The Houston family visits all 89 state parks in Texas over a 6-year period

On Mother’s Day in 2016, Sarah Strauss and her family decided to celebrate the holiday a little differently than usual, with a day trip to Huntsville State Park.

Along the way, Strauss downloaded the Texas Parks and Wildlife app and discovered a map of Texas’ 89 state parks. Realizing there were giant parts of Texas they hadn’t seen, the Strauss family decided to change that.

“We just decided in the drive to Huntsville that we would go to all state parks, with Huntsville being the #1 park,” Strauss said.

This fateful decision led Strauss, her husband Aaron and their two children Kevin and Danica to travel hundreds of miles across the state over six years to achieve their goal. In July, they finally finished their journey.

TPWD doesn’t keep official track of how many people have completed the exploit, but it’s rare.

“You drive hours to visit one place,” said David Kurtenbach, director of TPWD’s business management program. “Going to all the parks is even a bragging point for people here at Texas Parks and Wildlife.”

“When we see the public and the people who love the parks doing it, it’s just a good thing all around.”

The Strauss family didn’t start out as nature enthusiasts, but they certainly are now.

Strauss said many of the memories created during the quest were simple things, like getting your hands on boomerangs at realm of possums or stay in a cabin and canoe at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park.

“We saw an alligator there that we named Snappy McSnapperface,” Strauss said.

The family learned that they prefer hiking in central Texas, with its climbing at Enchanted Rock and the opportunities for sledding on the sand in Monahan Sandhills near Odessa.

Strauss said her kids basically grew up going to the parks. They were 6 and 3 years old when they visited their first park. They are now 12 and 9 years old.

“It’s been really interesting watching them grow and being able to handle longer, more intensive rides,” Strauss said.

Kurtenbach said bringing children to state parks at an early age benefits their physical and mental well-being, as well as bringing families closer together.

“Ultimately, state parks are responsible for conserving natural resources, but we’re also responsible for creating memories,” he said. “Involving children, creating those lasting memories, is what creates the park in the future. They are the ones who will champion the parks and national conservation.”

Although the Strauss family has crossed off all Texas state parks from their list, they are not done traveling yet. They still want to visit some of the greatest national parks, or maybe go on a tropical vacation where they don’t have to drive as much.

“We drove to El Paso, we drove to Big Bend, we drove to the border, we drove to begging,” Strauss said, “so every vacation we can spending more time relaxing and not driving everywhere is what we have in mind next.”

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