Tens of thousands of people visit Tyler State Park each year, but only a small percentage of visitors take time to explore its many miles of trails, post oak savanna and beaver pond, said Boyd Sanders, park ranger.
To help visitors get the most from being in the heavily wooded area surrounding a 65-acre spring-fed lake, Sanders leads hikes, walks and programs just about every Saturday.
“We want our visitors to remember the experience (of being here) and to discover new things,” said Sanders, who describes his role as resource interpreter. “Even when they are hiking, they often go right by things and don’t even know what they are missing.”
Programs cover three areas: cultural heritage, outdoor skills and natural resources.
On Saturday, Boyd is set to lead Nature Navigation at 10 a.m. and Caddo Culture at 2 p.m.
During Nature Navigation, a 1.5-mile moderate hike that will begin at the Old Road Trailhead, Boyd said he will show participants how to use the signs of nature to determine the direction one is traveling and the location of water.
During Caddo Culture, he will talk about the culture, traditions and mound building skills of the Caddo Indians who lived in East Texas.
Programs on other Saturdays will help park visitors identify the many species of plants and animals in the park and cover skills from knot-tying to wilderness survival.
Sanders said one of the most popular programs is a demonstration of open-fire Dutch oven cooking. The demonstrations take place at 10 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month at the park’s Blackjack Pavilion.
All programs are free for campers. Day admission to the park costs $6.
The nearly 1,000-acre park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and some of the original buildings still exist. Activities include picnicking, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain bike riding and swimming.
Visitors can rent canoes, paddleboats, kayaks and paddleboards.
Tyler State Park is on Farm-to-Market Road 14 between Tyler and Hawkins. It has the most visitors on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Information about the park and nature programs is available at tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/tyler .