There’s just over a month of summer left, but the weather forecast still shows highs near the triple digits for the foreseeable future in Texas. Staying indoors all summer is one way to keep cool, but an even better way is to dive into one of the many beautiful state parks in Texas. Despite popular images of cacti and grassy prairies, Texas offers a variety of swimming spots from rivers and lakes to beaches – all of them unique Texas treasures that remind us how critical water conservation is in this state. Before the summer closes out, be sure to take advantage of Texas’ top 10 state parks for water recreation as recommended by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Located just an hour northwest of Austin in the Hill Country, Inks Lake is full of water all year round. There are family friendly hiking trails, campsites, a canoe/kayak rental, and various types of fish to catch.
Blanco State Park is located between San Antonio and Austin, roughly an hour from each city. The park is great for children and adults alike, with a shallow area for younger ones, and a deeper area with a rope swing for the more adventurous. It’s a popular fishing spot as well.
Lake Tawakoni, just outside of Dallas, is 376 acres and has over 5 miles of shoreline for swimming access. Additionally, the park has an outdoor amphitheater and hosts many events throughout the summer. Visit this link for the event calendar.
Only an hour away from Houston, escape the heat and head to the beach at Galveston Island State Park. In addition to swimming and other outdoor recreation, the island is also great for bird watching!
Deep in West Texas, just off of Interstate 10, is the world’s largest spring fed swimming pool. At Balmorhea State Park you can swim, scuba dive, and take in the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. Nearby are the Fort Davis Mountains, where you can hike the trails by day or visit the McDonald Observatory at night.
With 5,328 acres of caves and trails, Colorado Bend State Park has something for every outdoor enthusiast. An extensive trail system can take you to the water to cool off, or to a network of underground caves where you can escape the sun.
Possum Kingdom Lake has over 300 miles of shoreline and is located only an hour west of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. You can swim, boat, fish, snorkel, and scuba dive or even cool off in an air-conditioned cabin. Despite its name, the park is also home to various types of wildlife such as deer, raccoon, wild turkey, and bobcat.
The Devils River is the most pristine river in Texas due to its remote location in West Texas, about 4 hours from San Antonio. The natural area is primitive, with few amenities, but the beautiful blue water is worth the trek. If you’re interested in canoeing or kayaking the 47 mile stretch of the river, be sure to read all of the rules and safety tips here.
Pedernales Falls is a great place to spend the day or weekend. In addition to swimming in the river, visitors can hike, ride horses, fish, and bird watch from the park’s excellent bird blind.
McKinney Falls State Park is located in Southeast Austin and has nine miles of trails and two swimming spots—a deeper one at the Upper Falls and one more shallow at the Lower Falls. The park also hosts family-friendly events throughout the summer.
Help Keep These Beautiful Places Clean and Healthy by Doing Your Part
When visiting these or other state parks with swimming options this summer, please remember to be safe as well as mindful of the environment while you enjoy it. Pick up all trash and dispose of it properly or take it with you if there are no receptacles provided. Be sure to bring food and drinks with you, as long as they are not stored in glass or styrofoam containers. Visit the TPWD park rules page for the full list of general rules for all Texas state parks. It is our responsibility as Texans to take care of our wildlife, natural habitats, and natural resources so that people (and animals) can continue to enjoy them long into our future!
Did You Know: Private Land Stewardship Protects Precious Water Supplies for All Texans
Land stewardship means caring for the land responsibly in order to protect our natural heritage and resources. With about 95% of Texas land being privately owned, the way our landowners manage water on their properties is critical to the water quality and quantity our state enjoys as a whole. Former President Johnson once said, “saving the water and the soil must start where the first raindrop falls.”
Properly managed land allows for the recharge of Texas’s aquifers, springs, rivers, and lakes, which provides Texans and our wildlife with water, habitat for aquatic life, and all of these amazing places to swim each summer.
Check out this article by the Texas Wildlife Association to learn more about how land stewardship benefits water conservation as well as this article by TPWD that highlights useful practices and other water management projects around the state.