Day Trips

Looking back at 2009, it was a year of drought, change, and some exciting new opportunities for day trippers

Lake Travis in August
Lake Travis in August (Photo by Gerald McLeod)

Looking back at 2009, it was a year of drought, change, and some exciting new opportunities for day-trippers.

1) A DROUGHT OF HISTORIC PROPORTIONS scorched much of the Southwest, drying up swimming holes and burning crops. In Texas, the hardest hit area stretched from the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. By mid-August, all of the public boat ramps on Lake Travis were closed. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department reported that wildlife from the pronghorn antelope in West Texas to alligators and ducks on the upper Texas coast were severely affected. For the first time in seven years, the number of endangered whooping cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge declined.

2) PASSPORTS or other approved travel documents are now required when returning from excursions to Mexico. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's rules drove another spike into the already depressed border economy. Between the threat of violence from warring drug cartels and the new travel restrictions, many small businesses in border towns that cater to tourists are being forced to close.

3) THE TEXAS DISCOVERY GARDENS AT FAIR PARK was already a hidden jewel in Dallas, and it got better with the addition of the new Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium.

4) THE WACO MAMMOTH SITE, discovered in 1978, finally opened to the public. The new climate-controlled pavilion provides viewing of the largest known concentration of prehistoric mammoths that died in the same event.

5) THE PEDERNALES RIVER NATURE PARK opened for limited day use as the Lower Colorado River Authority's newest park. The 222-acre riverfront tract will ultimately be developed with a range of recreational facilities.

6) THE TEXAS STATE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION moved to Denton from Austin. This by itself had little effect on day-trippers, but the organization's plea for funds to continue the Handbook of Texas Online was a scare for explorers who like to get the history behind the places they visit. The handbook is also a great place to find the hidden treasures of Texas.

7) 'TERRA COTTA WARRIORS: GUARDIAN'S OF CHINA'S FIRST EMPEROR' visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Not only was this a great exhibit with limited appearances in the U.S., but it shows what world-class museums we have in Texas.

8) PHIL DUROCHER RETIRED from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department after 35 years of service to wildlife and recreation in Texas. As director of the Inland Fisheries Division, he implemented limits on catches and increased the role of the state's fish hatcheries.

9) MARGARET CAMPBELL BAMBERGER was a teacher, environmentalist, and the soul of Bamberger Ranch Preserve outside of Johnson City. Along with husband J. David Bamberger, they turned an abused piece of the Hill Country into a garden and showed thousands of others how it could be done.

965th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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