What I loved about Colorado Bend State Park

I know some women think the last thing they want to do for romance is camp outdoors. The prospect of bugs and sleeping bags as opposed to nice sheets may indeed be a great a sacrifice, but when done right I personally find being out in the middle of nowhere, building campfires and looking at the stars very romantic.

And so my beloved and I ended up at Colorado Bend State Park for Valentine’s day.  We reserved a campsite through Parks and Wildlife’s online system, which was a snap.

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What I loved – The Remoteness

After driving for an eternity down a two lane road, we were certain we had missed the turnoff. But I had been warned that the park was very remote, and if we felt like we had gone too far, then we were on the right track. We finally came to a small general store called “Bend Store–for all your camping supplies” and assumed the park would be around the corner, but we found we still had 10 minutes before we’d reach the entrance to the park. I loved the signs along way, “Unfenced area: watch out for livestock.” 

As we drove deeper into the park, the road began to descend until eventually we were in the bottom of a canyon at the level of the Colorado river.

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By the time we got there, we felt very remote. Our cell phones didn’t work, and we had to give up internet for an entire weekend, which actually ended up being really nice.

What I loved – The Cliffs

The sun was beginning to set when we arrived and the cliffs along the other side of the river were beaming brilliant reds, pinks, and oranges.  Each hour they turned a different color.  It was like watching a show.

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Strung along the river facing these cliffs are the campsites, restrooms, water spickets, and ranger house.

The campsites are located in the most beautiful part of the park, and while they are crammed right next to each other, the gorgeous views make it worth it.

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Our campsite was #43.

What I loved – The Stars

As night descended, we were treated to one of the most spectacular starry nights I’ve seen in Texas. The park is nearly 6,000 acres and the nearest town is almost an hour away, so light pollution is minimal.

I felt like I was looking from a plane onto a city. It was absolutely breathtaking.

What I loved – Gorman Falls

Perhaps my favorite sight other than a s’more was Gorman Falls, which we hiked to the next day.

The last 20 yards of the trail to the falls is steep but not half as difficult as the guidebook will have you believe.

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About a half dozen people on the trail told me Trooper would have trouble making it because of his short legs. (Excusez moi!)

And he handled the hill like a champ.

When we reached the falls, I felt like I had descended into an enchanted forest. Rising a hundred yards up from the ground, the cliff was covered with bright green moss and gurgling waterfalls ran over the rocks in hundreds of different places. Big oaks cast permanent shade onto the area and it was cool and damp.

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All it needed were teacup-sized fairies dancing around the ferns and the enchanted forest image would be complete.

We ate our sack lunch on a big rock outcropping by the falls and watched boys from a scouting troop pass by, all of whom were trying to outdo eachother.

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What I loved – The River

The water was shallow and its banks were flat, so I pulled up a chair by the water and read a magazine while my boys, Brandon and Trooper, waded up the river.

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In the summer it would be a great place to kayak, and you can rent boats at the headquarters.

What I loved – River Trail

I also loved the river trail which follows the river upstream from the campsites. We had it to ourselves.

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What I didn’t love — Potty Situation

Colorado Bend state park is very primitive, and there are no flushing toilets.

I like to think I’m a tough girl, but I loathe port-o-potties. I live in Austin, the music capital of the world, but I have never been to a music festival because I refuse to use a port o potty.

But I had to suck it up and deal.

In all fairness, they are a really nice version of a port o potty, and don’t look like a port o potty on the outside, and on the inside they are spacious and have tiled floors. But there’s no mirror, no sink, and no faucet. There are two water spickets near the campsites, so bring your own mirror, a big jug and a bucket. Fill them up and take them back to your campsite so you can wash your hands, do your makeup, and refill your water bottles.

In the end, I know it was worth it in order to be in such a beautiful park. But be warned.

All in all Colorado bend is one of the prettiest parks I’ve been to and I recommend it, regardless of the potty situation.

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Review: Mother Neff State Park

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Mother Neff State Park is where I found myself last weekend on a camping adventure at the end of a frenzied work week. I use the word “adventure” because discovering item after item I had forgotten to pack was a total adventure.

I don’t know who is their groundskeeper, because I didn’t see a single staff person, but the entire park was tidier than a museum.  Everything from the headquarters to camp sites to  restrooms to roads and trails looked like it had just been power washed, pruned, or swept. The road going through the park was brand new.

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MNSP is on the smaller end of the spectrum but it’s just right for a one or two-night trip.

It’s handyEasy to get to off I-35 and easy to reserve.  Many of our state parks book up months in advance, but if you’re like me, you aren’t always planning that far ahead.

On your way in to the park, you can see that Mother Neff is surrounded by miles and miles of flat farmland.  When you get on the trails, the terrain becomes very hilly and there is actually a cave you can visit, which I found to be unexpected in such a flat area.

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Perhaps most entertaining was hearing the owls hoot at night. My little neice Grace loved listening for their calls and sending back her own hoots in their direction.

Mother Neff really is perfect for kids Grace’s age (3) and younger who need short, easy trails with a variety of features to keep their interest.

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In addition to the cave, there was a pond and a tall rock tower with great views of the park.

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Grace and I pretended to be Rapunsel letting down our hair from the top of the “castle.”

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Grace proved that a high energy 3 year old could stay entertained at Mother Neff for 24 straight hours.

The bouncy air mattress in our tent which was so fun to jump on may have had something to do with it.

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The Verdict

All in all it was a good little park.I think it may get old after more than a day and a half, but in these busy times we live in, sometimes that’s all you have.

If I had to sum it up on a bumper sticker, I would say:

Mother Neff State Park, perfect one-night camping trip!

Mother Neff State Park, best for small children!

Mother Neff State Park, our bathrooms are clean! Does anything else matter?

Last but not least, be sure to bring your own hand soap as the it is not provided in the restrooms.

You may need it to wash off your child’s face after they decide to nap face down in the dirt…

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