North Texans will have to wait a little longer to experience Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, the region’s first new state park in 25 years. 

Texas Parks and Wildlife officials originally hoped to host a soft opening in late 2023 — just in time for the conclusion of the state park system’s 100th centennial celebration

However, the nearly 5,000-acre park, nestled halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene, won’t be ready to accept visitors by the end of the year, said agency spokesperson Maggie Berger. Construction was delayed early on by long lead times on construction materials, among other factors, Berger wrote by email. 

“We were hoping to make up some of that time but have not been able to,” she said. 

The agency’s new opening date is “still fluid,” Berger added. Crews are beginning construction of public buildings at the park, which will open shortly after the structures are finished, Berger said. 

“There are still several items that need to be completed,” Berger said. “We need to pave roads, complete some retaining walls, finish campsites and day use areas, and construct public buildings.”

James Adams, parks superintendent for Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, speaks during an October 2022 preview event. Crews need to finish public buildings, campsites and roads before the park 80 miles west of Fort Worth can open to the public. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

The park was funded by a combination of private and public dollars, including $12.5 million in state appropriations, up to $13 million from the Texas Department of Transportation and at least $9 million from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.

When Palo Pinto opens, it will feature hills, canyons and forest, with a mix of trails and a fish-stocked lake for visitors to enjoy.

Swaths of ranch land first came into the state’s possession in 2011, three years after an infamous bar shooting resulted in more than 1,000 acres being signed over to the victim’s father in a wrongful death lawsuit. The Nature Conservancy purchased that land and nearby acreage, kicking off the process of creating a state park. 

With visitor numbers surging during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Parks and Wildlife has signaled its intention to open six parks in the next 12 to 14 years. 

In addition to the support it receives from sporting goods sales tax revenue, the department will receive a $1 billion boost to obtain new parkland if voters approve Proposition 14 on the Nov. 7 constitutional amendment ballot. Early voting began Oct. 23 and ends Nov. 3. 

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at

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Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...