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Visit: Lake Houston Wilderness Park

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This park recently received the first part of a $6 million facelift, courtesy of the city of Houston. Recent upgrades include the addition of four new cabins, two screened A-frame camping platforms, and five screened shelters. Also, a new entrance has been added that makes the 5,000 acre park more accessible. Cabins should be available for rental beginning in mid-April. Plans also call for creation of an archery ranch and horse rental concession.

This municipal park is the second largest of the 366 parks listed in the city of Houston’s Parks and Recreation Department, and the only one that offers overnight camping. It is only a half hour away from downtown Houston, off 59 in New Caney. There are currently three geocaches inside the park.

From the 1950s to 1990, the 200 main acres of this park operated as one of the most popular Girl Scout camps in the San Jacinto Council. Girl Scouts of the era will recall it as “Peach Creek Ranch”, a haven for horse enthusiasts. A herd of forty horses lived here, where countless girls learned how to ride from the instruction of horse wranglers (teenage girls who worked with the horses) and adult instructors.
I was one of those girls myself, and first attended the camp in 1980 at age 5 with my sister’s troop, and then continued to attend every summer from age 8 to 14. From 1988 to 1990, I was a horse wrangler at this camp, and participated in the closing ceremonies of the camp in a horseback flag ceremony. One of the reasons we were given for the camp being shut down and turned into a park was that the frequent flooding and high waters of “Peach Creek” were causing the mosquitos population to be out of control, and the health of the horses was at stake. A few of the horses had been diagnosed with “swamp fever”, or EIA (Equine Infectious Anemia), which is incurable and results in the horse having to be put down. The saddest moment of the closing bonfire was the ceremonial return of the halter of one of the horses who had to be put down (7-Up, a very popular buckskin mare) to the lady who had donated her to the camp. There was hardly a dry eye in the place during this part of the bonfire, which was held down on the banks of the creek under the big bridge that seperates the upper from the lower reaches of the property.

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The rest of the property existed as a retreat for paper company executives, but was acquired by Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1990, along with the 200 acres, and was added to the state park roster. In 2006, TWPD granted the property to the City of Houston. The natural fauna of the park includes loblolly pines, sweet gums, elms and a variety of oaks. Wildlife includes coyotes, bobcats, river otters and several kinds of reptiles (including copperheads and water moccasins, so be aware), amphibians and birds. Nature programs such as owl walks and snake presentations are offered, as well as other nature programs. Horseback riding, biking and kayaking are other activities offered by this gem of a municipal park, as long as the visitor brings their own horse/bike/watercraft. The recent upgrades are only the first phase, and it is hoped this park will be around the offer Houston children a chance to experience wild nature for years to come. I encourage you to go see the changes for yourself and give this park a chance.

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