A hiker in the Brazos Woods Preserve

The Brazos Woods Preserve, located 60 miles southwest of Houston, was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 2016. Photo: Kenny Braun

Americans are spending less and less time outdoors.

According to recent studies, we spend an average of 93 percent of our lives indoors, and children today spend half as much time playing outside as their parents did. Intuitively, we know we need to spend more time in nature, and science backs this up with research revealing innumerable benefits to venturing out. Outdoor experiences decrease depression and anxiety, and improve sleep and academic performance, to name a few. Thankfully, the Texas landscape is vast and diverse—a beautiful territory primed for exploration.

Our Outdoor Adventures issue highlights 15 opportunities to escape into nature. For the ambitious adventurer, Senior Editor Matt Joyce braves the Devils River, a paddling expedition offering both risks and rewards. For the altruistic traveler, Contributing Editor Melissa Gaskill delves into voluntourism and ideas for making the most of your travel with fulfilling opportunities to give back. Bridging that gap, our feature on local Nature Conservancy sites, “Naturally Texas”, presents 10 of the environmental organization’s Texas preserves with ideas on how best to enjoy them either as a visitor or a volunteer. 

Underpinning all of these stories is the responsibility we share to protect and conserve our natural resources for future generations. “Texans love great big landscapes,” says Laura Huffman, Texas state director of The Nature Conservancy. “Not only are they a part of our culture, but Texans completely understand that economic success depends on our natural resources; … [they] see those two things as fully integrated.” Along with “saving the last great open spaces,” Huffman says, The Nature Conservancy exists because “connecting people to beautiful, magnificent landscapes is valuable.”

The bottom line is that being in nature makes us happier and healthier. Read on and reap the rewards.

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