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16 SURPRISING TEXAS NATIONAL PARKS (Photos + Helpful Guide)

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Texas National Parks, Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park | Texas National Parks

Texas National Parks

Are you ready to saddle up for an adventure? We’ve got Texas National Parks! In this article, we feature all of the incredible park sites in the great state of Texas. We’ve got 16 national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the Lone Star State.

These Texas National Parks include amazing historic sites, incredible monuments, beautiful parks, legendary trails, and so much more.

To be clear, these include national park sites (as in managed by the National Park Service) but not capital letter National Parks. There are only 63 of those (so far) and only two of these parks are included on that list.

We’ll give you 16 reasons why you’ll want to make Texas your next vacation destination.


Texas National Parks Table Of Contents

  1. Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
  2. Amistad National Recreation Area
  3. Big Bend National Park
  4. Big Thicket National Preserve
  5. Chamizal National Memorial
  6. El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail
  7. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail 
  8. Fort Davis National Historic Site
  9.  Guadalupe Mountains National Park 
  10. Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
  11. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
  12. Padre Island National Seashore
  13. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park
  14. Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River
  15. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
  16. Waco Mammoth National Monument

National Parks of Texas

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, | Texas National Parks
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Texas | Hills in the National Monument (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

1. Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

Tired of city life? Ready to saddle up for an adventure? Well, what are you waiting for? The Lone Star State is waiting for you! It’s packed with incredible adventures.

As a retired history teacher, I can’t get enough of Texas history. Not to mention all of the incredible places where nature comes to life as the Great Southwest puts on its best face for visitors from across the world.

A great place to start your “Texas Adventure” is at the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. What makes this place so special you might ask? Well, it all begins with the flint.

Alibates Flint

A sample of Alibates Flint showing its varied coloration | Texas National Parks
Alibates Flint was important to the survival, commerce and culture of the people of the High Plains | Courtesy of the National Park Service

As an old history teacher, I’m always thrilled with interesting old stories. And they don’t get much older than 13,000 years ago when this site was well-known by mammoth hunters as a source of flint for tools. 

If you love rocks then you’re in for a real treat. Alibates Flint is agatized dolomite, or silicified dolomite. Many archeologists refer to it as Alibates chert because of its vibrant colors.

The colors in this type of flint include red, orange and yellow. They’re created by iron; blues and deep greens are usually created by manganese. At this national monument, you’ll have the opportunity to explore these magnificent rocks. (Source: NPS)

Visitor Center at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

Alibates Visitor Center | Texas National Parks
Visitor Center | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

If you’re a first-timer then I always recommend beginning your visit at the Visitors Center. The Alibates Visitor Center is open Saturday through Wednesday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)

The Visitors Center offers a variety of different activities. These include: Museum Exhibits, Ranger-guided quarry tours, an award winning film about Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Jr. Ranger Program\Activities and access to the Mesquite Trail which is a self-guided trail.

While you’re there, I also recommend taking the self guided tour of the Alibates Gardens and visiting the Monarch Butterfly Waystation.

RELATED: 24 EPIC Arizona National Parks


Amistad National Recreation Area | Texas National Parks
A portion of the Amistad National Recreation Area, outside Del Rio in Val Verde County, Texas | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

2. Amistad National Recreation Area

More Than Just Parks is all about discovering and sharing incredible places for you to go camping, hiking, wilderness watching and much much more. At the Amistad National Recreation Area, outside Del Rio in Val Verde County, Texas, you can do all of these things and much much more.

This incredible oasis in the middle of the desert consists of the U.S. portion of the International Amistad Reservoir.  If you’re a water enthusiast then you’re really in luck as this place is known for its excellent water-based recreation.

Things To Do At Amistad National Recreation Area

Amistad National Recreation Area | Texas National Parks
Several cliff ruins exist in the Amistad National Recreation Area | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Outdoor activities include the following:

  1. Boating & Fishing-The park boundary extends 74 miles up the Rio Grande, 25 miles up the Devils River and 14 miles up the Pecos River. Protected coves abound, providing superb fishing and ideal camping spots.
  2. Native American Rock Art-Forty minutes west of Amistad Visitor Information Center is Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site. Guided walking tours of caves featuring rock art are available Wednesdays through Sundays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (morning tours only during summer).
  3. Swimming-Unsupervised swim areas are located at Governors Landing and at Diablo East. (Source: National Park Service)

big bend national park texas
Big Bend National Park is a hiker’s paradise. More than 150 miles of desert and mountains trails to explore. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

3. Big Bend National Park

There are more national parks than there are states, but not every state includes one. Texas, however, includes two. One of these is Big Bend National Park which is often referred to as “Texas gift to the nation.”

This magnificent park is famous for its natural resources and recreational opportunities. It’s also rich in cultural history.

Things To Do At Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park and Chihuahuan Desert | Texas National Parks
Big Bend National Park and Chihuahuan Desert | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There are so many incredible things to do and see at Big Bend National Park. I’m going to share a few of my favorites with you. When you get to Big Bend, I hope that you’ll find discover some of your favorites too.

I love a good scenic drive and Ross Maxwell delivers. The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive will take you through some outstanding desert scenery on the way to Castalon and the Santa Elena Canyon area.

If you like a good hike then check out the Mule Ear Springs Trail. You can access it from this highway. Be sure to check out the beautiful scenic overlook to see these magnificent twin peaks which are the cores of ancient volcanoes.

Learn About The Geology Of The Park

Be sure to stop at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit to learn about the geology of the park. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Opened in 2017, the Fossil Discovery Exhibit features outdoor rooms with informative plaques and displays. Who needs Jurassic Park when you can examine the real thing. And, it’s far less dangerous too.

If you enjoy hiking and are ready for a good workout there’s multi-day hikes available at Emory Peak or the South Rim.

If you’re looking for something less strenuous with outstanding scenery then why not check out Santa Elena Canyon TrailLost Mine Trail, or the Windows Trail.

And Big Bend is a park where you’ll want to do some camping. Why you might ask? Because it’s a designated National Dark Sky Park. This means that it’s free from almost all light pollution. The night sky at Big Bend is like few others. See for yourself.

RELATED: 10+ EPIC Montana National Parks

And Be Sure To See The Sunset Through The Window

The Window | Texas National Parks
Sometimes considered “three parks in one,” Big Bend includes mountain, desert, and river environments. An hour’s drive can take you from the banks of the Rio Grande to a mountain basin nearly a mile high. Here, you can explore one of the last remaining wild corners of the United States, and experience unmatched sights, sounds, and solitude. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

The Window is a huge V-shaped notch in the mountainside. It offers visitors an opportunity to see the sky and desert off in the distance. From the Chisos Basin Visitors Center visitors take a .3-mile trail that leads out to the Window View. This is a favorite spot to watch the sunset.

“I remember the full moon rising over Casa Grande, and the sun setting in a blaze at the Window. For there is one break in this mass of dissected lava, forming a great bowl, the very bottom of which is the basin.

Looking toward the west, out across Burro Mesa and into Old Mexico, there is a V-shaped opening, with a vedette on the left, guarding the entrance.

This is the Window. The whole mountain rises abruptly from a peneplain, and when you are in the basin you are at an elevation of five thousand feet. The highest peak on the rim of the bowl, Mount Emory, is nearly eight thousand.

Emory was the peak that the members of the boundary-survey party in 1852 ‘long and anxiously watched.’ It was their beacon–this and the Boquillas Finger, which sticks up above the long regular line of the Sierra del Carmen, on the east side of the park.”

-Freeman Tilden, The National Parks

Big Thicket National Preserve | Texas National Parks
Strands of sun, soil, and air are woven into a beautifully connected patchwork of plants and animals at Big Thicket National Preserve | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

4. Big Thicket National Preserve

As the National Park Service notes, the Big Thicket National Preserve is a “convergence of ecosystems.”  This wondrous place protects the incredible diversity of life found where multiple habitats converge in southeast Texas.

As a former history teacher, I recommend a visit to the historical places in the preserve which include:

  1. Staley Cabin-Built in 1934, this log cabin was once the home of the Staley family. While the inside of the cabin is not open to the public, visitors can walk around the grounds, shaded beneath a canopy of oaks, and use the picnic tables.
  2. Teel Cemetery-This small, secluded, historic cemetery dates back to the late 1800s. (Source: NPS)

Things To Do At Big Thicket National Preserve

two girls canoeing on a river
Creeks, bayous, and the Neches River provide miles of peaceful paddling and great opportunities to see wildlife | Courtesy of the National Park Service

The preserve is a great place to explore either by canoe or kayak. You will find many miles of creeks, bayous, and rivers. Three official trails offer clearly-defined routes to explore and experience the beauty and diversity of the Big Thicket.

If you prefer walking to boating there are approximately 40 miles of trails. They wind through Big Thicket National Preserve. Trails are of varying lengths from 0.3 miles to 18 miles roundtrip.

The preserve also offers backcountry camping throughout much of the park’s lands and waterways. A permit is required for camping, but it’s free.


Chamizal National Memorial | Texas National Parks
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Texas National Parks

5. Chamizal National Memorial

At the Chamizal National Memorial visitors have a unique opportunity to learn about an historical dispute over a small piece of land.

Why were the United States and Mexico disputing this relatively small piece of land? What happened to the more than 5,000 El Paso residents who lived on land that was returned to Mexico?

At the Visitor Center, you can have these fascinating questions answered by touring the exhibits at the Chamizal National Memorial Cultural Center.

And while you’re there you can also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities include biking, hiking and picnicking.


6. El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail

texas national parks
You can follow the historic routes of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Once upon a time the land which is today Texas was a part of the Empire of Mexico. This empire was connected by a series of routes or “royal roads.” One of these was the El Camino Real de los Tejas. It was the primary overland route for the Spanish colonization of what is today Texas and northwestern Louisiana. 

El Camino Real de los Tejas served as a political, economic, and cultural link between Mexico City and Los Adaes (and all points in between).

Settlers, missionaries, soldiers, servants, and indigenous allies followed various roads and trails along the 2,500 miles of this route to populate the settlements, missions, and presidios of eastern Texas and northwestern Louisiana. (Source: NPS)

Exploring The Trail Today

A trail sign next to a trail that leads into a heavily forested wood.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service (NPS)

Today there are countless ways to explore this fascinating trail. Whether you’re in search of knowledge or nature or just some good exercise there’s something for everyone on the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail.

If you’re interested in learning more about its history (like me) then check out the museums and visitor centers along the El Camino Real de los Tejas. There you will find interpretive exhibits, information, and programs.

Or you can take it a step further by hiking in the footsteps of history along the El Camino Real de los Tejas. Points of interest include: Mission Tejas State Park, Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, Floresville Hike & Bike Trail and Lobanillo Swales.

There are also a number of beautiful parks and historic missions waiting to be discovered along the trail too.

RELATED: 18 SURPRISING New Mexico National Parks


El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail | New Mexico National Parks
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail  | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

7. Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail

The El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail extends 404 miles between El PasoTexas to Santa FeNew Mexico At one time, the historic trail extended all the way to Mexico City.

This trail tells that story of 300 years of conflict, cooperation, and cultural exchange between a variety of empires—European and non-European alike.

There are a variety of wonderful activities for you to choose from along this trail. They include:

  1.  A variety of hiking opportunities across the full length of the trail. 
  2. A visit to the missions along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.
  3. Museums along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro featuring interpretive exhibits, information, and programs.
  4. Historic sites along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

For specific information pertaining to sites in New Mexico, please check out this interactive map provided by the National Park Service.

RELATED: EXPERT GUIDE-20 EPIC HIKING APPS (For All Skill Levels)


Photo courtesy of the National Park Service Digital Archives

8. Fort Davis National Historic Site

Fort Davis is one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars’ frontier military post in the Southwest. From 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis was strategically located to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and on the Chihuahua Trail.

This national historic site offers some wonderful hiking trails. These include:

  1. Photographers Trail-This is the only trail on Sleeping Lion Mountain, a short hike offers great photographic opportunities without the commitment of a long hike.
  2. Tall Grass Loop Trail-This hike is steep and strenuous along the trail switchbacks of the trail there are stairs on certain portions. Along the northern route of the trail, can become slick after precipitation. This trail is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) long one way.
  3. Scenic Overlook Trail-This hike is steep and strenuous along the switchback portion of the trail utilizing stairs with rails. The trail offers panoramic views of Fort Davis NHS. The trail is 0.4 miles (0.6km) long one way.
  4. Hospital Canyon Trail-This trail is strenuous along the switchback portions and there are sections without shade.
  5. North Ridge Trail-This hike allows you to walk between Rhyolite boulders and experience the 360° views of the Davis Mountains.
  6. Cemetery Trail-The Cemetery Trail is .2mi (.3km) long one way, this short hike takes you to the location of the post-Civil War Cemetery. (Source: NPS)

RELATED: 7 AMAZING Oklahoma National Parks


texas national parks
Guadalupe Mountains National Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

9. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

As the National Park Service notes, at Guadalupe Mountains National Park you can experience mountains and canyons, desert and dunes, night skies and spectacular vistas within a place unlike any other.

The park protects the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, the four highest peaks in Texas, an environmentally diverse collection of flora and fauna, and the stories of lives shaped through conflict, cooperation and survival.

The park store is a great place to begin your adventure. It has a wide range of books, maps, travel guides, and other items available for retail sale.

Things To Do At Guadalupe Mountain National Park

A hiker stands on a peak with lower mountains in the background at sunset
Sunset at Guadalupe Peak | Courtesy of the NPS

In 2022, Guadalupe Mountain National Park celebrates its 50th year as a national park. You can join the celebration with some wonderful hikes and backpacking trails where you will be treated to the beauty of the American Southwest.

If you’re ready to test your mettle then you can climb to the top of Texas. Guadalupe Peak is a rewarding, although very strenuous, 8.5 mile round trip hike with a 3,000 foot elevation gain. It will take from six to eight hours to complete the hike so come prepared.

There are, however, less strenuous, but equally rewarding hikes to other places. They include: McKittrick Canyon, Pine Springs, Salt Basin Dunes, Frijole Ranch and Dog Canyon.

These amazing trails offer dramatic landscapes, fabulous foliage, and the ever impressive high-country.

“Though the geologic features of the area come first in importance, the life communities are extraordinary in their zonal range.

Here, within the space of a few miles, even a nonscientific observer will clearly not that four climatic zones are represented, from the character of northern Mexico to that of southern Canada.

Here are agaves and cactuses at the foot of the mountains, but as elevation is gained, and with an increase in vegetation, we reach highlands with a cover of pines, alligator juniper, even a sampling of Douglas fir and groves of quaking aspen.

There are spots on the highest peaks that show decidedly Canadian attributes. Roasting pits found at all elevations indicate that the early inhabitants followed the ripening of native plants from the valley floor in spring to the highest ridges in autumn. Many pictographs are found in the caves and rock shelters.”

-Freeman Tilden, The National Parks

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area | Texas National Parks
A summer sunset at Lake Meredith | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

10. Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

Texas is a brilliant land of contrasts. From arid deserts to lush lakes the state has something to offer everyone. And no where is this more apparent than at Lake Meredith National Recreation Area where water enthusiasts will find an aquatic paradise.

In addition to the other outdoor adventures (e.g., camping, hiking) there are opportunities to go out onto the water. Boating is a very popular activity at Lake Meredith National Recreation Area.

Visitors can experience the waters of Lake Meredith either by private boat or by a rental from the park’s vendor. There is no fee associated with boating on Lake Meredith, but motorized boats must be registered in accordance with federal and state regulations.

RELATED: 10 EPIC Oregon National Parks You’ll Love


 

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park | Texas National Parks
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

11. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

While America’s 36th President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, is often associated with the Great Society, landmark Civil Rights legislation and the Vietnam War, his administration also passed an unprecedented amount of legislation designed to protect the nation’s land, air, water, wilderness, and quality of life.

Author Adrian Benepe believes the U.S. president with the strongest environmental track record is President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In his article, How the White House Went Green, Benepe writes, “Lyndon Johnson signed more than 300 conservation measures into law. These measures established the legal foundations for how we protect the nation’s land, water and air.”

“The first important legislative success for the environmental movement was the Wilderness Act, which President Johnson signed into law on September 3, 1964.

The act was neither the first environmental law nor the most important. Yet the scope and ambitions of the Wilderness Act were strikingly new.

The law immediately set aside 9.1 million acres of federal land as part of a new National Wilderness Preservation System.

Defining wilderness as places “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” the law largely barred industries such as mining and logging from the newly designated wilderness areas.”

James Morton Turner & Andrew C. Isenberg, The Republican Reversal: Conservatives And The Environment From Nixon To Trump

A Transitional Force of Environmentalism

Lyndon Johnson would prove to be a larger than life leader in the field of environmental activism.
Lyndon B. Johnson’s historic record of legislative achievements would be second only to Franklin D. Roosevelt. He would prove to be one of the most consequential presidents when it came to conservation and environmental activism. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Environmental historian Martin V. Melosi refers to the Johnson administration as “a transitional force in the evolution from old-style conservation to modern environmentalism.”

We will seek legal power to prevent pollution of our air and water before it happens.

We will step up our effort to control harmful wastes, giving first priority to the cleanup of our most contaminated rivers.

We will increase research to learn much more about the control of pollution.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 State Of The Union Address

RELATED: Is It Time For Another Bipartisan Era Of Environmental Activism In America?

Things To Do At The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Photo of the Lyndon B. Johnson Historical Park courtesy of the National Park Service | Texas National Parks

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park tells the story of our 36th President beginning with his ancestors until his final resting place on his beloved LBJ Ranch. This entire “circle of life” gives the visitor a unique perspective into one of America’s most noteworthy citizens by providing the most complete picture of an American president.

Things to see in the park include the Visitor Center, President Johnson’s Boyhood Home, Sam Johnson Sr.’s Cabin, and the Texas White House.

If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology.

We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson

Be Sure To Visit The Texas White House

Texas White House | Texas National Parks
Lyndon B. Johnson’s Texas White House | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I recommend beginning at the Visitor Center. It features exhibits on President Johnson’s life and his legislative accomplishments. There are two 25-minute films in the visitor center that can be viewed upon request: “LBJ: The President” covers his presidential years and “Lady Bird” highlights the life and accomplishments of Mrs. Johnson.

From there you can see the Johnson boyhood home that he lived in from the age of five until his high school graduation in 1924. 

Visitors are also able to do a driving tour of the LBJ Ranch. You can stop at sites along the way such as the President’s birthplace, Johnson family cemetery, and the Johnson’s ranch house known as the Texas White House.


Padre Island National Seashore | Texas National Parks (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

12. The Padre Island National Seashore

If you visit Padre Island National Seashore then you’ll experience a truly magical place which includes 66 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life. 

It’s a nesting ground for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and a haven for over 380 bird species. 

Padre Island has a rich history that also includes the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.

Things To Do At Padre Island

ocean, sunset, person-2203720.jpg
At Padre Island, there are so many wonderful aquatic activities | Texas National Parks

I’m a history guy, but when it comes to Padre Island the surf’s up. On this 113-mile island, the second-longest island in the contiguous United States, there are so many wonderful aquatic activities including: beachcombing, beach driving, bicycle riding (on the beach of course!), bird watching, fishing, picnicking and swimming.

And, if you’re planning on camping then the good news is that their campgrounds are open year round.

While you’re there I recommend checking out Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a favorite place for resident birds and their snowbird cousins, fish, mammals, amphibians, and countless insects.

You also ought to visit the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary. It includes a five-story viewing tower and more than half a mile of raised boardwalks and bird blinds. There’s 50 acres of protected wetlands and the creatures that live here.


Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park | Texas National Parks (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

13. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

I spent almost 30 years teaching high school students about the history of America and the world. One of the topics we covered was the Mexican American War which became part of America’s Manifest Destiny. This war helped the United States to expand its territorial holdings from sea to shining sea.

Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park is the site of the first major battle of the U.S.-Mexican War. Visitors can experience a landscape almost as it existed on the day of the battle.

The park enjoys the unique distinction of being the only National Park Service unit to interpret the U.S.-Mexican War. (Source: NPS)

Step Back In Time At Palo Alto

Display of two soldiers. One dressed in 1846 U.S. Army uniform the other Mexican Army uniform
The story of the U.S.-Mexican War is complex. However, you can get a good handle on it with a half-day visit to the park and nearby sites. (Courtesy of the National Park Service)

I recommend that you begin your visit at the Visitor Center and pick up a park brochure and trail guide. From there you will discover outdoor adventures which include:

  1. Hiking the battlefield trail which is a half-mile walk. Along the way you will see a landscape very much like the one experienced by soldiers in 1846.
  2. From Palo Alto you can also explore the Brownsville Historical Trail which includes historic sites and attractions.
  3. Bird watching is highly recommended too. All you have to do is bring a pair of binoculars with you and keep a watchful eye out as you traverse the trail.
  4. Visit the Resaca de la Palma Battlefield which features a half-mile circular trail with interpretive waysides.

Canoeing through Hot Springs Canyon
Plan the ultimate float trip at the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River | Texas National Parks (Photo courtesy of the NPS)

14. Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River

Imagine 196 miles of free-flowing river stretch of the Rio Grande which winds its way through desert expanses and stunning canyons of stratified rock. Imagine an extended float trip which enables you to explore the most remote corner of Texas and experience the ultimate in solitude, self-reliance, and relaxation in natural soundscapes.

But the best news of all is that you don’t have to imagine. You can do it! The Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River provides the ultimate river rafting experience.

If you’re planning a float trip then consider the following options:

  1. Float Boquillas Canyon: The rapids in this 33-mile journey only rate up to Class II. Camping a couple of nights by the soothing sounds of the river, and marveling at the 1,200 foot canyon walls, allow time to forget the daily distractions of life.
  2. Float the Lower Canyons: A five to ten day float trip through the Lower Canyons offers a true wilderness experience. The trip begins at Heath Canyon near La Linda and ends at Dryden Crossing (83 miles). 
  3. Float the Mariscal Canyon: It is the shortest canyon in the park, 10 miles long, with varied scenery and stunning limestone cliffs rising up to 1,400 feet. (Source: NPS)

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

15. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

The Spanish influence has gone a long way to shape the culture, customs and traditions of the American Southwest. The Conquistadors came in search of glory and gold. They were followed by the Church with its message of salvation.

In the early 1700s, many Native people of South Texas foreswore their traditional life to become Spanish, accepting a new religion and agrarian lifestyle in hopes of survival.

Today you can visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and learn the fascinating stories of the mission’s descendants while you’re there.


Waco Mammoth National Monument | Texas National Parks (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

16. Waco Mammoth National Monument

If you love history as much as I do than imagine a history before humans roamed the earth. At the Waco Mammoth National Monument, you can walk in the footsteps of creatures as tall as 14 feet and weighing 20,000 pounds.

Columbian mammoths roamed across what is present-day Texas thousands of years ago. Today, the fossil specimens represent the nation’s first and only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of ice age Columbian mammoths.

This monument sits within 100 acres of wooded parkland along the Bosque River. It’s surrounded by oak, mesquite and cedar trees. There you can forget about the modern world and reflect upon the lives and habitat of Columbian mammoths and other Ice Age animals.

The Work Into Unearthing The Past Continues

Removing plaster casts of the herd with a crane.
Removing plaster casts of the herd with a crane. 1990 | Photo Courtesy of the NPS

Since the discovery of the site in 1978, museum staff, students and volunteers have spent thousands of hours excavating and working to preserve the fossil material.

While the remains excavated through 1990 are now housed at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex, most of the fossil specimens excavated since then remain in situ (still in their original position within the bone bed).

These specimens have been protected in recent years by a climate-controlled Dig Shelter, allowing for both public viewing and further scientific study. (Source: NPS)

The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You | Take A Deeper Dive

rio grande river, texas, big bend national park-1581917.jpg
Take a deeper dive | Texas National Parks

To learn more about the Lone Star State, I recommend reading the following books:

  1. The Great Book of Texas: The Crazy History of Texas with Amazing Random Facts & Trivia by Bill O’Neill.
  2. History of Texas: A Captivating Guide to Texas History, Starting from the Arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in North America through the Texas Revolution to the Present (Captivating History) by Captivating History.
  3. Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans by T.R. Fehrenbach.

Map Of Texas National Park Sites


List Of Texas National Park Sites

  1. Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
  2. Amistad National Recreation Area
  3. Big Bend National Park
  4. Big Thicket National Preserve
  5. Chamizal National Memorial
  6. El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail
  7. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail 
  8. Fort Davis National Historic Site
  9.  Guadalupe Mountains National Park 
  10. Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
  11. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
  12. Padre Island National Seashore
  13. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park
  14. Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River
  15. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
  16. Waco Mammoth National Monument
Tony Pattiz

Tony Pattiz is a retired history teacher currently researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks.

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