springs, rivers, bays and beaches; wildlife conservation; Texas history
at state parks; nature photography and more will debut Oct. 1-2 at
America’s largest free, family-oriented festival of the outdoors. The
Texas Parks & Wildlife Expo will allow tens of thousands of
visitors to try fishing, shooting, kayaking, mountain biking, rock
climbing and more, all at no cost.
– Lake Mohave
The Expo began in 1992 as a tribute to the role of hunters in
wildlife conservation, and it still promotes that tradition as a
central focus. Today, it includes fishing, state parks, Texas history
and almost everything else in the world of natural and cultural
resource conservation and recreation. Texas Parks and Wildlife
Department produces the event, which remains free to the public through
This year, more than a half dozen new activities will add to the sprawling diversity of the state’s largest outdoor event.
This year at Expo TPWD will also unveil “Life’s Better Outside,” a
new slogan developed for TPWD by GSD&M, a nationally regarded
advertising agency based in Austin. This slogan is part of a broader
creative outreach campaign that the advertising agency developed for
TPWD pro-bono. “Life’s Better Outside, and if you don’t believe it,
come to the Expo,” said Ernie Gammage, TPWD Expo Director.
Photography returns for the second year with two new free workshops
per day from expert Arthur Morris. This free-lance nature photographer
and writer specializes in birds. In 1995, he became a Canon contract
photographer, part of their “Explorers of Light” program. Morris has
published more than 11,000 photographs and he photographs, travels,
speaks, and teaches extensively across North America. Also in the photo
area, visitors will be able try out the latest gear, from the basics to
high-end. Photography activities will again take place near the
beautiful wetlands area, where visitors can take and print digital
photos. Lenses, video equipment, printers and binoculars will also be
on hand to try, provided by Canon, sponsor of the photo area.
A completely revamped Hunting and Wildlife Management area will
showcase the five basic tools of habitat management–axe, cow, plow,
fire and gun. Large photos on eight-foot banners will be grouped into
new kiosk exhibits. One set will cover the five tools, with others
about private land conservation, public hunting and wildlife management
areas. A new “Living With Wildlife” exhibit will show how people can
safely coexist with wildlife, including tips for homeowners. A
rainwater simulator will show how rain on well-managed land percolates
slowly through the soil, making connections between rural land
management and water and air quality that affects all Texans.
Visitors can travel an entire watershed in the new “Texas Water
Ways: Ranches To Reefs” area. They’ll hear the sounds of trickling
springs, rushing rivers and crashing surf as they move through the tent
with exhibits about freshwater springs, rivers, and lakes, then on to
coastal bays and estuaries, Gulf beaches and out to deep water reefs.
A “dive master” will lead visitors through the Blue Room in a
simulated undersea exploration of a model of the Flower Gardens, a
famed natural reef favored by Scuba divers about 100 miles offshore.
Along the way, they’ll learn about challenges and choices facing Texans
regarding our most precious natural resource.
Other new activities include an exhibit on the world’s tallest
freestanding masonry obelisk, the San Jacinto Monument, and a new air
gun challenge where visitors can try shooting and see demonstrations by
three-time Olympic gold medallist Kim Rhode.
Expo has other opportunities for visitors to try their firearm,
crossbow and archery skills. Participants must first attend the short
Shooting Safety Orientation at the Expo, which imparts safe and ethical
Those who want to keep cool in the Texas heat may check out the
fishing and aquatic events. Thousands of children catch their first
fish at Expo each year, with bait, gear and guidance provided. Coastal
touch tanks allow visitors to get up close and personal with live
marine life. There’s also a boater safety program and an 8,100-gallon
square-foot tank aptly named “The Wet Zone” where Expo visitors can try
In the State Parks area, visitors can learn how and where to camp,
rock climb, mountain bike and more. History comes alive as participants
in period costume come from state parks across Texas to showcase life
in various eras.
Law Enforcement exhibits allow visitors to meet game wardens, look
at confiscated illegal hunting and fishing equipment, and learn about
the laws of the land. The popular “Who Dunnit” activity puts visitors
in the roles of game wardens, trying to spot violations committed by
wardens posing as lawbreakers in a mock hunting camp.
All events are free, as are water and air-conditioned shuttle
service and parking. Although food may be brought in, coolers are
discouraged because of the long walk to the fair grounds. There will be
special shuttle service within the fair grounds for people with
disabilities. And sorry, no pets allowed. Fido might
scare the wild animals or be scared by the noise. Visitors need only
bring cameras and sunscreen – a little cash can be handy to buy food or
outdoor gear and apparel.
Major Expo sponsors this year are: Anheuser-Busch, Canon, Clear
Channel radio in Austin, HOLT CAT, La Invasora radio, The Dow Chemical
Company, Time Warner Cable, and Toyota. Other sponsors include Academy
Sports & Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, Careco Multimedia,
ChevronTexaco, Mossy Oak Apparel Company, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Arby’s
of Central Texas, Austin Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Boone &
Crockett Club, CEMEX, Lower Colorado River Authority, McBride’s, Omni
Austin Hotel-Southpark, Shikar Safari International Foundation,
Temple-Inland, Weatherby Foundation International and Winchester Energy
Out-of-towners looking for a place to stay during Expo can call the
Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at (512) 478-0098 for hotel and
motel information. To make reservations at a Central Texas state park,
call (512) 389-8900 or book online.
There is limited free parking near the grounds, but the best way to
get to the Expo is to catch a free shuttle bus. If rain shuts down
on-site parking, all visitors must park at Highland Mall near the
intersection of I-35 and Highway 290. Buses run from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
For more information about Expo, including maps and directions, visit the TPWD Web site or call (800) 792-1112.
– Lake Mohave