THE STATE PARK PROJECT
What started out as a means to explore the splendor that is our state park system here in Texas has since turned into one of the best undertakings of my astronomical existence. The State Park Project is an opportunity to satiate my love for camping and astronomy in one fell swoop. Nomadic by nature, I want a chance to take my scope and seek out all possible observation venues. Many of our state parks here in Texas are under dark skies and some have established, if not burgeoning, star gazing programs. And having a personal passion for outreach I thought it might prove beneficial to establish where specific parks are in their offerings and see if I might be able to assist them further. As a volunteer with the Texas chapter of the International Dark Skies Association I hope I can contribute to their efforts as well. Lastly, knowing many amateur astronomers, and wanting to help them seek out the best spots for observing, I hope that compiling data and metrics on each park will help them in deciding were to pursue an overnight stay for stargazing.
Click on a park name below to take you to our research and analysis.
Pedernales Falls State Park / Johnson City
One of the jewels of the state park system here in Central Texas. Pedernales has it all; camping, hiking, equestrian facilities, mountain biking, swimming, great astronomical skies and close proximity to Austin.
Inks Lake State PaRK / Burnet
If you are looking to observe with a group, Inks lake is hard to beat. It has countless camp sites, wide open skies and some spectacular lake accessibility as well as various forms of hiking terrain.
Bastrop State Park / Bastrop
Fighting its way back from fire and flood, Bastrop State Park offers quaint camping facilities and high elevations ideal for solar observation.
Colorado Bend State Park / Bend
Though Colorado Bend is at the edge of our current observing perimeter it is by far one of the more impressive locations for stargazing. It offers a remote site under impressive skies with a multitude of sites to choose from.
Lost maples state park / vanderpool
One of the farthest parks being assessed in phase 1, Lost Maples boasts some of the darkest skies along with an elevated observing field that can be utilized in conjunction with park scheduled star parties by contacting the San Antonio League of Sidewalk Astronomers (SALSA) or the park directly.
lockhart state park / lockhart
Hidden in the depths of central Texas and the town of Lockhart is this quaint park sporting a little of something for everyone along with a small camping area ideal for the astronomer that wants the convenience of close by amenities but still better seeing than immersed in the depths of downtown cities.
Blanco State Park / Blanco
A gem of the downtown Blanco area this park is great for a quick get away and a focus on solar observing as opposed to deep night time stargazing.
Guadalupe State park / spring branch
Sporting three camping areas and a beautiful setting along the Guadalupe River this state park has it all from water access to hiking, camping, picnicking and educational resources along with affording options for astronomical observing.
Enchanted rock state natural area / Fredericksburg
kickapoo cavern state park / brackettville
Lake Somerville State Park / Somerville
Buescher State Park/
Palmetto State park/
McKinney Falls State Park/
Dates to be determined for Buescher SP, PalmeTto SP and McKinney Falls SP
Our project is in the early stages of Phase 1. This is the assessment of Texas state parks in approximately 100 miles of Austin, Texas. The intention for choosing this radius is that it is approximately an hour and a half drive from where we operate from. Meaning not too far from home but also far enough away to get to darker skies. Some parks fall closer to the center of our circle and in a couple cases some fall just slightly beyond.
Our assessments are categorized. We consider the ease of travel, operations within the park itself, park offerings, camping facilities and observing quality. Each variable is graded on a sliding scale of 1-5 we lovingly refer to as the scope-o-meter. A score of 1 being less than ideal and a score of 5 being stellar (pun totally intended).
As you can see from the images we provide and the details on attached maps; we try to identify which camping sites are optimum for an astronomer looking to observe with scope or binocular. We also take into consideration the available forms of accommodations and potential natural hazards. For example, Inks Lake State Park as some ideal level camp sites with good sky exposure but being on the lake we suggest camping only during cooler weather when the mosquitoes aren't so prevalent.
We hope the data and information we collect from Phase 1 will provide amateur astronomers with alternative locations, then what they have already, from which to observe the night sky while taking in the splendor that our State Park system has to offer.