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Buescher State Park

This quiet spot near Smithville specializes in peace, pine trees and woodpeckers.

By Rob McCorkle

Linked to Bastrop State Park by a roller-coaster road that twists and turns for 13 scenic miles through the Lost Pines and oak woodlands of central Texas, Buescher State Park near Smithville offers an entirely different visitor experience than its larger and more celebrated twin. Whereas Bastrop, with its 18-hole golf course, swimming pool and rustic cabins, appeals to today’s more active adventurer, Buescher charms with its minimalist offerings and promise of a respite from life’s frenetic pace.

Here is a classic Civilian Conservation Corps park developed in the 1930s on 1,017 acres donated by Emile Buescher, his heirs and the city of Smithville.

Compared to Bastrop, which is three times larger and draws three times more visitors, Buescher’s clientele tends to be a bit older and primarily in search of serenity. It’s the kind of place to rent a screen shelter or pitch a tent on a bluff beneath oaks, red cedars, cedar elms and pines and put your feet up for a while.

Park visitors looking for recreational opportunities at Buescher State Park won’t be disappointed. In recent years, the park has become quite popular with birders, who find the overlap of woodlands and water creates excellent habitat for more than 200 species of birds, including spring migrating warblers and vireos. The 30-acre lake in the center of the park serves as a magnet for such waterfowl species as the northern parula and green kingfisher. Buescher is home, too, to an enviable variety of woodpeckers, including the granddaddy of the “drillers,” the pileated woodpecker.

The lake draws anglers, as well, who try their luck casting for bass or catfish, which are stocked in plentiful numbers by TPWD fisheries personnel.

The park supports a healthy population of squirrels, cottontail rabbits, armadillos, raccoons, deer and at least one bobcat family. The endangered Houston toad, though predominantly found at Bastrop State Park, which has been designated as critical habitat, also turns up occasionally at Buescher.

A multiloop hiking trail winds 7.8 miles through the pines and bottomland deciduous forests in the park. Stroll along Pine Gulch Trail (the trailhead lies just across the park road from the walk-in tent camping area) and find yourself transported into a setting more reminiscent of East Texas and South Louisiana than central Texas. Here the air is redolent with the sweet aroma of dripping pines and the dank smell of mushrooms and decaying wood. Rust-colored pine needles cover the meandering trail, Spanish moss cascades from overhead branches and jagged tree stumps cloak themselves in a sartorial splash of lime-green, orange and yellow moss and lichen.

The park is located two miles northwest of Smithville just north of State Highway 71 on FM 153. For more information, call (903) 785-5716 or visit Buescher State Park on the Web.

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