Fort Bend County offers outdoor recreation that includes hiking, biking, golf and parks.
For residents of Fort Bend County, taking two steps in this part of Texas barely gets you started. That’s because the area is filled with numerous outdoor recreational opportunities, and most of them are accessible through a well-maintained – and growing – series of hiking and biking trails.
“We have a number of different trails – probably more than 500 miles worth – throughout the communities,” says Michael Davis, Fort Bend County parks director. “We’re working on a plan to connect some of those and eventually have them connect with the city of Houston.”
Plenty of places along the way offer opportunity for golfing, fishing, canoeing, camping and bird watching. Toss in several historical stops, and there is something for nearly all outdoor tastes in Fort Bend County.
The Brazos River and Brazos Bend Park
The county is dissected by the Brazos River, the 11th-longest river in the U.S. Several public canoe-launch sites are located along the river, with parking for both vehicles and trailers. Canoeing in Fort Bend has become so popular that there is an effort under way to have the river within the county designated as an official paddling trail by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The river meanders along the eastern edge of the Brazos Bend Park, a nearly 4,900-acre state park in Needville. The park offers camping, picnicking, hiking, biking and horseback riding, as well as six fishing lakes with piers located at three of them. A diverse mix of wildlife, including deer, otters, armadillos and more than 300 species of birds also reside in the park. There also is a large population of alligators, which park officials say can be best viewed from the 40-Acre and Elm Lake trail systems.
“Brazos Bend is probably our most scenic park,” Davis says. “Anybody who comes into this area should definitely go see it.”
Situated within Brazos State Park is the George Observatory, a satellite facility of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The centerpiece of the observatory is a series of three large dome telescopes – including a 3-foot diameter Gueymard Research Telescope that is one of the largest in the U.S. – that provide dazzling views of the star-filled sky. There is also a solar scope that allows for viewing of the sun, and amateur astronomers often bring out their telescopes for additional options.
The Challenger Learning Center at the Observatory was established as an active memorial for the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Children at the center work as astronauts for a day, using teamwork to solve real-world, space-related problems. The stated goal of the center is “to spark youth interest and joy in science and engineering.”
History is an important part of Fort Bend County as well. One of the most popular sites is the George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond. This 23,000-acre working ranch combines actual historic homes and buildings with costumed reenactors to demonstrate what life was like for four generations of the George family, dating from 1824 into the 1940s. The four generations of the family are represented through four historic homes: the 1830s Jones Stock Farm, the 1860s Ryon Prairie Home Site, the 1890s Davis Victorian Complex, and the 1930s George Ranch Cattle Complex. There is also a newly opened Heritage Trail, a half-mile loop that runs alongside one of the most picturesque sections of Dry Creek. Another recent renovation is the Dew Plantation House in Kitty Hollow Park in Missouri City.
The two-story, wood-frame house was built around 1900 and was central for the production of sugar cane. As the last remaining such plantation house in the area, it was restored and opened to the public in 2011. And if you are hungry after all this outdoor activity, the Farmers Market at Imperial in Sugar Land is open every Saturday, rain or shine, providing fresh produce along with a variety of arts-and-crafts and artisan products.