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Park Pick: Gazing Through Time

Lake Colorado City State Park offers clear skies and refreshing water play.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Once temperatures start dipping low at the Davis Mountains, stargazer Bill Downhour and his cat, Sabot, head for Lake Colorado City State Park instead.

“I’m cold-natured,” he confesses. “Plus, the park’s closer to Odessa, where I live.”

While Sabot hangs out in the tent camper, Downhour aims his heavy telescope at distant planets, stars and galaxies. His after-dark sessions often lead to meditations on history.

“When I look at the stars or into deep space, the light I see is actually hundreds, thousands or millions of years old,” says the retired police officer. “So I’m actually looking back in time, and that makes me think about what was happening on earth at the same time.”

If other campers wander over, Downhour gladly shares his scope and points viewers to some celestial wonder. Most, though, aren’t there to stargaze. At this 500-acre getaway with five miles of rocky shoreline, the main draw is water.

“The lake is like an oasis in the middle of cotton fields and oil patches,” says manager Rick Thompson. “Since the park is conveniently located off Interstate 20, many visitors stop to rest here. A lot come to swim, Jet Ski, ski, canoe and fish, too.”

These days, however, angling’s not as popular as it used to be.

“In the past decade, the lake’s had golden algae, and we have a couple of theories about how it got introduced,” Thompson says. “But visitors do catch catfish and carp.”

Wildlife watchers can’t complain, though. Badgers, porcupines, bobcats, gray foxes, armadillos and white-tailed deer inhabit the park’s scrubby terrain, dotted with mesquite and prickly pear. Pancho and Lefty, two Texas longhorns, graze in their own pasture not far from headquarters.

“And we also have a good population of horned toads and harvester ants, which the toads eat,” Thompson says. “We try to warn people to watch out when they’re driving on the park’s roads because the toads like to sun on the warm asphalt.”

Plenty of overnight facilities suit all kinds of campers. Campsites offer water-only, water and electricity or pull-through with full hookups. Eleven limited-use cabins come with a small refrigerator, microwave oven, two bunk beds and window units (heat and air). Large groups may rent an open-air pavilion or a recreation hall with a kitchen.

As for those heavenly vistas, they’re spectacular before dark, too.

“The big sky country of West Texas makes for a brilliant display of colors at sunset,” Thompson says, “especially if you’re lucky enough to have a seasonal thunderhead to add to the drama.”

Lake Colorado City State Park is located about 11 miles southwest of Colorado City off I-20 on FM 2836. For more information, call 325-728-3931 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/lakecoloradocity.



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