BROWNSVILLE — As a mother and daughter pedaled on a Thursday morning through Resaca De La Palma State Park, the sound of cicadas and rustling leaves provided relaxation while they continued their morning exercise.
Harlingen resident Araceli McCameron said she and her daughter, Christian, visit Resaca De La Palma as often as they can.
“It’s calm; it’s quiet,” Araceli McCameron said. “You don’t have the traffic noise. You don’t have any type of construction noise. It’s just the trees, the birds, the cicadas. It’s a very soothing, peaceful place to be, especially when you’re riding your bike.”
From July to September, the park, located at 1000 New Carmen Ave. in Brownsville, offers visitors different activities, including tram tours, guided hikes, archery, arts and crafts as well as reading programs for children.
Park Ranger Kelly Cummins said the nature tram tours are one of the most popular attractions at Resaca De La Palma.
“That’s a good way for folks to be able to see the whole park without committing to the walk,” Cummins said. “We have a 3-mile tram loop, which people either walk or cycle. There are no cars, so it’s really safe, or we encourage people to take the tram.”
Texas Master Naturalist Keith Foerste, who volunteers once per week at the park, is a guide for nature tram tours.
Foerste said people, especially young children, can learn a lot from visiting the park. He said he loves to share his knowledge and provide visitors with education on wildlife.
“It’s really rewarding to me,” Foerste said. “If I can show somebody something they’ve never seen, a bird, a bush, or tell them something they didn’t know, that’s made my day.”
Cummins said visitors who take a tram tour have the opportunity to see all types of wildlife, and the experience is never same.
“That’s the magic,” Cummins said. “Every time you come out, you can see something different. Every day when I go out, I see something different. Maybe I see a Texas tortoise on Monday, but on Friday, I’ll see a blue-indigo snake or I get to see a groove-billed ani one day, and the next it’s a yellow-crowned night heron. That’s the most magical part. There’s so much change, and you get to see that change happening again and again.”
Change also was seen when heavy rain hit the Rio Grande Valley several weeks ago. The 1,200-acre park received about 12 inches of rain, which helped boost plant and animal life, Cummins said.
“It brought so much life into the park,” she said. “There are so many fantastic butterflies now because we got all of that rain and everything is in bloom. It was so dry and crunchy, and now it’s fresh and green.”
The park is made up of five habitats: Resaca wetland, Texas ebony forest, mesquite savanna, Tamaulipan thorn forest and sugar hackberry woodland.
Resaca De La Palma is home to more than 200 species of birds, butterflies, bobcats, coyotes and feral hogs.
Aside from outdoor hikes and tours, the park also offers indoor activities, such as arts and crafts and reading programs.
“Because of the high heat, we try to offer a couple of indoor activities,” Cummins said. “Our ‘Reading Ranger’ is a program where we pick a nature-based book and the children get to read the story with the ranger, and after that we do a nature-based craft or, depending on the heat, we might take a short hike.”
McCameron said people, especially locals, should take advantage of all the activities the park offers.
“This is the perfect place to come for anybody,” she said. “People who don’t have a lot of money, it’s perfect because they charge you so little to come in here and walk all the different trails, and you can ride your own bikes here. … To the people who are from the Valley, I would say take advantage of what’s been provided. It’s beautiful, inexpensive. It brings the family together.”
The park’s visitors center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
Park grounds are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. A pay station for those who arrive before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m. is available.
The entrance fee is $4. Children under 12 enter free.
For more information on Resaca De La Palma or upcoming events, call (956) 350-2920 or visit the park’s Facebook page.