It's a great time of year to make the short drive down the Southwest Freeway or 288 to Brazos Bend State Park, Houstonia as the dinosaurs knew it.
And they still do know it, because you can't tell me that an alligator is anything other than a living dinosaur. Right now the giant reptilians are in full effect, maxin' and relaxin' in full view of the park's many visitors. Below, we find this gator using his turtle tanning buddy as a headrest:
Trust us, we saw it through our binoculars. He was not eating that turtle. They were snuggling.
The gators will let you get much closer than that. Though the largest one we saw was basking on the other side of a creek (and a good thing too, because that behmoth was at least 11'), this little seven-footer let me walk right up to him. (Note: alligator is not as close as it appears: I zoomed in on it. Don't approach them too close.)
Much to the dismay of my daughter:
So yes, it was a grand day out, and a bargain at the price: $7 for each adult, kids under 12 free. Camping ranges from $12/night (primitive) to $20 for water and electricity. You can reserve a site online.
Fishing requires no license in Brazos Band or any Texas state park, but Brazos Bend comes with some caveats. Wading in the water is utterly inadvisable and as noted in the park's online guide, "if an alligator becomes interested in your fishing line, you need to find another place to fish." If you can avoid enticing the gators, you can haul out bowfin, gar, crappie, perch, black bass, and catfish.
Away from the gators, Brazos Bend is a birdwatcher's paradise: over the years, we've seen ibises, anhingas, bitterns, pileated woodpeckers, various warblers and birds of prey, herons (blue and white, great and small) and too many others to remember right now.
Miles and miles of trails offer hikers, cyclists and horseback riders access to most of the 5,000 acres of Spanish moss-draped oaks, palmetto undergrowth, swampy sloughs, and surprisingly high-banked and steep-sided creeks and riverfronts.
Please call park information (1-800-792-1112) for the latest updates. The daily entrance fee is charged in addition to any facility fees, unless otherwise stated. A Texas State Park Pass will allow you and your guests to enjoy unlimited visits for 1-year to more than 90 State Parks, without paying the daily entrance fee, in addition to other benefits.