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100 years of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

You can't beat the view! Inks Lake State Park is one of several Texas State Parks in the Highland Lakes celebrating the Texas Parks and Wildlife's 100-year anniversary in 2023. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is celebrating 100 years in 2023 with fun activities planned at parks across the state, including several in the Highland Lakes.

The department traces its origins to the Fish and Oyster Commission, founded in 1895 by the Texas Legislature to regulate fishing. In 1907, state lawmakers added the Game Department to the commission. And in 1923, the State Parks Board was created as a separate entity — and the countdown to 100 years began.

It wasn’t until 1963 when the Legislature decided to merge the State Parks Board and the Game and Fish Commission that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was created.

Operating more than 90 parks across the state, the TPWD is tasked with managing and protecting wildlife and maintaining parklands and historic areas.

In honor of its centennial celebration, the TPWD has several fun activities planned for Texans, including guided hikes and workshops.

The department is also hosting a traveling art exhibit with pieces depicting the beauty of Texas State Parks. The exhibit will stop at several museums, including the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.

Closer to home, Texas State Parks in the Highland Lakes are open for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers to celebrate the state's scenic beauty and wildlife along with the TPWD's 100-year anniversary.

They include:

INKS LAKE STATE PARK

3630 Park Road 4 West, Burnet

Day-use entrance is $7 for ages 13 and older and free for ages 12 and younger.

Cool off in Devil's Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey


Inks Lake State Park is a destination for everyone, offering a wide range of fun activities to keep you busy, including camping, fishing, swimming, paddling, and hiking.

Pitch a tent or hook up an RV on one of nearly 200 campsites, backpack through 9 miles of hiking trails among wooded forests and jagged hills, geocache for treasures, or simply sit and enjoy the park's diverse flora and fauna.

Cool off with a dip in Devil's Waterhole, boat, water ski, scuba dive, or drop a line for sunfish, catfish, and several species of bass in beautiful Inks Lake.

The park has a couple of 100-year anniversary events planned so far: a Fun For All Celebration with activities adapted for accessibility needs on May 6 and a Boat-A-Thon for non-motorized watercraft on July 15.

LONGHORN CAVERN STATE PARK

6211 Park Road 4 South in Burnet

Entrance and parking are free; cave tours by fee.

Go below ground at Longhorn Cavern State Park. Staff photo


The most unique geology in the Highland Lakes can be found at Longhorn Cavern State Park, where you can explore below ground on a variety of cave tours — including a wild one!

Above the surface are hiking trails, picnic tables, and "parkitechture," stone buildings constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. You can even get a distant view of a castle.

BLANCO STATE PARK

101 Park Road 23 in Blanco

Day-use entrance is $5 for ages 13 and older and free for ages 12 and younger.

Find peace at Blanco State Park. Staff photo


This small park along the babbling Blanco River is a peaceful place to walk, camp, paddle, swim, and fish, particularly for rainbow trout — stocked by the TPWD in the winter — Guadalupe and largemouth bass, and channel catfish.

Blanco State Park celebrates the 100-year anniversary on May 20.

PEDERNALES FALLS STATE PARK

2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City

Day-use entrance is $6 for ages 13 and older and free for ages 12 and younger.

Explore the unique rock formations at Pedernales Falls State Park. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell


Another popular outdoors spot is Pedernales Falls State Park. With its location along the Pedernales River, you can enjoy the park’s turbulent streams by swimming, fishing, and paddling.

On land, explore its trails by foot, mountain bike, or horseback. The park's rugged scenery includes river limestone that's about 300 million years old.

And don't forget to relax!

Pedernales Falls marks the TPWD's centennial with a Celebration Under the Stars on April 22.

LYNDON B. JOHNSON STATE PARK & HISTORIC SITE

199 Park Road 52 in Stonewall (west of Johnson City)

Entrance is free.

Get a history lesson at the Sauer-Beckmann Farm, part of Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site. Staff photo


Celebrate the life of America’s 36th president and Texas Hill Country native at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site.

The park houses several educational exhibits. The Sauer-Beckmann Farm and Behrens Cabins give insight into the area's lengthy history of the area. For more lessons on the past, tour nearby LBJ Ranch, which includes the Texas White House. Longhorns, bison, and wildflowers roam and grow on the acreage.

ENCHANTED ROCK STATE NATURAL AREA

16710 RR 965 in Fredericksburg (near the Llano County line)

Day-use entrance is $8 for ages 13 and older and free for ages 12 and younger.

Hike to the top of Enchanted Rock. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell


The most stunning views of the Texas Hill Country can be found at Enchanted Rock. This massive pink granite dome — rooted in lore and mystery — has been a hotspot for nature lovers long before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began taking care of it 1978.

Popular activities include rock climbing, stargazing (it's an International Dark Sky Park), camping, picnicking, birdwatching, geocaching, and, of course, hiking. The park's nearly 11 miles of trails span the site, including the iconic Summit Trail to the top of the rock.

Enchanted Rock is celebrating a birthday of its own — 45 years — on March 2.

COLORADO BEND STATE PARK

1201 Colorado Park Road in Bend (west of Lampasas)

Day-use entrance is $5 for ages 13 and older and free for ages 12 and younger.

Enjoy cool pools at Colorado Bend State Park. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell


With a waterfall, springs, caves, and 35 miles of hiking and biking trails, Colorado Bend State Park has something for everyone.

The park’s most popular attraction, the 70-foot spring-fed Gorman Falls, is a can’t-miss for intrepid explorers, who must traverse 3 miles of rugged terrain to reach it.

Visitors can also camp, including at primitive hike-in sites, fish, and tour caves.

For more fun things to do outside, check out the 101 Outdoors Guide and Hiking Guide.

nathan@thepicayune.com

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