Savoring Spring Break

by Jo Anne Embleton

This week and next – through March 19 – school students in Cherokee County are on Spring Break. What better a time to explore what the county has to offer?

History comes alive in Cherokee County with museums, markers and major sites.

• The Heritage Center of Cherokee County, 208 S. Henderson St. in Rusk, highlights people, places and events dear to area residents; open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays; for weekday appointments, call 903-714-8685.

• Vanishing Texana Museum, 302 S. Bolton St. in Jacksonville, offers various and sundry items of interest to visitors wanting to learn more about the Texas experience; open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, or by reservation. Call 903-586-1696 to learn more.

• American Freedom Museum, 22350 FM 2493 in Bullard, features a collection of 700 artifacts and documents about the nation’s history; hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, with group tours available. Call 903-894-5252 to learn more.

• Cherokee History Trails, a map commissioned by the The Cherokee County Historical Commission, spans 11 different historical eras represented by state historical markers erected in Cherokee County. Available at the historical commission’s 138 W. 5th St. office in Rusk, as well as at Love's Lookout and local Chambers of Commerce.

• Mission Tejas State Park, built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a commemorative representation of Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, the first Spanish mission in the Province of Texas (established in 1690). The park is located several miles outside Alto on Texas Highway 21.

• Caddo Mounds State Historic Site is a prehistoric village and ceremonial center situated on the original El Camino Real de los Tejas, on Texas 21, outside Alto. To learn more, contact 936-858-3218.

Looking to grab some rays and just enjoy the beautiful outdoors? Consider these places:

• Jacksonville is home to eight parks that feature a variety of ways for entertainment, including tennis and basketball courts, a disk golf course, jogging trails, skate park and playgrounds.

• The county seat of Rusk offers three parks – Jim Hogg Memorial Park, Butler Park and Conley Park – that allow for wildlife observation and photography, as well as pure relaxing enjoyment.

A historic footbridge close to Rusk’s downtown area is a unique site, located in in a park setting that is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor play or picnicking.

• Bullard Kids Park, located at 510 N. Rather St., is an enclosed playscape with nearby restrooms, picnic tables/areas, a pavilion and grill. The facilities can be reserved for two-hour blocks, with fees charged for non-resident rentals. Contact city hall, 903-894-7223 extension 101, for more information.

• Love’s Lookout, located on U.S. Highway 69 north of Jacksonville, almost always springs to mind when discussion turns to local scenic areas. The rest area offers a peaceful environment draws a number of locals who enjoy looking at the valley down below or taking meals at the pavilion or the picnic tables.

• Lake Jacksonville, several miles away from the city’s downtown, features a sandy beach in its public gathering area, as well as offers overnight stays with an area set aside camping by tent or RV.

• The Ruth Bowling Nichols Arboretum at 1015 SE Loop 456 in Jacksonville offers hiking, geocaching, picnicking and bird/wildlife watching. There’s also a demonstration garden that delights visitors.

• The Neches River National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the county line outside Jacksonville on U.S. Highway 79 East, is primitive site operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and offers 26 miles of hiking trails. It’s open daily from sunrise to sunset; however, when the river floods, the site is temporarily closed to vehicle traffic as a safety precaution.