Eighteen-wheelers parked at rest stops, compact cars darting between lanes of traffic, and fast-food restaurants hawking two-for-one deals—these are all recognizable sights if you’re a frequent traveler along Texas’s major highways. And so too are the brown signs with white letters directing you to the nearest Texas state park. But if your familiarity with our state’s parks ends there, then you’re shortchanging yourself. There are more than 120 state parks in Texas, and each captures a facet of our state’s character and natural history, from artifacts left by indigenous inhabitants to stunning prehistoric rock formations. Read on to learn more about our state’s parks. Of course, the best way to get to know them is to visit them yourself.
Mother Neff State Park is the first official state park in Texas. It is named for Isabella Eleanor Neff, whose son, Pat M. Neff, served as the governor of Texas from 1921 to 1925.
Thirty-one state parks that were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1933 and 1942 remain open to the public, including Bastrop, Caddo Lake, Indian Lodge, Longhorn Cavern, Mission Tejas, Mother Neff, and Palo Duro Canyon.
Four state parks have waterfalls (Big Bend Ranch, McKinney Falls, Pedernales Falls, and Colorado Bend).
There are four state parks with golf courses (Inks Lake, Stephen F. Austin, Bastrop, and Lockhart).
Texas’s smallest state park is Acton, which covers a mere 0.01 acres. Located at Acton Cemetery, this park is the burial site of Elizabeth Crockett, Davy Crockett’s second wife.
The largest state park is Big Bend Ranch, which stretches almost 300,000 acres.
Matagorda Island has recorded more than 317 different species of birds.
The largest urban park in the nation is Franklin Mountains State Park; it covers more than 24,000 acres or some 37 square miles, all of which are within the El Paso city limits.
Enchanted Rock is the nation’s second-largest exposed batholith, a large underground structure that has become exposed over the years by erosion. (Georgia’s Stone Mountain is the largest.)
The state champion coastal live oak is located at Goose Island State Park. The Big Tree, with a circumference of more than 35 feet and a height of 44 feet, is estimated to be more than one thousand years old.