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Ranch Heritage Day: Free Family Event at HCSNA


True to its name, Hill Country State Natural Area, 10 miles west of Bandera, is a well-preserved haven for native Hill Country flora and fauna, and for the nature lovers who enjoy them.
Camping, hiking, bicycling and horseback riding are enjoyed at the natural area every day of the year. However, before the property was donated to the state by Louise Merrick and opened as a natural area in 1984, it was a vibrant working ranch, typical of many established near Bandera in the 1870s.
A visit to this jewel of the Texas State Parks system reveals vestiges of its rich ranching history. Among them, the 2-story 1870s Bar-O Ranch House, nestled on the bank of West Verde Creek and the hand-woven fences outlining its now-fallow fields, bear witness to a time when cattle, sheep and angora "hair" goats roamed its vast pastures, and seasonal crops were planted in its fields.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, the public is invited to step back in time and to celebrate this history through Ranch Heritage Day, a free event starting at 10 a.m., with exhibits and interactive demonstrations sure to delight those of all ages.
The event reflects the farming and ranching history specific to its home region of Bandera, Texas, the justifiably self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of the World, and the staging point for the Great Western Cattle Trail of the 1860s.
A working chuck wagon, like those used on cattle drives, will offer free camp cooking samples, better than the food served on the long, dusty trails.
A horse-drawn covered wagon, like those that carried the first settlers to Bandera, will offer free rides. There'll be horseshoe demonstrations and cowboy storytelling. Children are invited to operate an old-fashioned mechanical apple peeler, learn how to throw a rope, ride life-size rocking horses and participate in a plethora of other interactive activities.
In the arena, the Junior Rangers and Texas Thunder Drill Team will thrill spectators, with their intricate maneuvers performed at speed.
All riders are then invited to participate in an open play day. This will be fun for riders of all skills and ages.
A guided trail ride will depart the Group Lodge at 3 p.m., as the other activities are winding down. After dark, a San Antonio Astronomical Association astronomer will conduct a stargazing party, open to all.
For overnight visitors, with or without horses, there will be free dry camping available in the field adjacent to the Group Lodge arena for Friday and Saturday nights.
Whether you're a local settler, a wannabe rancher or a history lover, or if you're just in need of a city slicker's day out, this event is not to be missed. After all, where else will you find horse-drawn covered wagon rides, an apple peeler, a real chuck wagon, ranch-style children's games, drill team perfomances, a horseback play day and a guided trail ride?
Hill Country State Natural Area is located 10 miles West of Bandera, at 10,600 Bandera Creek Road, or at the end of F M 1077. Follow the signs, and you'll be at the Group Lodge, where all the action takes place. Park admission for the day is free for those attending the event. Food and drink concessions available on site benefiting HC-SNAP, the park's friends group.
For more information, go to: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/hill-country/park_events Email: Leanne.Beauxbeannes@tpwd.texas.gov Phone: (830) 796-4413