The Natural State and the Lone Star State are both home to diverse and beautiful state parks.
Only in Arkansas can you dig for your own diamond and take home what you find.
Crater of Diamonds, a 911-acre state park in Pike County, Ark., is the world's only diamond-bearing site accessible to the public. The 37.5-acre plowed field has been the site of found diamonds since 1906, including the Strawn-Wagner diamond.
On average, two diamonds per day are found by park visiotrs. Visitors can keep any gem they find, regardless of its value. The site became a state park in 1972 after the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism purchased the land from Arkansas Diamond Co. and Ozark Diamond Mines Corp., which had previously operated the site as a tourist attraction.
Visitos who want to learn more can continue to the Diamond Discovery Center, which offers a look at prospecting for diamonds. And after a long day of digging, visitors can cool off in the Diamond Springs aquatic playground.
Address: 209 State Park Road, Murfreesboro, AR 71958
Caddo Lake State Park is home to the unique treasure that is Caddo Lake.
Bald cypress trees draped with Spanish moss tower over the maze of bayous, sloughs and ponds of the 26,810-acre Caddo Lake. Visitors can paddle the waterways, stay in a historic cabin or try their luck fishing. The park also has dozens campsites—with water only, electricity and water or full hookups.
Alligators live in the park, along with more than 70 species of fish in the lake.
Scientists believe Caddo Lake formed when floodwater, blocked by massive log jams on the Red River, backed up into the Cypress Bayou watershed. Caddo Indians settled the land in the late 18th or early 19th century.
An interactive trail map is available on the park's website.
Address: 245 Park Road 2, Karnack, TX 75661
Atlanta State Park is nestled in the cool, green, Pineywoods of Northeast Texas on picturesque Wright Patman Lake. This large reservoir is ideal for fishing, sailing, boating, water skiing and swimming.
A few miles southwest of Texarkana and 11 miles northwest of Atlanta, Texas, off U.S. 59, the 1,475-acre park offers swimming in a designated sandy beach area on the lake, a 5-mile nature trail, water skiing, boating and fishing. Wright Patman Lake, a popular local fishing destination, covers 20,300 acres and has an average depth of 7.6 feet.
On shore, activities include walking, nature study, hiking, camping, picnicking or jogging along roads, trails or shorelines. Bicycling is popular in the hilly park and on area roads. Facilities include restrooms and pull-through and back-in campsites with water and electricity. All campsites have a tent pad, picnic table, water, a fire pit and a barbecue grill. The park offers a group pavilion with tables under shelter and some adjacent, a grill, electricity, water and restrooms nearby. Two playgrounds with swings and slides, sand volleyball courts, a basketball court, horseshoe pits and 3.8 miles of hiking trails are available. The park also features an amphitheater with capacity for 50 people, a trailer dump station, concrete launching ramps and a covered fish-cleaning shelter.
To reach the park exit U.S. 59 onto Farm to Market Road 96, and go west 9 miles to Farm to Market Road 1154, then north 2 miles to the Park Road 42 entrance.
Address: 927 Park Road 42, Atlanta, TX 75551
Millwood State Park on Arkansas Highway 32 East near Ashdown, Ark., is 824 acres skirting Millwood Lake, a 29,500-acre hot spot known nationwide for its excellent bass and crappie fishing.
A 1.5-mile hiking trail called Waterfowl Way gives visitors a glimpse of native plants and animals. Birdwatchers can spot bald eagles in large numbers from December to February, while the fall brings mallards, canvasbacks and other ducks. Park officials say one of the lake's coves is home to an active beaver lodge. Another common inhabitant is the American alligator. The alligators emerge from hibernation in April or May and can be seen in the secluded, swampy areas along Waterfowl Way.
A scenic, half-day driving tour called Meandering Around Millwood begins at the Visitor Center and leads to cypress swamps, scenic overlooks and an ancient Caddo Indian mound.
Along the lake's shores, visitors will find 114 year-round campsites with water and electric hookups, picnic tables and grills. The recreational site also features a full-service marina within walking distance of the campgrounds. Flat-bottom boats, motorboats and paddle boats are available for rent.
Address: 1564 Arkansas Highway 32, Ashdown, AR 71822
Other state parks in Texas and Arkansas include:
Daingerfield State Park offers picnicking, camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and nature study. Tours may be arranged by special request. More than $5 million in renovations and upgrades were completed recently. In addition to campsites for tents and RVs, the park also has cabins and group facilities.
The park rents paddle boats, paddle boards, canoes, kayaks (single and tandem) and flat-bottom boats. Personal flotation devices and paddles are included. Paddle boards are available from spring break through Labor Day, and all other rental boats are available year round.
Address: 455 Park Road 17, Daingerfield, TX 75638
Lake Bob Sandlin State Park is around Lake Bob Sandlin in Northeast Texas, in the Pineywoods region. The lake lies in Titus, Camp and Franklin counties, with a small part in the northeast corner of Wood County.
Two ecoregions meet on the lake's shore, resulting in massive trees, tall grasses and a fascinating mix of plants and animals.
Choose from 75 campsites with water and electricity, or set up your tent in primitive camping areas. If you prefer a roof over your head, reserve one of 20 screened or air-conditioned and heated shelters.
Address: 341 State Park Road 2117, Pittsburg, TX 75686
Historic Washington State Park allows visitors to travel back to the 19th century with tours, period activities and special holiday events.
The 101-acre Historic Washington State Park in Hempstead County, Ark., is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to a blacksmith school.
Established on George Washington's birthday in 1824, the town of Washington is one of America's premier historic villages.
Address: 103 Franklin St., Washington, AR 71860
DeGray Lake Resort State Park is Arkansas' only resort state park and is found near Bismarck, Ark., in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, nestled along the north shore of 13,800-acre DeGray Lake.
The lake is one of the region's five Diamond Lakes known for crystal-clear waters. It offers all the outdoor adventure and quality of an Arkansas State Park combined with resort-class amenities at one of the finest lodges in the state.
DeGray is a fishing and water-sports paradise, a golf resort with an 18-hole championship golf course, the ideal camping spot and one of the best parks for family vacations, getaways, reunions, weddings, business meetings and retreats.
DeGray Lake Resort State Park Lodge sits on its own island and offers guests spectacular views of the Ouachita mountain region and the lake. The 96-room lodge includes convention and meeting facilities that can accommodate groups of 10 to 300 attendees.
Address: 2027 State Park Entrance Road, Bismarck, AR 71929
Queen Wilhemina State Park on Talimena Scenic Drive northwest of Mena, Ark., is a unit of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism in the Ouachita Mountains.
The park's lodge sits on Arkansas' second-highest peak—2,681-foot Rich Mountain, near Mena in Polk County, Ark. It is the only lodge open on the 235-mile Ouachita Trail.
The original "Castle in the Sky" lodge was built in 1898 by the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad to house passengers. Many of the railroad's investors were Dutch, so the lodge was named to honor Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who was to be crowned in September 1898. The original inn fell into disrepair and closed in 1910. Tourism increased after World War II and Queen Wilhelmina State Park was created. A new lodge built in 1963, but burned after a kitchen fire in 1973. The third lodge opened in 1975 and was remodeled in 2015.
Address: 3877 Arkansas Highway 88, Mena, AR 71953
Beavers Bend State Park near Broken Bow in Southeast Oklahoma offers something for everyone.
The park consists of 1,300 acres and contains Broken Bow Lake. Cabins and campsites are available for extended visits.
Individual and group activities including eagle watches, trout fishing, fly fishing clinics and guided horeseback rides. The lake is also a favorite of scuba divers.
Address: 4350 Oklahoma Highway 259A, Broken Bow, OK 74728