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August 2010 cover image Franklin Mountains

From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

The hills of Kickapoo Cavern State Park came alive in June with the memories of the late Tommy Seargeant. Seargeant, a native and proud son of Kinney County, was a rancher’s rancher — tough, independent, resourceful, outspoken and well-respected in these parts. He was also the third generation of Seargeants to ranch and to raise a family in those hills and draws that now make up the state park.

Hundreds of us were on hand that Saturday to celebrate the full opening of Kickapoo Cavern, a 6,400-acre park straddling the Edwards and Kinney county lines. Rest assured, no one would have been prouder than Mr. Seargeant. A county judge off and on for nearly two decades, Judge Seargeant was unabashedly proud of his corner of Southwest Texas and knew the value of bringing in visitors to enjoy the area’s bountiful scenery and abundant wildlife.

His ranch had plenty of both, including a couple of very well-known caves tucked into the sprawling limestone hills: Stuart Bat Cave, named after a former park superintendent, David Stuart, has a major concentration of Mexican free-tailed bats that visitors can enjoy during a summer evening emergence; and Kickapoo Cavern, the park’s namesake, is an expansive cave complex with some of the most spectacular subterranean scenery in all of Texas.

In 1986, Judge Seargeant sold the ranch to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the explicit understanding that it be made into a state park. For the last 24 years, the park has been open on a limited, reservations-only basis. That all changed in June when we opened the park fully to the public. With its ample trails for hiking and mountain biking, developed campsites, abundant and diverse bird life, summertime bat viewing and a cave system second to none, the park has something for most all outdoors-oriented families.

With a little planning, you might contemplate a long weekend trip for your family, replete with visits to three nearby parks, all offering different outdoor experiences — Kickapoo Cavern, Devil’s Sinkhole and South Llano River. You’ll find Kickapoo Cavern roughly halfway between Brackettville and Rocksprings. From there, it is an easy jaunt northward about 40 miles through some beautiful Hill Country scenery to Rocksprings and the Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area, where you and your family can enjoy one of Texas’ great summertime bat emergences. After a couple of days in the Hill Country sun, you may be ready for a swim in some of Texas’ crystal-clear waters. You can head north from Rocksprings about 40 miles to South Llano River State Park, where you can camp under the pecans, watch the turkeys and enjoy the soothing magic of the South Llano’s waters.

If you are looking for an enjoyable and affordable family outing this summer, you can’t beat this one in the Hill Country!

Thank you for caring about Texas’ wild things and wild places. I hope you will get outdoors this summer with your family and enjoy them.

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