There’s some disagreement on whether or not Mother Neff State Park is Texas’ first state park. Researching the Civilian Conservation Corps, I learned that it’s not, but that Governor Neff was so adamant about this new park that most people just recognize it as so.
The land was donated by the Neff family for recreational use, but it wasn’t until Pat Neff helped to create the Texas park system that it was designated as so. The details are a little murky, but I’ll go on record and say it’s the first ‘official’ Texas state park.
There you have it. Moving on.
I’ll get the details out of the way. Mother Neff SP is right next to a river that flooded severely a few years back and pretty much destroyed a good portion of the park. A portion that features a few CCC structures, but is totally visible from the now blocked-off entrance and so close that you have to fight the urge to run over to admire. I did not. I did take this picture though:
This park now features a newer entrance, a newer visitor’s center with CCC history, and it still has some great sights and trails. There is also a small full hookup camping section.
There are also two playgrounds for the kiddos, but one is more spectacular than the other because it’s made out of natural items like large tree logs to climb on, and thinner wood poles you can bang and make music with.
And if you’re into birding, because who isn’t nowadays, they have a bird blind and a pond for wildlife viewing.
There are a total of six trails with all of them less than a mile. So what you wanna do is find one of the handful of parking spots, and then just walk all of them!
Trust me, you’ll barely need a snack and a full bottle of water to see everything, so slow it down and take your time admiring the oak and juniper trees.
On my last visit with the family, we starting at the cave parking spot and walked down to see our first point of interest: The Tonkawa Cave. Used over 200 years ago the Tonkawa tribe used this rock formation as shelter as featured in a handful of different state parks in the area.
There are some rock formations you can climb on and walk around, but this is mostly visual with a post of history.
From there we made it to the CCC Table. Known for blending into the surrounding areas, CCC items usually seem like part of the landscape, but this large stone table is right along the trail, so it’s pretty hard to miss. Unfortunately, it has been used so others can inform guests of their presence. Thanks, Chad for letting us all know ‘you were here’.
From here you can veer to the Rock Tower or the Wash pond. As I said, you’re going to be hiking the entire trail system, so choose either. They both feature something fun from the ‘CCC’.
The Rock Tower is a large tower with a curved staircase that gives you amazing views of the hill country. Right next to the tower is a Cabin that’s now available to rent for receptions, birthdays, gender reveals, etc.
Continuing on the Live Oak Trail features plant and tree indicators along the way to gain some knowledge while enjoying the fresh air. Take a break at the bird blind here, or just continue.
Going this way eventually you’ll hit the Wash Pond Trail. The Leon River that flows perpendicular to the park has a creek that flows through the park. In the 1930s the CCC created a dam to allow a section of the creek to have a makeshift pond that would ideally always have water.
This isn’t always the case, but on the last visit, there were recent rains, and thus, water in the wash pond. It’s a simple view with a few benches, but you’re really just admiring a moss-covered stone pathway.
So while I was cheering everyone on to hike every inch of this park I did not. We had to get to Waco in time to feast at Guess Family Barbecue, so we skipped the Prairie Loop Trail. My apologies, but transparency here has always been important.
Anywho, I highly recommend Mother Neff State Park, and if possible try and donate your time to repair the flooded sections. They have volunteer teams that come out and clear debris, etc. If you like visuals then check out my YouTube recap video HERE