State park prepares for busy summer

Michelle Wulfson | The ItemHuntsville State Park interpretive ranger John Herron holds a baby alligator being cared for by the park until it can be released into the wild. 

While the pandemic has canceled theme park excursions, vacation travel and slowed even most of daily life, state parks have been busier than ever, as families seek to escape the clog of city life by making their way outdoors.

Locally, interpretive park ranger John Herron has seen the effects on Huntsville State Park and is looking forward to another busy season, as in-person activities are ramping up at the park.

“We have definitely seen a lot more people coming into the park, which we are happy for,” Herron said. “We are seeing a crowd or audience that might not normally be used to being in the outdoors, so there’s some safety concerns there.”

As Huntsville State Park is home to many insects and animals, including alligators, snakes and their most aggressive resident, squirrels, it’s important to remember the leave-no-trace principle when visiting their home and not to feed them.

He also stresses the importance of bringing plenty of water before hitting one, if not all six of the park’s trails, as temperatures will be high this summer.

State park prepares for busy summer

Michelle Wulfson | The Item

For first timers, Herron recommends the Prairie Branch Trail, which explores two completely different habitats along the shore of Lake Raven and the park’s forests. He also recommends borrowing some gear and fishing along one of the piers, while catching a glimpse of some gators, or get up close and personal with them in a kayak or canoe. In the heat of the summer, cool off in the designated swimming area, but skip it if avoiding the crowds.

“Other than that, bring a hammock, bring a chair and enjoy the trees,” Herron added.

A slew of in-person and virtual activities have been finalized for the summer season, including the return of Saturday’s afternoon Gator Talk and Snakes in Our Park programs, as well as Sunday’s Fishing with a Ranger program in mid-May. Night programs will begin in June, every Friday evening for campers to safely explore the park with guided moonlit hikes, or enjoy campfires, cooking, stargazing and light art together.

Special events will be happening throughout the summer, including a guided hike of the Chinquapin Trail for National Trails Day on June 5, and on August 10, Herron will be cooking up s’mores at the park for National S’mores Day.

Weekends at the park are booked well in advance for campsites, while day passes generally sell out quickly as well. To ensure entrance into the park, reservations are highly encouraged no matter your length of stay, and can be made online at https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/huntsville or over the phone at (936) 295-5644.

To stay up to date with Herron and Huntsville State Park, follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HuntsvilleSP or visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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