One of the best backyard treasures in East Texas, hands down, is Mission Tejas State Park.

No matter what time of year you are visiting, there is always something fun to do at the park — fishing, hiking, birding, flying a kite, or simply enjoying the great outdoors.

Mission Tejas State Park was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a commemorative representation of Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, the first Spanish mission in the province of Texas, established in 1690. All too often I think we fail to realize or emphasize the pivotal role this property played in the birth of our great state. This was the first mission, in what would be the first county, along a road where defenders would travel to fight for Texas independence, and great men like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett were known to have visited. It is, by all accounts, hallowed ground.

Inside the park, visitors can explore the replica Mission as well as the Rice Family Log Home. The Rice Family Home was built in 1828 and restored in 1974. This structure is one of the oldest in the area. The Rice Family Home historically served as a stopover for immigrants, adventurers, locals and residents traveling the Old San Antonio Road. While these buildings are treasures in themselves, the park hosts a wide variety of outdoor activities for visitors throughout the year.

Events and activities that include birding, hiking, fishing, archery, history, art and more. Park rangers are available for guided tours, and they offer lessons on various outdoor activities, like fishing, birding, geocaching, archery and their annual folk festival. For this event, park visitors can journey back in time to see how the early settlers lived during the festival, which will be held on April 23. Presenters will be dressed in period costume and will demonstrate occupations and folk crafts.

The Friends of Mission Tejas Group also hosts various holiday events, including an Easter egg hunt and an Easter sunrise service as well as weekend fun like “Movies in the Park.”

As a single mom on a limited budget, it's a great weekend getaway, not far from home, to get my boys outdoors to learn about history, local wildlife, the environment and life skills from seasoned outdoorsmen/women. The rangers do a great job of promoting environmental stewardship, and they have all the equipment needed for most of the activities they host, including 24 fishing poles, eight GPS unites for geocaching and at least 10 bows for archery.

The park also offers areas for campsites, including hookups for recreational vehicles. They have picnic tables throughout the park. They also have some great souvenirs available in the Visitor Center, located at the park entrance.

While there are no charges for activities, there is a minimal park entrance fee of $2 per person over the age of 12 daily.

The park is located at 120 State Park Road 44 in Grapeland.

For more information, log onto http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mission-tejas or call 936-687-2394.

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