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Adventures in Bastrop, Texas: A Small-Town Texas Gem Near Austin

Basin RV Park: A Peaceful Spot by the Colorado River

Lower Colorado River at Basin RV park.

We arrived in Texas in the midst of the “heat dome” of July 2023. We stayed in the little town of Bastrop, about 25 minutes outside of Austin.

Pink sunset over our RV.

Double rainbows after a hot, humid and stormy day in Bastrop.

It was so hot (high 90’s with humidity) that there weren't a lot of outdoor activities we could tolerate during the day, other than swimming. Luckily, we stayed in a nice little RV park called Basin RV park by the Colorado river that also had a pool and small water play area where we could cool down.

The shady trees by the river were a nice spot to cool down.

We enjoyed the shade of massive old trees next to the lower Colorado river, which the local deer herd also used to cool themselves down in the 95 degree plus temperatures.

We were delighted to observe twin deer fawns that would visit each day with their mother to play and rest in the shade. I was also thrilled to see my first Texas Crested Carcara being chased by angry bird parents! My youngest daughter and I had fun observing scissor-tailed flycatchers and new butterfly species we had never seen before.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Bordered Patch butterfly

We experienced a moonbow for the first time ever, which was beautiful and mysterious looking in the misty air. Moonbows or lunar rainbows are rare and stunning natural atmospheric phenomena that happen when the light of the moon is reflected and refracted off of water droplets in the air.

A rare moonbow over Bastrop.

A 4th of July Visit to the Texas State Capitol

When we drove into Austin on July 4th, we really wanted to visit some of the green spaces and river areas, but it was so crowded and hot at all the outdoor areas that we decided we would do something patriotic and visit the Texas state capitol building.

It was so interesting to visit this magnificent building and learn about the history of Texas. We saw legislators' offices and courtrooms where many important cases have been heard. We walked up all the flights of stairs to the top of the dome and looked down at all the visitors.

It was cool inside and such a welcome reprieve from the brutal heat. As soon as we got back outside, we saw that everyone, including the local squirrels, was struggling with the sizzling summer heat.

A very hot squirrel!

The magnificent inner dome of the Austin Capitol.

Bastrop State Park: A Journey from Devastation to Regeneration

Wherever we visit on our full-time RV adventures, I research the local nature preserves, state parks, or national parks close by. One of the highlights of our visit was beautiful Bastrop State Park, where we enjoyed a couple of lovely hikes during our stay.

Scenic Overlook Trail recovering from fire destruction. Look at all the green growth!

Historic Bastrop state park is 32 miles from Austin and has been open for over 70 years. Hiking the park is beautiful, but you can see areas where the land is still recovering from disastrous wildfires and floods.

Signage in the park explained more about the history of the park and how wildfires have affected the landscape and endangered wildlife, and how scientists and rangers are aiding the recovery process.

Bastrop state park is known for its 13 miles of Lost Pine Forest, or Loblolly pines, which used to tower above the park’s trails. In September of 2011, a huge fire roared across the rolling hills, becoming the most destructive wildfire in Texas state history. It burned 32,000 acres and damaged 96% of the park, causing significant damage to the stands of unique Loblolly pines in the park. This ecosystem is home to the endangered Houston toad, whose numbers shrank after the fire.

Firefighters were able to save the historic structures of the park that were built by the CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps. People still use these historic cabins and buildings to this day.

Historic CCC buildings built in the 1930's that were saved during the wildfires.

In addition to the wildfire destruction, a dam failure of the park’s reservoir after flooding rains on Memorial Day of 2015 led to a failure of the dam, destroying more of the park. Another 2015 wildfire further damaged the park. The park has gone from devastation to recovery and resilience over the years, and its beauty is returning as it slowly regrows. Volunteers and park employees have planted more than 2 million Loblolly pines in the years since the fires.

New Loblolly pines are growing.

We drove the Scenic Park Road 1C on a 12-mile drive between Bastrop and Buescher state parks, marveling at the lovely towering pines and green rolling hills. It’s a peaceful and quiet state park with few crowds and no issues with parking. It’s a wonderful place to connect with nature and enjoy wildlife.

We decided to take the Scenic Overlook trail before sunset. It was still very hot, but tolerable enough to hike. It’s a 3.5-mile trail down and back up. We had the trail to ourselves, and although the switchbacks were tiring in the heat, the reward was the gorgeous sunset at the end when we finally reached the top.

Historic structure built by the CCC.

We were happy to see so much regrowth after the destruction of the fires. Vibrant green ferns, wildflowers and baby Loblolly pines were growing along the trail.

Butterflies and dragonflies flitted around the trails, and it was exciting to see all the bats coming out to hunt for the evening and listening to little screech owls calling near us as we hiked.

This is a dog-friendly state park and pets are welcome on a leash. We brought our dog Zorro on our hike and wore him out as we went up the switchbacks. His reward was sharing some ice cream after the hike!

Zorro, our adventure pup! He loves to hike!

Bastrop state park has something for everyone: you can hike, bike, camp, fish, kayak, swim, and go birdwatching.

Lake Bastrop near Bastrop State Park

All of the efforts of park staff and volunteers have helped this once-devastated state park rise from the ashes of the wildfires to experience rebirth and regrowth today. Before I visited Bastrop, I had only seen the coastal and desert sections of Texas. Visiting the green rolling hills of Bastrop helped me find a new view of Texas and appreciate the beautiful diversity of the landscapes of the Lone-Star state.

Copyright @Lorien Villucci Nature Photography, 2023


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