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North Texas Will Soon Welcome Palo Pinto Mountains State Park

Sometime in the coming months, North Texas will get its first new state park in 25 years.
| |Illustration by Pablo Lobato
Palo Pinto State Park
The 4,900-acre park, which is centered on Tucker Lake, will include 18 new miles of hiking trails. Pablo Lobato

Halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene, 75 miles from both, the hills and soft cuestas of the Western Cross Timbers break through the prairie. This is where North Texas will have its first new state park in 25 years, Palo Pinto Mountains State Park

“The goal of this property is to provide more outdoor recreation opportunities for Texans, especially from the Metroplex,” says James Adams, the park’s superintendent. Among those opportunities will be 12.5 miles of multiuse trails of varying difficulty, primitive camping areas, and plenty of water activities.

Located southwest of Strawn, a ranching community in Palo Pinto County, the park is centered on the 90-acre Tucker Lake. As the lake is one of the two water supplies to Strawn residents, gas-powered boats are prohibited. Adams says this ban also aims to reduce wakes and noise pollution. But the lake is not off-limits: there is a wheelchair-​accessible fishing pier and kayak and canoe launch, and visitors can swim, too. 

Palo Pinto’s 4,900 acres offer the usual outdoorsy fun, such as hiking and horseback riding. But deep within the park, among the juniper and oak and the bobcats and whitetail deer that call the area home, is a “really rich” catalog of history, Adams says. The current trails don’t extend to these historical spaces yet, but he hopes that soon enough they will. (Eighteen more miles of hiking trails are planned for construction.)

Among the juniper and oak and bobcats is a “really rich” catalog of history. 

Long before it was settled by early Texans, a variety of nomadic Indigenous tribes—including Caddo, Comanche, and Tonkawa—roamed the area. Palo Pinto will have interpretive spaces that pay homage to those people, with artifacts on display. 

More recently, the Texas and Pacific Railway (before it merged with Union Pacific) housed workers in the region, as they laid tracks in Abilene. At the back of the park, along an active rail line, Adams found a rock oven in near-perfect condition, built in 1880 by the makeshift rail community. He says there’s only one other documented communal oven remaining from the railroad era in the state (in Seminole Canyon  State Park, near the Rio Grande). Palo Pinto also contains a ghost town, once known as Wyles Siding.

“It’s really interesting to be able to go to one place and see so much of Texas history,” Adams says.

As for when all of this can be enjoyed? The park had planned a soft opening for later this year, but, after several unforeseen delays, Adams is now looking forward to a hard opening “as soon as possible,” sometime next year. Check the official website for updates.

This story originally appeared in the November issue of D Magazine with the headline, “The Promised Land.” Write to [email protected].


Alyssa Fields

Alyssa Fields

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