Palestine and Rusk state parks serve as natural
book ends for the historic Texas State Railroad that operates
a steam train that huffs and puffs its way between
the two parks nine months out of the year.
The parks’ Victorian-style depots will bustle with
activity this summer as visitors from Dallas, Houston,
Louisiana and elsewhere take a nostalgic ride on one of
the nation’s few operating steam trains. From June
through September, children 12 and younger accompanied
by a paying adult can ride free on the Texas State
Railroad that stretches 25 miles through the Piney Woods
and Neches River bottomlands between the county seats
of Rusk and Palestine.
While the popular Texas State Railroad, which last
year hosted 58,000 riders, gets most of the attention, the
two state parks that sandwich the railroad are lesser
known jewels, where picnickers, campers and wildlife
watchers can relax beneath towering pines, oaks and
hickories adjacent to the 124-year-old railroad. Together,
the two recreational units comprise 136 acres.
Palestine State Park is the smaller unit of the two
with 12 water-only primitive campsites renting for $6 a
night. Opened in 1982, the park is within easy walking
distance of the Palestine Depot and a nice place to picnic
at one of a dozen or so tables scattered beneath the trees
alongside a narrow slough that snakes through the park.