The writer’s daughter Bridget Gaskill and her boyfriend, Shaun Huggins, try out archery in Lockhart State Park. Photo by Melissa Gaskill.

The Texas State Parks system marks its 100th anniversary this year. With 89 parks, natural areas, and historic sites to choose from, visitors can experience all kinds of outdoor activities. Each month, we’re highlighting one these activities based on the season and special occasions around the state.

Arrows make a satisfying “thump” as, one by one, they hit foam targets lined up beneath a stand of trees. After three short whistle blasts, we would-be archers troop across the grass to retrieve the projectiles. Back at the shooting line, we take a stance under the watchful eye of instructor Lauren Hartwick and get ready to repeat the process. In under two hours, Hartwick has every person in the workshop hitting their target and even, sometimes, its bull’s-eye.

Lockhart State Park manages to pack a lot into its 263 acres. In addition to this regular archery workshop, visitors can hike, fish, camp, watch wildlife, swim, and golf. All just 1 mile south of Lockhart, about 40 miles from Austin and roughly 66 from San Antonio. The archery lured me here for my first visit. Hartwick runs educational programming at the park and trained as an archery instructor in 2015.

“I think two hours is a perfect amount of time to get your feet wet,” she says. “We go through the 11 steps to archery success that are part of the National Archery in Schools Program. Everybody practices the steps with a string bow, then we introduce the compound bows and demonstrate how to safely use the range.”

“Everyone has their own reason to do archery,” says Travis Glick, coordinator of the National Archery in the Schools Program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. He explains that like fishing, archery is a good, safe way to take a first step into doing more outdoor activities. “Archery is accessible to almost anyone and we use equipment designed to be used by any person. It’s the safest equipment you can get your hands on. More people go to the hospital annually from bowling than from archery. And the reason it is safe is that we take the time to teach people properly.”

Introduction to Archery

Address: Lockhart State Park,
2012 State Park Road
Date: June 17
Time: 9 to 11 a.m.
Park entrance fee: $3 adults (age 12 and up)

Learn the basics at this two-hour archer workshop.  All equipment is provided and no registration is required. Participants must be at least 10 years old and those under 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Meet at the archery range, just past the pool on the main road into the park. Park in the pool parking lot.

During the workshop, Hartwick introduces us to the safety rules and details of each of the steps. We practice them using a knotted piece of string before picking up real bows. On the first round, everyone hits their target. As we shoot more arrows, we get better; when I carefully follow each step as Hartwick taught it, I hit the bull’s-eye. It is a satisfying feeling and a lot of fun and I can see myself doing this again.

After the workshop, Hartwick brags on the park’s other options—including her favorite, its 11 hiking and biking trails. All are shorter than a mile and a few a mere one-tenth of a mile, but just like the park, the trails pack a lot into a little space. Clear Fork Trail has views of the eponymous creek, plants, and wildlife like deer, armadillos, turkeys, and beavers. Several stone dams along the creek create fishing holes and one of the best is on the Creekview Trail. The Wildrose Loop passes through bluestem prairie grass, Eastern red cedar, and green ash trees. The Persimmon Trail takes hikers up a rugged hillside, and Comanche Loop offers views of the park and nearby town.

The Civilian Conservation Corps, known to generations of Texans as the CCC, contributed greatly to this little park. CCC enrollees began work in 1935, constructing buildings, dams, bridges, picnic tables, a stone water tower, and a recreation hall that has a kitchen and accommodates 75 people for day events. Along with workers from the federal Works Progress Administration, the CCC created the park’s nine-hole golf course—the only state-run course in Texas. It is currently closed for maintenance on the irrigation system but is expected to open sometime during the summer.

Instructor Lauren Hartwick helps new archers build confidence at the archery workshops at Lockhart State Park. Photo by Chris Fortin – TPWD.

The pool is a main attraction when the weather heats up, but the park limits the number of visitors to 50 for each of the two sessions every Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 3 p.m. and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Purchasing a spot in advance is recommended and visitors can buy tickets online up to two weeks before going. Cost is $1 for ages 12 and under and $2 for ages 13 and older, in addition to the park entrance fee of $3 for adults. Campers must purchase tickets as well.

For those who want to cast a line for sunfish, catfish, and bass in Clear Fork Creek, the park lends fishing tackle for free. “You don’t need a license, and we sell bait in our store,” Hartwick says. “You’re not going to get anything super big, but it is fun family fishing, a good place to learn.”

Overnight options include 10 full hookup campsites and 10 sites with electricity.

Interested in exploring the park? You’re in luck: the park is hosting the Lockhart State Park Showcase, a celebration of the parks department’s centennial birthday on June 3. It includes guided hikes, fishing clinics, golf, swimming, an air rifle class, a tipi, Buffalo Soldiers, and food trucks. The best part is admission is free.

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