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    Texas

    PEDERNALES FALLS STATE PARK

    Johnson City, Texas

    So many autistic and otherwise neurodivergent folk I know have a particular affinity with nature. They find a calming effect when they are out of the city or suburbs, and they can truly relax in the natural world. Neurotypical people love nature too, of course, but the NDs I know seem to have a much deeper, personal appreciation of the world of nature. Every state has its beauty spot, and the great state of Texas is no exception.

    If you live in Texas anywhere near the Pedernales Falls State Park, you don’t need me to tell you how beautiful it is. This state park is home to the Pedernales River which runs through and over gigantic slabs of limestone. Although the river can be turbulent at times, it is usually tranquil and calm, the perfect place for relaxation.

    If you love to hike, mountain bike, swim, or fish, you might want to put the Pedernales Falls State Park on your list of places to go.

    If you plan to swim, be sure to read their swimming safety tips before you arrive. Some swimming areas require a hike with steep stone stairs and no handrail. This is not a great idea for small children, very active or impulsive kids, or anyone with fatigue or balance issues, so be aware.

    Equestrians, if you have your own horse, check out their horseback trails; just be aware that they don’t provide horses for you. There is an equestrian camp that you need to sign up for in advance if you want to bring your horses. It’s a beautiful location for getting back to nature.

    Many autistic adults I know, as well as their kids on the autism spectrum, love the visual satisfaction of watching waterfalls. The Pedernales Falls will satisfy that visual fascination. Who doesn’t love to see a beautiful waterfall?

    If you’re interested in catching a glimpse of the local fauna, or capturing wild animals on camera, check out the wildlife viewing events on their website. Of course, always maintain a safe distance from wild animals. That’s why we have zoom lenses on our cameras, right?

    Birders, check out their bird blind, where you might catch sight of some native Texas birds, such as the Texas state bird, the northern mockingbird, or Attwater’s prairie chicken, the bluebirds and warblers of Texas, and if you’re lucky you might spot the elusive and endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Did you know that there are bald eagles in Texas? They’ve been conducting nesting surveys of this majestic bird in Texas since the 1960’s as part of a national effort to protect them. Since that time bald eagles have been identified as endangered, later downsized to threatened, but are still fully protected.

    After you’ve seen the Bird Blind, pop around the corner and find the Butterfly Garden. Monarch butterflies are among Texas’ most important pollinators.

    Check the Pedernales Falls State Park website or call for park closures, trails closed due to weather, regulations, and safety information before you make the trip. Plan out what you want to do and what’s best for your family beforehand so you can enjoy the activities you most want to try. It’s best to make reservations in advance in case it’s overly crowded. You can make a reservation online for a camp site or day pass, or call (830) 868-7304 or (512) 389-8900. Their busy season is spring, summer and fall, so be sure to make a reservation during those times when they might reach capacity.

    This state park is located 30 miles west of Austin, Texas, at 2585 Park Road 6026
    Johnson City, TX 78636. (They say that for iPhone maps you should use the address 2585 Park Road 6026, Cypress Mill, TX 78636.)

    Nearby attractions include the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site. Ten miles west of the park is Johnson City, TX, with parks and art. Thirteen miles southeast you’ll find Dripping Springs, TX, with art galleries, wineries, breweries, and more.

    Pedernales Falls State Park is open daily; park gates are closed overnight from 10:00 PM until 8:00 AM. Entrance fees are $6.00 daily for everyone 13 years and older, and children 12 years and younger are free.

    If you’re in Texas, and you decide to check out this state park, I hope you’ll let me know your favorite thing about it.

    Wherever you live, look around and you’ll find the beauty of nature somewhere in your area. If you have a favorite place to get close to nature, or if you have special tips for autistic or otherwise neurodivergent adults or children seeking a peaceful getaway, let me know in the comments and I will share your ideas. Thank you.