Enter the 2014 Texas Parks and Wildlife Photo Contest

If you love being behind the camera, there’s still time for you to pull your camper trailer to a state park and take photos for this year’s Texas Parks and Wildlife Photo Contest.

Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Between March 1 – April 15, 2014 enter photos of your most playful moments in a Texas State Park. Winning photos will be published in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine and three will receive a $300 high-performance video camera – the HERO3+ Silver Edition GoPro®.

Contest categories are: Photos by Kids 17 and under; photos by Adults 18+, and Instagram photos.

For all the details, visit Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Photo Contest Page.

And if you’re looking for a new travel trailer, fifth wheel, or toy hauler that will bring you even more family fun, visit Camper Clinic in Rockport, or Camper Clinic II in Buda. Both offer a LIFETIME WARRANTY on every new rv!

Discover Texas History in your RV

As autumn arrives and leaves begin to turn, you’re probably thinking about your next RV road trip. As you plan your route, don’t forget that the colorful and unique story of Texas – from its prehistoric times through Spanish colonialism, the republic’s fight for independence from Mexico, post-Civil War era and into the 20th century – unfolds through guided tours and special events at more than 50 historic sites within the state parks system.

October is Texas Archeology Month, which celebrates the state’s archeological heritage through  demonstrations, lectures and dozens of public events held at historic sites throughout the state, including a number of Texas State Parks.

Photo: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Photo: Texas Parks & Wildlife

When you take your RV to state parks this month, you’ll find not only some of the best Native American pictographs in the nation at such places as Big Bend Ranch State Park, which on Oct. 12 is hosting a guided hike to one of the Big Bend region’s best rock art panels, but also compelling presentations on archeology (Lockhart , Oct. 5), flintknapping (Copper Breaks, Oct. 5) and 19th century pioneer and ranching life (Caprock Canyons, Oct. 19).

The video below features historic Fort Leaton.

On Oct. 4, Houston area families, friends, veterans and others can play air/sea/land games aboard the historic Battleship TEXAS. Others who prefer a more literal “taste” of living history in the outdoors can experience a slice of early Texas farm life at such historic sites as Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site’s Barrington Farm, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park’s Sauer-Beckman Farm and Cedar Hill State Park’s Penn Farm.

Many state parks and historic sites this month also offer guided tours of 19th century missions, military frontier forts and Civilian Conservation Corps structures or host special history events reflecting such topics as state’s ranching heritage. On Oct. 19, Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera will host its annual Ranch Heritage Day and Copper Breaks State Park near Quanah invite the public to “Meet the Longhorns,” member of the official State Longhorn Herd.

For a full list of featured October state park events and their locations, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s activities calendar.

Visit Texas Parks and Wildlife online to reserve your RV camping spot today!

Volunteering for Parks and Campgrounds

If you’ve been enjoying your RV for any time at all, you’ve probably noticed “Park Host” signs in your favorite state parks and campgrounds. These kind people are usually volunteers who live in the park, make life easier for the park staff, and are a huge help to RV travelers.

TPW Volunteer

Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife.

If you’ve considered volunteering, here are some resources that may be helpful.

1. Texas Parks and Wildlife has an extensive volunteer program. Whether you’re interested in a Park Host position, or want to offer your services as a tour guide, your gift of time can help stretch the parks’ budgets!

2. Likewise, the National Park Service has opportunities available at parks across the country through their Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program. Download their brochure and read all about it.

3. Finally, many private parks offer volunteer opportunities. For example, KOA has a Work Kamper program for seasonal volunteers. Like the National Park Service, KOAs offer opportunities to work anywhere in the country.

Besides making a difference in the great outdoors, RV volunteers also enjoy discounted or free camping fees.

Are you a volunteer? Where are you volunteering? What’s your specialty? Be sure to post a pic or send us a postcard from the road!

~ Elaine

TPWD’s Youngest Elite Angler

Keatyn Eitelman of Pottsboro became Texas’ 25th Elite Freshwater Angler—and the state’s youngest—on August 2, 2013, less than two weeks before his eleventh birthday. He finished this task when he caught a 21.25-inch, 5.5-pound largemouth bass from Lake Texoma on July 23 and submitted it for a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Big Fish Award.

11-year-old Keatyn Eitelman is Texas's youngest elite angler. (Photo by TPWD)

11-year-old Keatyn Eitelman is Texas’s youngest elite angler. (Photo by TPWD)

An Elite Angler is a one-time achievement award for an angler who catches trophy-class fish of five different species, and it’s the perfect pursuit for those who enjoy RV camping in Texas State Parks. There are freshwater and saltwater categories. To be eligible, an angler must earn five freshwater or five saltwater Big Fish Awards. A Big Fish Award is given for a fish meeting or exceeding a minimum length for each species.

Keatyn began his quest on November 28, 2012, when he caught a blue catfish measuring 39.25 inches from Lake Texoma.  Encouraged by his father, Nailen, Keatyn proceeded to collect Big Fish Awards from Lake Texoma for white bass (16.5 inches, December 2, 2012), smallmouth bass (18.5 inches, December 11, 2012), and his largemouth bass.  He also caught a white crappie (18.25 inches) from Lake Fork on March 10, 2013.

The fishing can be good at South Padre. And the sunrise isn't bad either. Photo by Earl Nottingham, TPWD

The fishing can be good at South Padre. And the sunrise isn’t bad either. Photo by Earl Nottingham, TPWD

TPWD offers plenty of prime RV camping spots statewide, and many ways to be recognized as an angler: state and water body records by weight, catch and release records by length, First Fish Awards, Outstanding Angler, Big Fish Awards, and Elite Angler. Visit http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishrecords for all the listings and an application.

 

If you catch a fish you think qualifies, remember to take good pictures of the fish to aid in identification. If the award is based on length, one of the pictures must show the fish on a ruler. Don’t forget to take pictures of yourself holding the fish, too. You’ll want them for TPWD, and it would be fun to post them for your RV friends on Camper Clinic’s Facebook page too!

Your local TPWD fisheries biologist will be happy to help you obtain forms, identify your catch and weigh it on a certified scale. Search for the biologist nearest you at http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/management/biologist/.

Some grocery stores will weigh fish for you, and bait shops or feed stores may have certified scales. Locations of certified scales can be found at https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/scales.phtml.

Official Toyota ShareLunker Program Weigh and Holding Stations also have certified scales; locations are listed at http://tpwd.texas.gov/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/holding/. The fish must be weighed within 3 days of the catch. However, weigh the fish as soon as possible to prevent any weight loss due to regurgitation or dehydration.

If you’re working on your saltwater categories, be sure to visit Camper Clinic in Rockport for all your RV needs. Or if you’re fishing the Hill Country lakes, drop by Camper Clinic II in Buda. We’re here to help you with all your RV needs so you can stay focused on the fish!

RV Camping at your Favorite Swimming Hole

Take your RV to your favorite Swimming Hole!

Tubing on the Blanco River. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

Tubing on the Blanco River. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife)

With temperatures around the state hitting the 90’s and 100’s, our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife just reminded us that there are lots of great swimming opportunities while you’re RV camping in Texas State Parks.

From spring-fed rivers, to Hill Country lakes (near our Camper Clinic II store in Buda), to the Gulf (don’t forget to visit Camper Clinic RV Super Center in Rockport!), you can play in the water and keep cool while getting back to nature.

In the Austin area, state parks such as McKinney Falls, Inks Lake and Pedernales Falls offer an array of rivers and lakes in the heart of the Hill Country.

Swimming at Garner State Park

Fun times at Garner State Park! (Photo: TPWD)

In East Texas near Houston, Huntsville State Park and Lake Livingston State Park are ideal destinations for river and lake swimming. If wading close to shore on the open ocean seems more ideal, Galveston Island State Park offers beach access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Near Dallas, Eisenhower State Park, Fairfield Lake State Park and Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway offer park visitors a chance to swim in the soothing waters of those lakes, cool off and enjoy a break from the bustle of the city.

In the San Antonio area, Guadalupe River State Park and Palmetto State Park give park visitors a chance to go for a dip and beat the south Texas heat.

In West Texas, Balmorhea State Park is the home of one of the world’s largest spring-fed pools, with water so clear that many people bring their snorkel gear to experience the underwater world first hand.

For a whole list of State Park RV camping facilities, swimming holes and swimming safety tips, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

Happy splashing!

RV Camping at Goose Island State Park

Enjoy RV Camping in Texas at Goose Island State Park

Deer at entrance at Goose Island State ParkFor the past four days, I’ve spent my evenings enjoying Gulf breezes in the shade of oaks, and waking up to the sounds of cicadas in Goose Island State Park.

Located on Aransas Bay just 15 minutes east of Rockport, the park offers hiking trails that wind through oak groves, RV camping in woodland or bayside campsites, fishing from the park’s piers (or even from your campsite!), and extraordinary bird watching opportunities in the marsh areas.

Pelicans at Goose Island state park

Goose Island State Park Fishing Pier

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing from RV campsite at Goose Island State Park

 

While you’re in the area, be sure to visit Rockport. You’ll find great places to eat, like Charlotte Plummers, Moondog Seaside Eatery, or  The Daily Grind, which is the best place for a coffee or lunch break when you’re exploring the art galleries in the Historic District. (Hint: the quiches get rave reviews!) For more ideas on places to go and things to do, visit the Rockport-Fulton website!

Rockport may be best known for its annual HummerBird Celebration. This year, the event celebrates its 25th Anniversary, and is scheduled for September 12-15.

Here are a few tips for RV camping at Goose Island State Park:

1. The oaks grow close to the road and close tightly around many of the campsites. (You’ll see lots of reflectors marking the branches that are likely to nip your RV.) Call the park in advance and make sure you’re comfortable that your rig will fit.

The Big Tree at Goose Island State Park2. Take a bicycle. Goose Island State Park is large, and it’s fun to cycle along Lantana Loop, Warbler Way, or Redfish Road.

3. Don’t miss the “Big Tree.” It’s located about a mile east of Goose Island State Park. It’s the State Champion Coastal Live Oak, and it’s more than 1,000 years old.

Whatever your favorite coastal activity may be, Goose Island State Park is a great home base for RV camping. Be sure to stop by and say hello to to the team at Camper Clinic if you need any supplies for your trip!

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

Go Paddling on your Next RV Camping Trip

Load the canoe in your toy hauler RV

Take your toy hauler to a Texas State park, and don’t forget the canoe! (Photo by Chase Fountain/TPWD)

Our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife suggest beating the summer heat with a canoe or kayak outing – the perfect activity for your next RV camping trip to a Texas State Park.

Paddling gets you close to nature and Texas has more than 50 marked and well-mapped Texas paddling trails offering everything from bayou, river and lake routes to adventures through salt-sprayed coastal bays. Check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife site for trail maps, photos, and a list of parks with boats for rent.

Families looking to take the RV out for a little summer fun can readily access a number of nearby paddling trails. There are seven Texas PaddlingTrails within an hour of Camper Clinic II in Buda, and at least seven inland and coastal trails near Camper Clinic‘s original store in Rockport.

“Texas communities love this program, which has experienced huge growth in the past five months,” says Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We’ve gone from 38 trails to 55 since February and have another two dozen proposed trails in various stages of the certification process.”

Pack a kayak in your toy hauler RV

Photo by Earl Nottingham/TPWD

Just this past May, Plante says seven new trails – three on Belton Lake south of Waco and four along the Brazos River — were added to the Texas Paddling Trails roster. The 35.4 miles of Brazos River trails, known as the Stephen F. Austin Paddling Trail, represents the longest continuous stretch of river trails launched to date.

Because many parts of Texas are experiencing drought conditions, it’s always a good idea to consult online specific river flow information in advance and to contact the Texas State Park you’re planning to visit for current lake levels and other water conditions. Keep in mind that water levels at some state parks, such as Inks Lake and South Llano River, remain fairly constant despite ongoing drought.

Paddling novices looking for helpful tips before heading out might enjoy this video.

Wear your lifejacket, stay safe, and start planning your next Texas RV trip with a paddle in your hand!

~G. Elaine Acker

Mother’s Day Picnic

1-KabobsSome of my favorite family memories are simple picnics in Texas State Parks. When I was little, any time we made a road trip, my mom would pack a basket of fried chicken and potato salad.

Since then, our family has celebrated almost every holiday with a picnic, and even though I still love fried chicken, I’m pleased to say our menus have gotten a lot more exciting.

Food blogger Lisa Rawlinson write the blog "Full and Content," and created a perfect picnic dish:  Mango Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps

Food blogger Lisa Rawlinson writes the blog “Full and Content,” and created a perfect picnic dish: Mango Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps

With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, why not take mom outdoors? Whether you’re RV camping for the whole weekend, or just spending Sunday outside, a yummy picnic will make the day even more fun.

This month, Texas Parks and Wildlife, which is ever-popular with the Texas RV crowd,  is celebrating the art of the picnic; and yesterday, I had a chance to reconnect with some of our TPWD friends at McKinney Falls State Park. Chef Kevin Quinn, a lead instructor with Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, grilled luscious kabobs, and several popular food bloggers brought side dishes ranging from a slaw made with Ramen noodles to sugar snap peas with basil. These and lots more intriguing recipes are posted on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

Lisa Rawlinson, who writes the blog Full and Content, brought her famous Mango Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps, and even the kids give this one a thumbs up! Lisa recently wrote a nice blog post about Picnics, Parks and Mamas, and it included not only recipes, but photos and artwork showcasing several state parks. Be sure to check it out.

1-KEYE

James Seppi and Taylor Cook (left) write the blog, Coseppi Kitchen: kitchen.coseppi.com, and Bill Leamons collaborates with TPWD to showcase outdoor activities on KEYE TV. As they say, “Life’s Better Outside!”

Maybe you were thinking about flowers for Mother’s Day? Instead of bringing the flowers to Mom, you can take Mom to the flowers. Brilliant bouquets of wildflowers line the roadsides at almost every state park. And, KEYE has posted Texas Parks and Wildlife’s video offering several suggestions for creating sweet, Mother’s Day memories in the parks. All that’s missing, is YOU!

1-photo

The wildflowers are in brilliant bloom at McKinney Falls State Park.

~G. Elaine Acker

Camper Clinic II is the #1 Airstream Dealer in Texas, and has an RV to fit every budget. If you’re thinking about an RV for your family, come by and see what’s right for you!

Smokey Bear’s Campfire Safety Tips

If spring inspires you to hitch up your travel trailer and go explore Texas’s state parks, here are 12  safety tips for the whole famliy courtesy of Smokey Bear.

Fire

1. Find out whether the park is currently allowing open campfires. Many regions are still experiencing drought conditions, and there are burn bans in effect.

2. Use the fire pits and fire rings already established in the parks whenever possible. check to be sure that the fire pit is at least fifteen feet away from the RV, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects.

3. Clear a 10-foot diameter area around the site. Remove any grass, twigs, leaves and firewood.

4. Fill the pit with tinder – small pieces of dry wood. Never pull branches from living trees, and check park regulations. Many parks prohibit gathering firewood and tinder.

5. Place your firewood upwind and away from the fire.

6. Keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby.

7. Build your fire. Smokey Bear offers tips for building a campfire, and I recently wrote a blog post about easy, homemade fire starters.

8. Keep the fire to a manageable size. While roaring bonfires may be tempting, they’re much more likely to get out of control and can quickly spread to nearby forests.

9. Supervise children and pets at all times.

10. NEVER leave the fire unattended.

11. Completely extinguish the fire when you’re done, preferably by pouring enough water on the fire to drown all ash and embers. (Pour until the hissing sound stops and stir the fire with your shovel to ensure that all ash and embers are soaked.)

12. Alternatively, if you extinguish the fire with dirt, mix dirt or sand thoroughly with the embers. Continue adding dirt and stirring until all materials have cooled. DO NOT bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.

Wherever you’re camping this spring. we wish you a safe and happy trip!

~ G. Elaine Acker

P.S. If you’re thinking about buying a new or used camper this spring, be sure to give Camper Clinic II a call. They’ve got great deals!

 

Easter Egg Hunts in Texas State Parks

The Easter Bunny will be hopping through several Texas state parks this weekend. If you’re planning to hitch up your travel trailer and enjoy a long Easter weekend, check out the events at these state parks!

Photo (c) Texas Parks and Wildlife

Photo (c) Texas Parks and Wildlife

Martin Dies, Jr. State Park, Jasper, Texas
The thick forests of East Texas offer plenty of interesting hiding spots for the Easter Egg hunt scheduled for Saturday, March 30 from 10:00 -11:00 a.m. There will be colorful eggs filled with candy and prizes for the younger ones, while the park will offer games and prizes for the older kids. Bring your basket and join the fun!

Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, Pittsburg, Texas
On Saturday, March 30, from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., the day-use area on Lake Bob Sandlin will set the stage for their annual Easter Egg Hunt, with candy and some extra-special eggs with gift certificate prizes inside! Located near Pittsburg in northeast Texas, the park is a great home base while you explore the area, stock up on the world-famous Pittsburg Hot Links, and discover a little aviation history by visiting the Ezekiel Airship (maybe the first flight really DID take place in Texas!)

Cooper Lake State Park, Cooper, Texas
Located in north central Texas, the park’s South Sulphur Unit has plans to hide more than 1,500 eggs filled with candy and prizes, and kids ages 1-10 are invited to come out for the hunt. There are separate areas for the 1-4 year olds, and the 5-10 year olds, just to keep it fun for all. The Easter Egg Hunt begins promptly at 1:00 p.m., and the park is even offering free admission from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. for the hunt. But plan to be there early! When the kids start the hunt, they can clean out the place in no time!

Mission Tejas State Park, Grapeland, Texas
Located on the northern edge of the Davy Crockett National Forest in East Texas, the Mission Tejas Easter Egg Hunt will begin at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 30. The park asks that all the kiddos bring their own baskets.

Then, on Easter Sunday, the Friends of Mission Tejas State Park will host an Easter Sunrise Service at 6:45 a.m. at The Mission – the first Spanish Mission to be built in Texas. Park admission is free for everyone attending the service.

Indian Lodge Easter Feast, Fort Davis
The Black Bear Restaurant, located at Indian Lodge in the Davis Mountains State Park in West Texas, is serving a full Easter Feast from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013. Reservations are strongly recommended, and guests should call the Lodge directly at (432) 426-3254 ext. 330. The cost is $25 for Adults, $9 for Children under 12, and park admission is free for restaurant guests. Check out the mouthwatering menu!

Photo (c) Texas Parks and Wildlife

Photo (c) Texas Parks and Wildlife

Dinosaur Valley State Park,

If the kids prefer dinosaurs to Easter bunnies, head over to Dinosaur Valley in Glen Rose, just a few miles southwest of Fort Worth. On Saturday morning, March 30, they’re hosting a workshop on the migrating Monarch butterflies, and also a Native American Play Day, with programs about the life ways of the Caddo Indians.
Then, on Sunday, March 31, the park will host its “Eggstraordinary Eggstravaganza,” beginning with a special surprise at 2:00 p.m.
Better Homes and Gardens has all the information on creating tie-dyed eggs!

Better Homes and Gardens has all the information on creating tie-dyed eggs!

Finally, if you’re looking forward to coloring and hiding your own Easter eggs, Better Homes and Gardens offers tips for tie-dying Easter eggs. I’m fascinated, and may have to give that one a try!

It’s easy to reserve your RV campsite at Texas State Parks online. Just visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
Wherever you go, have a fabulous Easter! And don’t forget to send us photos or from your Easter Egg hunts, or share them with us on our Facebook page!