Reporter: Ellie Mahan
June 2, 2022
An ideal spot to hike a nature trail, cool off in the water, or gaze at the stars on a clear summer night, Lake Whitney State Park draws both tourists and locals alike. The park had 117,000 visitors during the last fiscal year, and it was fully booked for Memorial Day weekend. The entire park was reserved last weekend, with more than 165 campsites, cabins and shelters available. There were more than 120 reservations for Friday, May 27, alone.
New to the park this year are shade coverings in the day use area. In 2016, most of the coverings, which were 45-50 years old, collapsed. As of late winter, visitors have a place to cool off and take a break from the sun while utilizing the day use area.
Also new to the world of Lake Whitney State Park are several fawns. The park superintendent reported that there have been multiple sightings of baby deer recently, so while staying at the park, campers can be on the lookout for the newest members of the Lake Whitney community.
In addition to the availability of the lake and nature trails, the state park also offers events for daytime and nighttime activities. Visitors can spend part of their day on a guided hike, exploring the Bird Sleuths of the Two Bridges Trail. This event accepts up to 15 people per group and is free with a paid park entry permit.
In the evening, visitors can enjoy a walk across the galaxy by using star maps, a laser pointer and telescope. Retired National Park Ranger Larry Smith guides participants through the planets, moon and stars at his Star Talks in the Park.
“We are so fortunate and lucky to have him [Larry Smith] provide those programs for us because he has such a wealth of knowledge,” said Adam Bain, park superintendent, park police officer and president of the Lake Whitney Chamber of Commerce.
Along with these regular programs, the state park is holding the Wild Wonders Summer Camp again this year, scheduled for Monday, June 13, through Thursday, June 16. This outdoor science and ecology camp allows incoming third through sixth graders to enjoy sessions on: wildlife investigations, survival skills, fishing, fossils, hiking, discovering endangered and threatened species, learning first aid and safety skills and more. The cost is $140, with a limited number of spots and scholarships available.
A camp for younger children has also been scheduled from Monday, June 6, through Wednesday, June 8. Pre-kindergarten through second grade students will attend from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Activities in
clude lessons on wind energy, water safety and animal adaptations. This camp costs $70, with a limited number of scholarships available.
A Hunters Education Course will also be offered Friday, June 17, and the course is not limited to campers. For more information on these programs, email email@example.com or call the Lake Whitney Chamber of Commerce at 254-694-2540.
Bain has been working for Texas Parks and Wildlife for 12 years, starting off as an intern at Palmetto State Park.
He has been working for Lake Whitney State Park for four years and enjoys the variety of work he does there on a daily basis. Bain said, “I get to serve the people of Texas who come into the park, our visitors. I get to serve the folks that are on my team of employees here.”
He works on the park’s budget, answers campers’ questions, builds community partnerships and enforces the rules and regulations of the park. He said, “In the law enforcement role, I get to serve people in times of need where they really need help. Sometimes those are bad situations and situations when they’re at their worst. I really am fortunate to be able to help people out in times like that.”
Part of Bain’s law enforcement role is educating visitors of the rules and regulations at state parks. Two rules that he finds many people are often unaware of are the no dogs off leash rule and the rule that visitors can not consume or display alcohol in a public space. He said state park rules are in place to uphold a family atmosphere and to preserve the resources of the wildlife habitat in the park.
The state park that opened in 1965 is a place where people now go to destress and disconnect from technology. Spending time in nature can lead to improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation, according to the American Psychological Association. Bain acknowledged the mental health benefits of being outdoors, stating that stress can be eased while hiking a trail, fishing in the lake, swimming or simply relaxing while watching the sunset. He also said he has noticed an uptick in state park attendance since the beginning of the pandemic.
For more information about Lake Whitney State Park, visit tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/lake-whitney.