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A Nature Travel Guide

In their new book Explore Texas: A Nature Travel Guide from Texas A&M Press, author Mary O. Parker and photographer Jeff Parker have created the perfect guide to experiencing the natural side of Texas. If you’re interested in birdwatching, wildlife viewing, or stargazing; flowers, geology, or water; nature centers, festivals, or photography, a Texas destination awaits you.

Texas Wildlife doves of central Texas
Mourning dove. TPW file photo

“Because only about 5 percent of the state is publicly owned, Texas, more than any other state in the nation, relies on private entities to preserve its habitats and native species,” Mary said. “Many landowners and privately-owned organizations have stepped up to the plate and worked hard to conserve our unique flora and fauna. But, even with hearts of gold and good intentions, protecting habitat and the species it protects costs money. Property taxes must be paid every year, fences perpetually need mending, infrastructure requires ongoing maintenance and folks need to feed their families. Giving financial support to entities committed to preserving Texas biodiversity is our only real hope of saving what’s left.”

In 2014, Texas was the second most populous state in the nation. By 2050, our population is expected to exceed 31 million. As the number of our human inhabitants continues to exponentially increase, nature tourism, with its emphasis on experiences—rather than making and buying more things—offers innate sustainability.

“Nature tourism also allows rural communities and individuals to maintain ways of life that might not otherwise be possible,” Mary said. “And, when habitats are preserved, local species also get to maintain their ‘ways of life.’”

Texas has long served as a leader in the nature tourism movement. In 1993, the late Gov. Ann Richards convened a task force to examine the topic. In 1994, the State Task Force on Texas Nature Tourism produced a report that helped develop what is now a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry.

Explore Texas, organized by the seven official travel regions of Texas: Big Bend Country, Gulf Coast, Hill Country, Panhandle Plains, Piney Woods, Prairie and Lakes, and South Texas Plains, features descriptions of almost 100 nature-oriented sites including information about the best time to visit and why it’s worth going; location, and other logistics; and a “learn” section on the observations and natural phenomena a visitor might expect to experience.

More than 250 full-color photographs by award-winning photographer Jeff Parker accompany the accounts, and handy color-coded icons help guide readers to the activities of their choice.  Also included are insider tips including how to dress (when that matters), what to bring, kid-friendly venues, relevant websites, and important travel info.

Nature tourism provides our best hope for preserving Texas’ remaining biodiversity. From the desert gardens of Big Bend Country to hawk watching on the Gulf Coast to caving and bat watching in the Hill Country, Explore Texas: A Nature Travel Guide is the perfect resource for planning your next outing or vacation while learning about and supporting important conservation efforts in the state.

Explore Texas: A Nature Travel Guide
6” x 9”, 288 pp.
242 Color Photos. 10 maps. Index
Flexbound (with flaps): $28, ISBN # 978-1-62349-403-2
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Author: Mary O. Parker, with photographs by Jeff Parker

Order at: or by phone at 800-826-8911

As most Texans will tell you, one of the greatest things about this state is its size and diversity. Texas has 150 million acres of upland habitats; nearly 200,000 miles of creeks, rivers and streams; over 1,000 public lakes and reservoirs; 4 million acres of bays and estuaries; 18 national wildlife refuges and 100 plus state and national parks. Our great state ranks second for the most overall biodiversity in the nation, and we’re number one for bird diversity.

by Christine Brown
Publicity and Advertising Manager
Texas A&M University Press

photos courtesy of Texas A&M University Press

As one of the top 20 university presses in the nation, the Texas A&M University Press publishes up to 65 new titles annually. Subjects range from borderland studies, gardening and horticulture, military history, natural history and the environment, presidential studies and works on the history and culture of Texas and the Southwest. Knowing the Roundtopolis is a melting pot of people with far-ranging interests, the press staff provides a book review each quarter highlighting one of its titles.

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