The great cypress swamp is lovely, dark, and deep. There is no debating this. The wildly intricate and critter-infested maze of bayous, lakes, ponds, sloughs, and interconnected channels known as Caddo Lake and Big Cypress Bayou is one of the country’s most spectacular nature shows. It contains arguably the most diverse collection of species in Texas. The place has a mystical feel, too, an impression enhanced by the ghostly Spanish moss that drapes the trees, by the cypress roots known as “knees” that rise from the swirling mists like Excalibur in the Arthurian legend, by the lily pads with lotus flowers that spread everywhere and suggest Celtic fairylands.
Spend some time in and on the waters of these five lesser-known lakes, then visit the charming towns that surround them for a refreshing, slow-paced getaway.
Each evening between late February and late October, as the sun hits the horizon line, experts estimate that somewhere between 750,000 and 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats leave the nooks and crannies of this downtown bridge’s interior to go a-hunting. And each evening over that same eight-month span, hundreds of people line the bridge’s walkway, as well as any open spaces nearby, to take it all in. Most locals suggest claiming space hours before sunset in order to get a good view. But a few hours in the hot sun with nothing to do but wait? That seemed like a situation that would violate all three of our family getaway hopes fairly quickly.
Planning a wilderness escape to the Piney Woods? Consider double-checking the availability of your preferred camping areas and hiking trails—particularly in East Texas’ national forests, which are closing some campsites and trails to ease the financial strain.
San Angelo is ready to reclaim its title as the oasis of West Texas. Following a banner rainfall of 34 inches in 2018, the in or near the city have risen to levels not seen since the 1990s.
With 18 miles of hiking trails—
13 of them open to mountain bikes and horses, along with plenty of flora and fauna along the Colorado River—
McKinney Roughs Nature Park lives up to the “nature” in its name. Adding the word “adventure” seems more appropriate though, given the current offerings of zip lining, universal terrain vehicle tours, survival skill classes, and more. All of the above makes this Lower Colorado River Authority property an excellent destination for a family spring break adventure.
The Texas badlands east of the Pecos River and along the state’s border with Mexico bristle in thorn-covered plateaus and jagged limestone canyons. But after spring rains, the country often reveals a softer side, blushing with Texas sage blooms. The sage grows on both sides of the Rio Grande, clinging to crevices, thriving among the flats, and populating the rocky shores of Amistad Reservoir, home to Amistad National Recreation Area and ground zero for the most important shared resource in badlands territory—water.
“Islands will always be places we project onto,” writes Judith Schalansky, the German author and designer of Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands. Their inaccessibility is part of their allure, the crossing over water a literal rite of passage—the more remote, the more deserted, the better. And Texans have options: From my experience, you can pitch a tent on the mud, sand, and weeds of islands in East Texas rivers; string up a hammock between bald cypress trees on a crescent-shaped gravel bar on a Hill Country stream; and lug your gear across the wooden footbridge at Martin Creek Lake State Park near Tatum to spend a night among the pines on an island ringed by a short hiking trail.
Summer fun awaits at Daingerfield State Park, located a couple of miles southeast of the city of Daingerfield in Northeast Texas. The 507-acre park offers plenty of classic summer diversions from camping to swimming, fishing, hiking, dancing, canoeing, kayaking, and pedal boating.