• August 11, 2020

RECREATION: State parks adapt, provide options for outdoor activity - Odessa American: Sports

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RECREATION: State parks adapt, provide options for outdoor activity

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Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2020 7:37 pm

While the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into summer travel plans for most people, there are still a number of viable options for day trips or weekend getaways that won’t require much planning or be a big hit to the pocketbook.

More than a half dozen state parks across West Texas, some within a two-hour drive of Odessa, provide opportunities for activities ranging from picnicking to hiking, bird watching and sightseeing for those just wanting to get out of town for a few hours.

Boating, kayaking, fishing, swimming, mountain biking, horseback riding and camping are also available, but will require a little more planning.

“Our park headquarters sits at nearly a mile high in elevation, providing us with some of the mildest summers in the state, where visitors can beat the heat,” said Wanda Olszewski, superintendent of Davis Mountains State Park. “We encourage folks to get here early to take advantage of our cool mornings.”

Entry fees at state parks apply to those 13 years old and older. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.

Texas state parks, in accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, require all visitors to wear facial coverings while inside any park building open to the public or in an outside space where six feet social distance cannot be maintained. For the latest updates, go online to visit www.TexasStateParks.org.

Many parks have reduced their capacity at this time. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department strongly encourages making day pass and camping reservations before you visit. Reservations may be made online or by calling (512) 389-8900.

“As our park is operating at a limited capacity, visitors are strongly encouraged to secure their day pass in advance and look over our park’s website as they plan their visit,” Olszewski said. “At this time of year all visitors should be aware of the threats posed by heat, dehydration, sudden elevation change, sun exposure, thunderstorms and wildlife.”

Two nearby state parks that have been closed throughout the spring and summer are Balmorhea State Park and San Angelo State Park. Balmorhea State Park is undergoing renovations but park officials hope to reopen in late summer. San Angelo State Park, which has been closed since June 27 after an individual at the park tested positive for COVID-19, is scheduled to reopen Wednesday.

Also, Big Bend National Park and Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River are closed to all visitors until further notice. The closure is in response to a positive case for COVID-19 in the park residential community.

 

Monahans Sandhills State Park

Located just 32 miles west of Odessa, Monahans Sandhills State Park offers wind-sculpted sand dunes that can change the landscape overnight. Visitors can rent sand disks and surf the dunes in addition to other activities.

The park does not have marked trails and visitors are advised to practice hiking safety. The dunes can heat up quickly during summer months. Be aware of your surroundings, so that you can find your way back to your starting point.

Entry fee to the park is $4. The park gate is locked from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. There are campsites with water and electricity. Each site has a shade shelter. For more information, call (432) 943-2092.

 

Balmorhea State Park

Balmorhea State Park, home to one of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pools, was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Information about the closure and the renovation projects is available at https://tinyurl.com/ycjhq84a. Updates are also available on the park’s Twitter feed and Facebook page. For more information, call (432) 375-2370 or email BalmorheaSP@tpwd.texas.gov.

 

Davis Mountains State Park and Indian Lodge, Fort Davis

Davis Mountains State Park offers a unique and remote destination and is also home to Indian Lodge, a 39-room hotel.

The “best little bird blind in Texas” offers bird watchers an enclosed viewing station, a shielded outside patio and watering and feeding stations.

Visitors can bring horses for the day or for an overnight stay at Limpia Canyon Primitive Area. Six equestrian or six primitive campsites are available in this area.

The historic lobby and swimming pool at Indian Lodge are closed. The Black Bear Restaurant is open for carryout meals from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Entry fee is $6. For more information, call (432) 426-3337.

 

Big Bend Ranch State Park

One of the more remote state parks, Big Bend Ranch offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation at its Interior District and River District along the Rio Grande River. The park can be accessed from its eastern entrance at Barton Warnock Visitor Center near Lajitas or its western entrance at Fort Leaton State Historic Site at Presidio. Permits for backpacking and camping (no hookups) can be obtained at either entrance.

In the Interior District, Sauceda Ranger Station is open, but store access is limited. All trails are open, but four-wheel drive roads and backcountry areas are closed.

Entry fee is $5. For more information, call (432) 424-3327 or (432) 229-3613.

 

Big Spring State Park

Big Spring State Park provides scenic views off of the 200-foot bluff and from the CCC-built loop road in its 382-acre layout. The park has a Group Pavilion available for reservation.

The park is open 8 a.m. to sunset and entry is free. For more information, call (432) 263-4931.

 

Lake Colorado City State Park

Lake Colorado City State Park offers the nearest water activities to Odessa, including fishing, swimming and paddling. In addition to campsites, the park has 11 cabins for rental.

The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Entry fee is $4. For more information, call (325) 728-3931.

 

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon

For those willing to travel to the Panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is home to the second-largest canyon in the country. Visitors can explore more than 30 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails by foot, mountain bike, horse or car.

Campers can choose from campsites with water and electricity, tent sites, equestrian sites or backpack camping areas.

Park hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Entry fee is $8. For more information, call (806) 488-2227 or email PaloDuroCanyonSP@tpwd.texas.gov.

 

Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway, Quitaque

Another Panhandle location, Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway offers 90 miles of trails as well as 120-surface-acre Lake Theo.

The park gate is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Entry fee is $5. For more information, call (806) 455-1492.

 

 

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