johnson Settlement, films, Texas White House, Johnson Family Cemetery

Must-Do Activity

The 36th President of the United States is typically referred to as LBJ.  Birders know an “LBJ” as an acronym for those hard to identify “little brown jobs” that flit away before you can focus them in your binoculars.  Fittingly, President LBJ’s wife was named Lady Bird, and together they did much to preserve our public lands for native plants and animals.  Around the boyhood home where LBJ grew up in Johnson City, there are plenty of birds to watch, as well as longhorn cattle.  A driving tour through the Stonewall property (14 miles west) requires a permit from the LBJ State Park and Historic Site.  Once you get that, tickets for a guided tour of the Texas White House are available at the NPS visitor center located inside the Airplane Hangar.

Best Trail

A walking tour through Johnson City includes stops at Withers and Spauldings General Store, LBJ’s boyhood home, and barns and cabins that date back to the 1800s within the Johnson Settlement.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Longhorn cattle can be seen at the Johnson Settlement in Johnson City, Texas.  Hereford cattle are still raised at the working ranch in Stonewall.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/lyjo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None except for the Texas White House tour ($3 per person or free with the America the Beautiful pass)

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

East of Johnson City, Pedernales Falls State Park has a campground, as does Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Related Sites

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas)

Explore More – Which resort in Florida (later owned by a future U.S. President) was designated a National Historic Site under the Johnson administration (then eventually sold and disbanded)?