The Outsider Blog

May 2024
family walking in park
0524 org parks q2blog hiking
The school year is coming to a close which means your family can spend some quality time together away from home. Planning a family trip can be exhausting – you have to determine where you’re going, where you’re staying and what you’ll be doing when you get there. Travel should be exciting, not daunting. This year, let LCRA Parks be your travel agent! We put together three itineraries across the lower Colorado River basin that are sure to create lasting memories for your family.
Donut boat on Lake Austin

Central Texas: Two-day itinerary
4 p.m.  Check in to your Airstream at Black Rock Park (Buchanan Dam, TX)
6 p.m. – Eat dinner at Crazy Gal’s Café (Kingsland, TX)

9 a.m. – Tour and explore Longhorn Cavern State Park (Burnet, TX)
Noon – Eat lunch at Boat Town Burger Bar (Kingsland, TX)
3 p.m. – Play at Black Rock Park (amenities include mini golf, kayaks, sand volleyball, tubes and a playground)
6 p.m. – Grill and cook dinner at the Airstream
9 p.m. – Attend Stars and S’mores led by park staff

Donut boat on Lake Austin

Lost Pines Region: Two-day itinerary
4 p.m.  – Check in to your cabin at Lake Bastrop South Shore Park (Bastrop, TX)
6 p.m. – Eat dinner at Roadhouse (Bastrop, TX)

10 a.m. – Shopping in downtown Bastrop
Noon – Eat lunch at Neighbor’s Kitchen & Yard (Bastrop, TX)
2 p.m. – Play at Lake Bastrop South Shore Park (amenities include mini golf, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, pedal carts and a playground)
4 p.m. – Ride in a pontoon boat on Lake Bastrop with Float On
8 p.m. – Grill and make dinner at the cabin

Texas Coast: Two-day itinerary
4 p.m.  – Check in to your beach bungalow at Matagorda Bay Nature Park (Matagorda, TX)
5:30 p.m. – Attend Adventures in Beachcombing led by park staff
7 p.m. – Eat dinner at Snappers Bar and Grill (Matagorda, TX)

8 a.m. – Coffee at Cassady’s Coffee Bar & Cafe (Matagorda, TX)
10 a.m. – Explore a nature trail at Matagorda County Birding Nature Center (Bay City, TX)
Noon – Eat lunch at Vallarta Mexican Grill (Bay City, TX)
3 p.m. – Play at Matagorda Bay Nature Park (amenities include mini golf, kayaks, beach chairs and umbrellas)
6 p.m. – Grill and cook dinner at the beach bungalow
9 p.m. – Fish at night on the park’s piers

Your family can choose to have an adventure on the lake or the beach. Either way, hit the road and don’t forget to swing by our retail stores (at Lake Bastrop South Shore Park and Matagorda Bay Nature Park) for a fun souvenir.

Previous Blog Entries

Wild Flowers

February 2024

wildflowers and trees

When you think of Texas, what comes to mind first? Is it the delicious barbeque smoked all day to perfection? Or could it be the classic cowboy riding his horse across the prairie filled with longhorns? If you ask us, one image always reigns as the most iconic – Texas bluebonnets.

Adopted as the state flower of Texas in 1901, this flower graces us with its presence every spring, painting the state’s landscape in a sea of blue. The bluebonnets bring millions of visitors to Texas; however, there are many more flower species in our state that aren’t as well known, and they all support the ecosystem by providing erosion control, pollination and a food source for native wildlife.



This wildflower has a unique appearance and peculiar pollination strategy. Flies crawl down the flower’s tubular opening and through a trapdoor where they pick up pollen while sipping nectar. The trapdoor slowly withers away, keeping the fly trapped inside for one day. As soon as the fly escapes, it finds another swanflower and repeats the same act, completing the pollination process. Swanflowers are difficult to find because they also serve as host plants for pipevine swallowtail butterflies whose caterpillars quickly consume the plant. You can try and spot this flower at McKinney Roughs Nature Park.

dwarf sundew
Dwarf Sundew

This odd-looking flower is the smallest carnivorous plant (usually no more than three centimeters across) in North America and grows in moist, sandy areas such as Lake Bastrop South Shore Park. This plant’s leaves are covered in red hairs with sticky liquid on the ends that attract and trap small insects. Lucky for us, mosquitoes make up a large portion of their diet!

purple pleatleaf
Purple Pleat-leaf

Sometimes called a propeller flower, the Purple Pleat-leaf gets its name from its distinct leaves, which are folded along their stem as it extends from the ground. Ninety days after its seeds are sown in the spring, this wildflower blooms with striking shades of purple. Historically, a Mayan civilization called the Huastec used the plant’s bulbs to treat dysentery. Visitors have spotted this flower in partially shaded areas at Plum Park on the Colorado.

lindheimers paintbrush
Lindheimer’s Paintbrush

Also referred to as an Indian Paintbrush, Lindheimer’s Paintbrush can be seen throughout Central Texas. It prefers to grow in clay, gravel or sandy soils found in places such as Gloster Bend Recreation Area. This park’s soil, as well as other parks along Lake Travis, is especially fertile because of the nutrients it contains from historical water levels. Native Americans used to consume this flower in moderation; however, it is toxic to horses.

By using iNaturalist on your mobile device, you can identity these flowers, as well as many more, on your own. Be sure to capture good pictures of the flower’s underside and leaves (in addition to the top view) for accuracy. Tag @LCRAparks on Instagram and let us know what you find!

Furry Family Camping

October 2023

dog sitting with water jpg
At LCRA Parks, we know camping. From classic tent camping to RV camping to glamping, we’ve designed our parks so that we can host all types of nature enthusiasts during their outdoor exploration. This includes one very special type of explorer – your pet.

As of 2023, 66% of U.S. households own a pet, compared to 56% in 1988. We understand that pets are more than just household companions, they’re cherished family members who are a joy to bring along on life’s adventures. We teamed up with experienced pet parent, Cheyenne Ammons, who camps alongside canine pal, Diesel, to give you tips and tricks for creating the best outdoor experiences for your furry friend.

dog sitting with person on porch jpg
What dog breed is Diesel?
He is a 3-year-old Fox Red Labrador Retriever.

How long have you been camping and including Diesel?
I’ve always loved the outdoors. I grew up camping, hiking and fishing in Washington State, so I was raised in a very outdoorsy family. From day one having Diesel, he has been going everywhere with me – no matter the trip or the state.

What kind of adventures do you like to take with Diesel?
I love a good road trip with Diesel, and I enjoy taking him to parks with scenic overlooks and a good place to swim.

Pro tip: Grelle Recreation Area has both!

What are the essential items you bring when exploring with your pup?
I have a “doggie diaper bag” for Diesel that I always bring whenever we travel or take adventures. It contains spare food (even if it is just a day trip), lots of water, a cooling harness, booties, food/water dishes, spare leash and collar, and dog treats.

Pro tip: Several pet retailers now sell first aid kits specifically for dogs.

What is the primary thing you look for in a park when camping with your pet?
Dog friendly hikes! Some parks allow dogs within the park boundaries, but not all parks allow dogs on the trails, unfortunately. I’ve visited other park systems that allow dogs to go “only where cars can go.”

Pro tip: Since LCRA Parks is a pet-friendly park system, we allow dogs on trails, and off leash, as long as they are under their owner’s direct control. You can even stay overnight in certain cabins at Black Rock Park and Lake Bastrop South Shore Park.

How do you search for pet-friendly accommodations?
I always check BringFido first; it’s a site that actually specializes in pet travel. Next, I check other online sources like Airbnb and social media. I specifically search “Texas dog-friendly stays” on Instagram and TikTok and have found some really cool places!

What is a common mistake people make when traveling with their pet?
Not bringing enough water, especially here in the Texas heat. It was nice to see water spigots at the Lake Bastrop South Shore Park cabins.

woman canoeing with dog jpg
What does Diesel enjoy most in the outdoors?
Diesel’s favorite thing about being outdoors is running free and smelling everything. His second favorite is swimming-as long as he is wearing his life vest; he doesn’t know how to swim without it.

How do you navigate changing weather and seasons, ensuring both your safety and Diesel’s?
I am always checking the weather and radar apps on my phone. If severe weather chances increase, such as tornadoes, flash flooding and thunderstorms), we always “play it safe” and reschedule our trip.

If we do get caught in bad weather (which we have), Diesel remains on leash at all times so that we can quickly make it back to our car or shelter. Diesel always has my phone number on his dog identification tags just in case he ever does get away from me while we are traveling.

How do you ensure Diesel stays comfortable during long car rides or flights when traveling?
I make sure he has a comfy bed to lay on and a blanket if it’s supposed to be cooler. I also bring a t-shirt that smells like me and one of his favorite toys (which is a giant Lamb Chop).

For flights, I always make sure he has food and water in his crate, as well as some strapped to the top of his crate-in case of a layover-the flight crew will feed him.

On long road trips, I make sure to stop often for him to release some energy, so he sleeps more while traveling. I’m also conscious of his number of bathroom breaks.

What advice do you have for first-time pet travelers to ensure a smooth experience?
No matter how you are traveling, be sure to get your dog used to or comfortable in their travel crate before your trip!

couple walking with dog on trail jpg
You can see more of Cheyenne and Diesel’s explorations by following them on Instagram at @RoamingwithDiesel. Now that we’ve got you started, it’s time to unleash YOUR next adventure.

Make Waves This Summer

July 2023

Couple sitting in a chair, and smiling while looking at a map
As the long-awaited summer season commences, the catchy tune from Leon Bridges resonates even deeper – “Texas Sun.” It’s bright and beautiful, fueling anticipated family vacations and neighborly cookouts in your backyard. But when our beloved Texas sun brings over 100-degree temperatures, water feels like an ideal element for any activity. With LCRA Parks, there’s no need to worry about finding ways to beat the heat. Our wide array of water-centered activities will ensure you stay cool while embracing summer.
Donut boat on Lake Austin

No motor needed

Non-motorized watercraft come in all shapes and sizes. Visitors looking for a relaxing water experience can spend the day at Lake Bastrop North Shore Park or Lake Bastrop South Shore Park renting kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards or even corcls – small, round boats designed specifically for kids to paddle on their own!

Want to reserve your watercraft in advance? Book an inflatable kayak or packraft with our partner Greenbelt Outdoors. Make your reservation online, and it will be ready and waiting for you to explore Lake Bastrop.

Keep in mind, these waters are a bit warmer than some because the lake was designed to cool the nearby power plant.

Donut boat on Lake Austin

Faster-paced fun

Make a splash in the ice-cold waters of Lake Austin at Jessica Hollis Park. Even on the hottest summer days, the waters at this day-use park stays cold constantly since they’re released from the bottom of Mansfield Dam. Here, you can book a Float On pontoon boat and captain for groups of 10-15 people. They also offer dam-to-dam Sea-Doo tours to show you the best views of the lake from Mansfield Dam to Tom Miller Dam. Call Float On at 512-436-3505 for additional details and availability.

Looking for a saltwater cruise instead? We also have boat rentals at Matagorda Bay Nature Park. Thanks to our friends at Ranch Water Rentals, you can reserve your very own bay boat to use during your stay. Explore the bay or the Colorado River and experience great Gulf Coast fishing and stunning sunsets. Smell the salty air and set sail!

Be LakeWise

At LCRA Parks, our unwavering commitment is not only to provide an exceptional experience during your visit but also to prioritize your safety and well-being. Making memories on the water can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to know the hazards you may encounter. Follow these tips to swim safely and boat responsibly.

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Never boat or swim alone.
  • Know when to call it quits.
  • Swim and boat in designated areas only.
  • Wear a lifejacket.
  • Know the rules before you visit the lake.

Learn more about LCRA’s Be LakeWise water safety campaign and discover helpful water resources.

Even though the temperatures will rise, you can still dive into a summer filled with good times at LCRA Parks.

Getaway – Party of One

April 2023

Couple sitting in a chair, and smiling while looking at a map
Gaining traction across generations, solo travel appeals to those seeking to escape routines and experience the world on their own time and in their own company. Whether you prefer complete solitude to avoid distractions or to sign up solo for a group tour, LCRA Parks offers a range of opportunities that will entice that solo traveler spirit.
Donut boat on Lake Austin

Trails and more trails

LCRA Parks’ trails – over 55 miles of them – offer an easy escape for independent explorers. From multiuse to ADA, we have a variety of trails for different users. That includes your pets, who can be off leash on LCRA Parks’ trails as long as they are under the owner’s direct control. Only 15 minutes outside of Austin, Texas, McKinney Roughs Nature Park offers tree-lined paths along the Colorado River. At Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area, trails allow you to wind though the Hill Country by foot or bike. Rent a QuietKat electric mountain bike onsite for an exhilarating ride.

Interior of an Airstream trailer at Black Rock Park

Beach vibes

The beach is always a way to break free from the mundane. As a solo explorer, you can find everything from relaxation to adventure at Matagorda Bay Nature Park, located where the Colorado River meets the Gulf of Mexico. For top-notch beachcombing, kayak across the river before or after low tide to find hundreds of untouched seashells. While you’re there, look for Texas’ state shell, the lightning whelk. This park also offers kayaking trails through its protected wetlands. Explore these waters to get up close to native wildlife in their natural habitats.

Aerial shot of a dock at Lake Bastrop South Shore Park

Guided activities

While solo exploration can provide many benefits, sometimes, it’s equally energizing to have new experiences alongside new people. Visit the LCRA Parks events calendar to view upcoming park activities led by our experienced staff. Slower-paced events include arts and crafts and birding, while more adrenaline-filled experiences include UTV and kayaking tours.

Don’t waste time waiting for schedules to sync up – get out on your own and explore now!

Gift Romantic Adventures

January 2023

Couple sitting in a chair, and smiling while looking at a map

Romance is in the air, and we know you’re stressing to find that perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. Lucky for you, we’ve tailored the perfect outdoor experience for every stage of a relationship – or even an adventure just for you. Give the gift of a unique experience and create memories that last forever.

The start of something new

Buying a gift for a new partner = intimidating. “Is this too expensive or not expensive enough?” “Will they like this, or will it just take up space?” LCRA Parks has the perfect solution. Book a one-of-a-kind picnic on a donut boat – yes, donut boat – from Love & Boat. Take off from Jessica Hollis Park and cruise along Lake Austin in your self-steering boat equipped with place settings, a Bluetooth speaker and games. Bring your own tasty treats and drinks and enjoy this new experience with your new person.

Donut boat on Lake Austin

Just hitched

Ah, the honeymoon phase … love, butterflies, romance. Continue the celebration with a few nights of glamping at Lake Bastrop North Shore Park. From cabins to safari-style tents, each GLAT glamping unit has cozy interiors, spacious decks and beautiful lake views. Plus, all GLAT accommodations are pet friendly, so your furry friend can tag along. Reserve a pontoon boat, golf cart or watercraft and adventure all day long. Located 45 minutes from Austin and two hours from Houston, this luxurious escape in nature will help you detach from the city rush.

GLAT camping bedroom interior
GLAT camping bathroom interior

Together forever

Long, committed relationships are a beautiful thing, but kids, work and extracurriculars (aka life) can bump one-on-one time to the bottom of your priority list. We’ve curated a nostalgic getaway for two at Black Rock Park, where you’ll relax and reconnect in our brand new Airstreams. With vast views of Lake Buchanan, you’ll spend the evening grilling a delicious dinner on the patio and getting cozy around the firepit to watch the stars. Together, you’ll enjoy a round of mini golf or cast a line off the sandy shore to catch some bass or catfish. Most importantly, you’ll appreciate each other’s undivided attention.

Interior of an Airstream trailer at Black Rock Park

Treat yourself

The longest relationship we’ll ever have is with ourselves, so this Valentine’s Day, focus on you and your next adventure. At Lake Bastrop South Shore Park, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and cruise around 900-acre Lake Bastrop – even catch a stunning sunset behind the towering loblolly pines. If you prefer land, take a hike (or bike) on our 4.5-mile trail through the Lost Pines region. The shaded canopies keep trails comfortable for your canine companion even in the hotter months.

Aerial shot of a dock at Lake Bastrop South Shore Park
Who needs more stuff? Making memories is the best gift of all.

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