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9 natural wonders to make you fall in love with Texas

sowFollow photographers Kenny Braun, E. Dan Klepper, and Andrew R. Slaton as they explore our picks for the top nine natural wonders of Texas—and capture each one as never before.

pins 917Padre Island National Seashore

“Aromatic, salty air blew in off the water. Pelican formations cruised the shoreline. Seagulls and other shorebirds searched for food, and every minute the light transformed, making the water, clouds, and sand change colors. It’s a special place with rare species and isolated, undeveloped beaches—a national treasure and nature at her finest.” – Kenny Braun

ARS GMNP 20170614 9 17Guadalupe Mountains National Park

“It feels so small at first, until you hit the trail and start to explore. It is pure Texas wilderness—a high mountain desert with the soul of a bygone era that we Texans have yet to forget or leave simply to the history books. Here, we hold on dearly to the past we love.” – Andrew R. Slaton

HAMILTON POOL PRESERVE 917Hamilton Pool Preserve

“The lagoon-like grotto and surrounding cliffs illustrate clearly why Hill Country nature is best at creating idyllic antidotes for the Texas heat. Descend a hidden canyon, follow a cypress-lined creek, and arrive at a shaded, blue-green Eden. Bring your own personal Adam or Eve but be prepared to share the waters with everyone else. And, without a doubt, watch for snakes.” – E. Dan Klepper

E R 917Enchanted rock

“Hiking over E-Rock makes me feel like an astronaut exploring the surface of a planet, one so small that you can see its curved horizon no matter where you stand. If you stay on its surface long enough, the rock will revolve away from the sun and into darkness. At night, you can hear its wildlife—chirps, squeaks, hoots, and croaks.” –E. Dan Klepper

PaloD917Palo Duro Canyon

“You are driving along a seemingly endless road of flat and desolate landscape when all of a sudden Palo Duro Canyon appears like a desert mirage. I’ve been here before but had never seen the Big Cave, a large vertical mouth that opens into the red rocks of the canyon wall. The trail to the cavern is a relatively short hike from the road, and the payoff is spectacular. Shallow and dark, the canyon appears from the inside as an immense crevice and provides an inspirational view, reminiscent of the kind Georgia O’Keeffe once painted. It all feels very wild and primitive. It is an experience I’ll never forget.” – Kenny Braun

DevilsSinkhole 917Devil’s Sinkhole

“Many years ago, I was a part-time park ranger for Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area. On weekend evenings, the park manager and I would give interpretive talks and answer questions for visitors as millions of Mexican free-tailed bats emerged from the sinkhole. Today, whenever I watch the flight, those memories rise with the bats, at least for a moment, until the emergence transforms the night sky and I am awed into the here and now, still overwhelmed by the phenomenon.” – E. Dan Klepper

MonahandsSandhill 917Monahans Sandhills

“This place is one of the most unassuming treasures in our fair state—a microcosm of nature smack dab in the middle of classic Texas oil country. I’ve never seen such consistently awe-inspiring sunsets anywhere like I’ve seen over the dunes at Monahans Sandhills.” – Andrew R. Slaton

caddo 063 917Caddo Lake

“I rented a kayak and paddled my way across the tea-colored water and green lawns of giant salvinia. It was eerily quiet and calm as alligators, snakes, beavers, and turtles swam and slithered into the water under a thick canopy of old-growth forest high overhead. For the photographer, the scenery is naturally photogenic but seems almost overwhelming because nature is so prominent. It’s like a ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ in reverse.” – Kenny Braun

ARS BBNP 20170618 917Big Bend

“Vast is just too small a word. It is a world apart from the flat, sprawling suburbs and plains of North Texas, where I was raised. For me, Big Bend is a cruel mistress. Her raw beauty is intoxicating—and she’ll
kill you if you’re not careful.” – Andrew R. Slaton

From the August 2017 issue.

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