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Home | Tag Archives: Texas State Parks

Tag Archives: Texas State Parks

Texas State Parks Reservation System Unveils New Features Ahead of Spring Break

AUSTIN— For Texans and visitors planning a day or overnight trip to a Texas State Park, the process just got easier with new online features available in the Texas State Parks reservation system.

The new options allow visitors to reserve a specific campsite, buy day passes in advance and buy or renew a Texas State Parks Pass online.

“We are excited to introduce these helpful features to park visitors and provide a new way to efficiently schedule a trip, either for the day or overnight, to any Texas State Park,” says Rodney Franklin, Director of Texas State Parks. “These options give park goers the ability to plan their perfect state park vacation, no matter where and when they want travel.”

The system includes online features that are mobile-friendly and easy to use.

Visitors now have the option to purchase day use passes up to one month in advance, guaranteeing access to parks even during busy times like weekends and holidays. The new “Save the Day” pass helps address the growing issue of visitors not being able to get into a popular state parks due to overcrowding.

Day passes for some of the more popular parks have specific arrival time slots. Visitors to parks such as Balmorhea State Park, Brazos Bend State Park, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Garner and Government Canyon State Natural Area can select an arrival time and have the peace of mind knowing they can get in to the park.

Anyone planning overnight trips at a Texas State Park can now choose a specific site when making reservations up to five months in advance. Photos and details of campsites, shelters and cabins are available online, so campers can pick their site before arriving at the park.

Visitors can search for sites by specific parks and site types, see photos of the site before making their decision and see details for each site including utilities, parking pad length and width, and amount of shade.

Larger families and groups can also select and reserve neighboring sites, so they can enjoy the outdoors together.

Parkgoers can also renew or purchase a Texas State Parks Pass online. With a Texas State Parks Pass, an entire vehicle of guests gets unlimited visits to more than 90 Texas State Parks with no entry fee for 12 months.

Texas State Parks are making every effort to make the reservation system upgrades as smooth as possible. All existing park reservations have been moved into the new system and are secure.

Any customers experiencing issues may contact the Customer Service Center at (512) 389-8900. However, in the early days of the improved system, Customer Service Center wait times are expected to be longer than normal due to increased demand.

For more information about the system, or to make a reservation to a Texas State Park, go online.

Franklin Mountains State Park Breaks Ground on New Visitor’s Center

Friday morning, officials with Franklin Mountains State Park broke ground on the new park visitor’s center, kicking off the start of construction for the first facility to be built inside the state park since its establishment in 1979.

Franklin Mountains State Park is perfectly positioned to provide citizens to one of America’s great cities with extraordinary access to the outdoors,” says Texas State Parks Director Brent Leisure.  “We are excited to finally break ground on this long-awaited visitor center which will welcome and orient thousands of park visitors for generations to come.”

Attendees to this morning’s groundbreaking event had a chance to hear from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff, local officials and see artistic renderings of the new visitor’s center.

Speakers at the event included Sen. José Rodriguez, Rep. Joe Moody, Texas State Parks Director Brent Leisure, TPWD Infrastructure Director Jessica Davisson and Franklin Mountains State Park Superintendent Cesar Mendez.

“Constructing a visitor center within the nation’s largest urban wilderness park has been a central goal for many years and we are getting closer to accomplishing it,” says Mendez. “This new facility will be great gift to Franklin Mountains State Park and the local community.”

Soon to be located on the western slopes of the mountains in the park’s Tom Mays Unit, the visitor’s center will house the park’s administrative space and public space both indoors and outdoors.

Exhibits in the new facility will include interpretive material covering the natural and cultural history of the mountains and the park, as well as orientation on the park’s trails, facilities and activities for park visitors. Additionally, there will be a large classroom building to host presentations and educational/interpretive programs for school groups, meetings and gatherings.

“For the past 18 years, the park’s headquarters have been located outside of the state park,” says Mendez. “We envision this brand-new facility enhancing tremendously the access to the park and the visitors’ experiences, as well as improving the overall park operations. This important project was possible thanks to the invaluable support from the local community and state leadership.”

The almost 27,000-acre park has more than 130 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails for visitors to recreate. The Tom Mays Unit is the only area within the park with picnic sites, campsites, and composting restrooms.

North Franklin Peak, located at an elevation of 7,192 feet over sea level is the highest point on the mountain range. Also located within the park are small natural springs that offer an oasis for animals and park visitors in the desert landscape.

For more information about Franklin Mountains State Park, visit the parks’ webpage

Big Bend Ranch State Park Receives International Dark Sky Park Designation

TERLINGUA – Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP) is the latest Texas State Park to be designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). Joining neighboring Big Bend National Park, they form one of the largest contiguous areas under dark-skies protection in the United States.


“Big Bend Ranch State Park’s achievement in becoming an IDA International Dark Sky Park is an important step forward in the conservation of some of the darkest night skies remaining in the lower 48 states,” said IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend. “Along with neighboring Big Bend National Park, we have now secured the protection of natural nighttime darkness over an area larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island.”


Located in the remote and rugged Trans-Pecos region of far West Texas, BBRSP is bounded by the Rio Grande with the steep mesas of Mexico to the south and vast rural ranchland to the north. At 315,000 acres, BBRSP is the largest park in the Texas State Park system. The park lies within the Chihuahuan Desert, which is home to a diversity of plants and animals, and has a deep human history.


“Big Bend Ranch SP is known for its remote location and the feeling of being in the wilderness. Preserving the dark sky is key to that experience and something all visitors treasure,” said Mark Lockwood, Region 1 Director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).   


BBRSP joins Copper Breaks State Park, South Llano River State Park and Enchanted Rock State Park in holding the prestigious IDA designation.


As part of its certification effort, BBRSP inventoried and assessed the condition of all outdoor lighting in the park and created an effective management plan for current and future lighting installations. The park also developed a program to educate park visitors and area residents about the importance of dark night skies and the benefits of quality outdoor lighting. Additionally, BBRSP has invested in its staff by offering professional development opportunities and materials related to dark skies.


As part of its dark-sky initiative, BBRSP will launch a Dark Sky Steward program to involve the public in helping monitor the condition of the park’s night skies over time.  The program enlists volunteers with an interest or expertise in astronomy and astrophotography to gather observations of the night sky from various locations in the park.  The observations and images generated by our volunteers will be used to track the quality of the night sky, as well as for promotional and educational purposes in interpretive and outreach programs. The park will host an event to celebrate our designation in the near future.

Contact Amber Harrison at the Barton Warnock Visitor Center at 432-424-3327 for more information on the Dark Sky Steward program and visit the Dark Skies Program page on the TPWD website to learn more about the initiative.


More information about the IDA, its mission and work may be found at online. Also visit International Dark Sky Places conservation program find out more.

The IDA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, which advocates for the protection of the nighttime environment and dark night skies. It does so by educating policymakers and the public about night sky conservation and through the promotion of environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.

The IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach.

Currently, 16 Communities, 57 Parks, 11 Reserves, three Sanctuaries and four Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction are recognized with International Dark Sky Places designations. 

New Texas State Parks Centennial Plan Lays Blueprint for Brighter Future

AUSTIN— While many Texans are making plans for the New Year, Texas State Parks have prepared a plan for a new century.

The Texas State Parks Centennial Plan details actions needed to create a well-maintained, modernized park system able to serve a more diverse, urban and growing population by the year 2023, when Texas state parks will mark 100 years of recreation and conservation service. The plan builds on the foundation provided when the Texas Legislature dedicated 94 percent of state sporting goods sales tax revenue to parks in 2015. It identifies six areas of investment and action for state parks.

 “For generations, state parks have brought families together on the land and around the water, helping Texans experience the natural and cultural history of our great state,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. “This plan projects those values into the 21st century, fulfilling a commitment to elected leaders and parks supporters that we will craft a long-term strategy to use dedicated state dollars for parks thoughtfully, creatively and efficiently.”

Improvements to park facilities and infrastructure are a key focus of the plan, with nearly two-thirds of state park sites slated to receive upgrades and improvements in coming years.

In addition, the plan calls for developing five new state parks at sites where land is already in the park system but money is needed for planning and construction. This would serve surging public demand, which has gone from just under 7.5 million state park visits per year in 2009 to almost 9 million visits per year now. The five new state parks planned are Palo Pinto Mountains near Dallas-Fort Worth, Albert and Bessie Kronkosky near Austin-San Antonio, Powderhorn on the coastal bend, Chinati Mountains in far West Texas, and Davis Hill near Houston.

“Ten years ago, the park system was struggling to survive after decades of inadequate resources. Now with reliable, dedicated funding Texas can have a park system that serves the needs of park visitors and reflects the incredible history and natural diversity of our state,” said Brian Trusty, chair of the Texas State Parks Advisory Committee, which provided input for the plan, representing diverse supporters such as businesses, local communities, university experts and others.

The centennial plan builds on landmark legislation passed in 2015, which dedicated 94 percent of sporting goods sales tax revenue to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This invests a portion of the existing state sales tax attributed to sporting goods sales, as calculated by the state comptroller.

In addition to facility improvements, the plan recommends a major emphasis on increasing awareness of park recreation and learning opportunities among all Texans. This includes developing and maintaining effective communication and outreach efforts that are culturally relevant to broad audiences across the state, and identifying barriers to park use by underserved or nontraditional customers.

“The State Park centennial will mark one hundred years of creating memories for generations of Texans, protecting and managing healthy habitats for wildlife and people, and creating experiences in a park system that engenders pride in our heritage and responsible use of our natural resources,” said Brent Leisure, Texas State Parks director. “This plan provides a blueprint for excellence in a second century of Texas state parks.”

The Texas State Parks Centennial Plan, plus a detailed list of current and planned facility repair and improvement projects, are available online at

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