The Earliest Campers in Texas Parks

It may be that the Texas Parks are running out of habitat for all of the Parks' wild creatures. In early July of 2006 some wildcats wandered away from one Park, and into the backyard of a residence in Plano, Texas. The problem presented by the appearance of those wildcats gave everyone a taste of the problems facing the first campers in the present-day State Park system.

Because Texas is such a huge state, a visitor to Texas will find great diversity in Texas' parks. Regions of Texas that have ready access to a State Park seem to compete with each other for bragging rights about that Park. For example, the Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, Texas is the largest urban park in the United States. It stretches over an area of 37 square miles.

Northeast of El Paso, in the Panhandle, one finds another of the Texas parks. It too is a State Park, and it too can brag about its size. It is the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, located within the Caprock Escarpment. Found near Amarillo, Texas, and formed by a fork in the Red River, this Texas Park contains the second largest canyon in the United States.

Travelers who choose to camp in Palo Duro Canyon State Park can watch the sun's rays bring out the color in the area's rocks. Some of the rocks will appear a light pink, while others will be a deep red. All of the rocks will offer a display not found at other Texas parks.

Little has been written about the earliest campers in those two Texas Parks, but history does provide some insights into one or two wild Texas camping adventures. Those wild Texas camping adventures took place in Big Spring State Park. The Comanche and the other Native Americans knew that the spring in the area served as a permanent source of water. They kept that knowledge to themselves until 1768.

In that year the Spanish explorers happened upon the spring at what is now Big Spring, Texas. Those explorers did not realize that they had found an area of land that would later be deeded to the State of Texas. They did not know that that deeded land would one day expand the number of Texas' parks.

Those Spanish explorers probably thought the spring would be a permanent part of Spanish territory.  They could not know that Captain R.B. Macy of the U.S. Cavalry would find the spring on October 3, 1849. The Captain had been looking for a place to camp; he had been returning to Fort Smith in Arkansas after a visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 1934 and 1935 the City of Big Spring deeded 381.99 acres around the spring to the State of Texas. Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps then built the makings of a park in the area of Big Spring. The generosity of the people of Big Spring thus served to spur the recovery of the U.S. from the depths of the depression. A group formed by President Franklin Roosevelt helped to increase the number of Texas parks. It opened to the public an area once used primarily by cattle drivers, and by travelers to points further west.

By inviting the public to the area around Big Spring, the donated land drew attention to the system of Texas parks.  In July of 2006 those Texas Parks could still manage to earn some news coverage. A group of wildcats wandered beyond the boundaries of one Texas Park and into the backyard of a residence in Plano Texas. The animals' search for better habitat emphasized the importance of the State's Park System. The problem presented by the appearance of those wildcats gave everyone a taste of the problems facing the first campers in the present-day State Park system.

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