From the Annals of the Big Thicket – In 1984,President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that established five wilderness areas in East Texas. The five were the Big Slough Wilderness Area, Indian Mounds Wilderness Area, Little Lake Creek Wilderness Area, Turkey Hill Wilderness Area and Upland Island Wilderness Area. Red fondly remembers the time when Republicans at least used to pretend that they gave a damn about the environment.
From the Annals of the Vandals – In 1889, H.S. Barber carved his name in Devil’s Sinkhole near Rocksprings. The 350 foot deep sinkhole was first encountered by settlers years before, but Barber was the first known person to explore the cave. The vertical cavern is the largest known single-chamber cavern in Texas. The cave opening is a shaft approximately 50 feet wide with a 140 foot vertical drop into the cavern. The shaft widens to a diameter of over 320 feet and reaches a total depth of over 350 feet. The cave is home to more than three million Mexican free-tail bats. It is now part of the Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area and can be visited by making advanced reservations.
From the Annals of Granite – In 1978, the Nature Conservancy bought Enchanted Rock for $1.3 million. The NC saved the property from a planned development and then deeded the natural treasure to the State six days later. The top of the granite monolith north of Fredericksburg stands at an elevation of 1,825 feet and rises about 425 feet from the base. Some say it takes its name from the mysterious sounds that the heating and cooling rock reportedly makes. Another legend states that Tonkawa Indians gave it this name believing that a Spanish conquistador cast a spell on it, making magical ghost fires glow at the top. The site reopened as Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in March 1984. The area includes Enchanted Rock, Little Rock and Buzzard’s Roost and features over 11 miles of trails.
From the Annals of the Big Parks – In 1988, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission purchased Big Bend Ranch in Presidio County to form Big Bend State Natural Area now known as Big Bend Ranch State Park. The acquisition of the 311,000 acre ranch more than doubled the amount of park land under state control. The park offers hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing and boating on the Rio Grande and even has a 5500 foot landing strip.
Photo of Solitario Peak from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
From the Annals of the National Treasures – In 1968, Lady Bird Johnson dedicated Padre Island National Seashore. Padre Island is the largest barrier island in the U.S. and PINS is the longest seashore in the national park system. Protecting this precious resource was not easy. Texas attempted to establish a state park on Padre Island beginning in 1936. The effort failed in a contentious struggle between public and private interests over ownership of the land. In 1958, Sen. Ralph Yarborough (D-Texas) introduced a bill to establish a national park on the island, and the proposal was finally signed into law in 1962. The dedication of the park followed five years of condemnation proceedings.
From the Annals of Geologic Formations – In 1978, The Nature Conservancy bought Enchanted Rock from the Moss family for $1.3 million. The purchase kept the property preserved for posterity. Various plans had been floated for the site including turning it into a real estate development or quarry. The Moss family wanted the site preserved but the state of Texas lacked the funds or the willpower to purchase the Rock. TNC deeded the property to the State six days after the purchase. The site was closed to the public for several years and reopened as the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in March of 1984.
The granite pluton batholith near Fredericksburg rises to an elevation of 1825 feet and is formed from some of the oldest rock on the planet. The Rock has long been a popular spot for hiking, rock climbing and camping. The weathered dome, standing above the surrounding plain is known to geologists as a monadnock. Archaeological evidence indicates human visitation at the rock going back at least 11,000 years. The name “Enchanted Rock” is derived from Native American legend which attributed magical and spiritual powers to the high ground.
Red first visited the then private park in 1967 and has been back dozens of times since then. It is a must see for all Texans.
From the Annals of the Wilds – In 1984, Pres. Ronald Reagan signed the Texas Wilderness Act of 1984 establishing five new wilderness areas in East Texas. The five were the Big Slough Wilderness Area, Indian Mounds Wilderness Area, Little Lake Creek Wilderness Area, Turkey Hill Wilderness Area and Upland Island Wilderness Area. These areas were preserved from logging and development and now serve as islands of wilderness in Texas’ National Forests. In 1979, the Secretary of Agriculture had recommended the establishment of three wilderness areas totaling 10,712 acres. Texas congressman John Bryant sponsored legislation that would have set up ten wilderness areas in Texas covering 65,000 acres, but the bill went nowhere until citizen support expanded in the district of Congressman Charles Wilson, where three of the wildernesses lie. Wilson agreed to a compromise of five wilderness areas totaling 34,700 acres. That compromise was made possible by the willingness of lumber giant Temple-Eastex to trade some of its land inside Upland Island and Indian Mounds for Forest Service land outside.
Imagine a Republican President today signing a bill that creates wilderness areas.