In 1933 on a commission from President Roosevelt, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began work on a donated stretch of land in Central Texas that needed a purpose. Through the hard work of Company 1811 and 1805, with 200 enrollees each, a state park and national historic landmark emerged. Today, Bastrop State Park and neighboring Buescher State Park(pronounced “bisher”) encompass almost 8,000 acres of loblolly pines and hardwoods, collectively known as the Lost Pines of Central Texas.
Bastrop State Park gained some notoriety in 2011 as 96% of the park was burned in the Bastrop County Complex fire. I was curious to see how our beloved state park, only 30 miles southeast of Austin, has recovered since the wildfires. How are the recovery efforts going and is the park still worth visiting after so much devastation?
Bastrop State Park
So is Bastrop State Park still worth visiting? The short answer is yes, but not for the reasons you may think. This is your opportunity to see the rebirth of a state park and significant ecological preserve. You get to witness the foundations of an ambitious 30-year plan to regrow 7,000 acres of timbered region. Hiking through the trails of Bastrop State Park creates a feeling of sadness and hope. Of what once was, and what can be.
The hiking trails are neither lengthy nor demanding, with only a few fallen trees blocking the path. In fact, most of the trails are accessible by mountain bike or with four-legged friends. Scorch marks are still evident on many of the loblolly pines. They’re a reminder of how fickle and devastating wildfires can be.
For an ideal weekend, rent one of the 14 log cabins (prices range from $80-200 per night) or set up at one of the 130+ campsites. From your lodging, you have access to the neighborhood-style swimming pool and the rest of the park, including neighboring Buescher State Park.
Buescher State Park
You’ll find reference to the scenic 11-mile drive between the two state parks on every pamphlet and guide, and for good reason. The short jaunt provides a tangible transition between sections of the parks that were damaged by the fires and those that emerged unscathed. The curvy and hilly roads of the beautiful Texas Hill Country offer memorable photo opportunities on your journey.
Though Buescher State Park is smaller than its neighbor, its lake is a highlight. It provides a beautiful view, as well as opportunity to canoe, kayak and fish. As I was exploring, I came across two gentlemen who were seated along the lakebed on folding chairs, holding fishing poles.
“I heard they dropped in over a hundred trout last week. No luck for us yet, though,” one of them told me. They couldn’t have asked for a better backdrop to their leisurely afternoon. From their vantage point, I was able to see a small log cabin across the lake. Turns out that it houses canoes available for rent. The makings of a wonderful weekend trip continued to take shape.
State Park Recovery Efforts
I caught up with Jamie Creacy, Park Superintendent of the Lost Pines Complex, to see how the parks have recovered and discover ways we can help. “We are focusing our reforestation efforts on the areas of the park that were most intensely burned by the wildfire. These are the areas that burned so hot that there was no seed source remaining to germinate new pines,” Creacy shared. “To date, we have planted over one million trees in these areas!”
They will be planting 400,000 loblolly pines this January and February, with the first volunteer planting day on Jan. 16. You can sign up to volunteer online.
If Jan. 16 doesn’t work for you, you can see a list of upcoming events for each of the state parks here:
Over the next year, expect trail improvements for both state parks as rebuilding efforts continue. The park Facebook pages are available for up-to-date event and improvement information:
Visiting the Lost Pines Complex gives you a chance to learn about and become part of history.
@Crafty_Ed wants to know:
What is your favorite activity in the Lost Pines Complex?