East Austin mural, pool dance among Preservation Austin award winners

Plagued by congested traffic? High cost of living? Persistent inequity? Those pesky scooters?

Whenever the New Austin Blues get you down, turn to Preservation Austin and especially its annual Merit Awards. The Old Austin triumphs of stewardship, invention and rehabilitation are sometimes small, but every year, they add up.

This year’s winners include three major 19th-century structures, several homes large and small, some updated commercial buildings, an East Austin mural, a dance about community, two singular park structures and a distinguished architectural historian.

These fine people, places, culture and history will be honored at the Preservation Merit Awards Celebration at the Driskill Hotel on Friday, Oct. 19 from 11:30am to 1:30pm. It’s a treat.

2018 PRESERVATION MERIT AWARD RECIPIENTS

220 South Congress Avenue. Contributed by Gensler.

220 SOUTH CONGRESS – Bouldin

Recipient: Cielo Property Group

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Gensler

308 W. 35th St. Contributed by Preservation Austin

308 E. 35th – North University

Recipient: Steven Baker and Jeff Simecek

Preservation Award for Addition

409 Colorado St. Contributed by Clayton Holmes, Forge Craft Architect + Design

409 COLORADO – Downtown

Recipient: David Zedeck

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Forge Craft Architecture + Design

Austin State Hospital. Contributed by Nathan Barry, Braun & Butler Construction

AUSTIN STATE HOSPITAL

Recipient: Health & Human Services Commission

Preservation Award for Restoration

Contractor: Braun & Butler Construction

Collier House. Contributed by Andrew Calo

COLLIER HOUSE – Bouldin

Recipient: Georgia Keith

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Elizabeth Baird Architecture & Design

For La Raza. Contributed by Philip Rogers

“FOR LA RAZA” – Holly

Recipient: Arte Texas, Art in Public Places, Parks and Recreation Department & Austin Energy

Preservation Award for Preservation of a Cultural Landscape

Robert Herrera and Oscar Cortez

O. Henry Hall. Contributed by O’Connell Architecture

O.HENRY HALL – Downtown

Recipient: Texas State University System

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Lawrence Group, O’Connell Architecture

Oakwood Chapel. Contributed by Preservation Austin

OAKWOOD CEMETERY CHAPEL

Recipient: City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department

Preservation Award for Restoration

Architect: Hatch + Ulland Owen Architects

RELATED: Austin dedicates sublime Oakwood Chapel.

Solarium. Contributed by Casey Woods Photography

SOLARIUM – Old West Austin

Recipient: Don Kerth

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Jobe Corral Architects

Sparks House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

SPARKS HOUSE – Judges Hill

Recipient: Suzanne and Terry Burgess

Preservation Award for Restoration

St. Edward’s University Main Building. Contributed by ArchiTexas

EDWARDS UNIVERSITY MAIN BUILDING + HOLY CROSS HALL

Recipient: St. Edwards University

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation and Restoration

Architect: Baldridge Architects, Architexas

RELATED: Sister Donna Jurick leaves St. Ed’s a better place.

Tucker-Winfield Apartments. Contributed by Preservation Austin

TUCKER-WINFIELD APARTMENTS – Downtown

Recipient: Elayne Winfield Lansford

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: O’Connell Architecture

RELATED: New life for a 1939 gem.

Twin Houses. Contributed by Casey Woods Photography

TWIN HOUSES – Delwood 2

Recipient: Ada Corral and Camille Jobe

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Jobe Corral Architects

E.P. Wilmot House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

P. WILMOT HOUSE – Downtown

Recipient: John C. Horton III

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Clayton & Little

Zilker Caretaker Cottage. Contributed City of Austin Parks & Recreation

ZILKER CARETAKER COTTAGE

Recipient: Austin Parks & Recreation Department

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

RELATED: Life in the middle of Zilker Park.

Beta Xi House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

BETA XI HOUSE ASSOCIATION – University of Texas

for Stewardship of the Beta Xi Kappa Kappa Gamma House

“My Park, My Pool, My City.” Contributed by Rae Fredericks, Forklift Dancworks

FORKLIFT DANCEWORKS

Special Recognition for “My Park, My Pool, My City”

Contributed

PHOEBE ALLEN

Lifetime Achievement

RELATED: Where did the Chisholm Trail cross the Colorado?

Texas history museum names new director you might know

You might already know the newly appointed director of the Bullock Texas State History Museum. That’s because hyper-competent Margaret Koch has already twice served as the museum’s interim director as well as its director of exhibits and deputy director.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum names Margaret Koch as director. Contributed

Koch previously served as director of exhibitions and research as well as exhibition designer at the Missouri History Museum. In Austin since 2013, she has supervised award-winning shows and has widened the museum’s focus to include previously underreported histories.

She has also overseen improvements and renovations, including conversion of the museum’s IMAX theater projection to an advanced laser format, and a multi-million-dollar rethinking of the first floor gallery, to reopen in November as “Becoming Texas.”

RELATED: Museum urges visitors to rodeo across Texas.

The Bullock will become even more relevant as the corridor north of the Capitol is reshaped and a new cultural space — with a still-undetermined focus — opens in a state office tower across the street from the Bullock and the Blanton Museum of Art.

RELATED: Life and death on the Texas-Mexico border 100 years ago.

“Margaret is an experienced and trusted leader,” said Rod Welsh, executive director of the State Preservation Board, the agency that oversees the museum as well as the State Capitol building and grounds, including its statuary, and the Capitol Visitors Center. She “will keep the Bullock at the forefront of best contemporary museum practices as the institution continues to produce new and exciting programs.”

Glimpse inside Austin parties for history and the arts

Two subjects galvanized this year’s Angelina Eberly Luncheon, which benefits the Austin History Center Association, the nonprofit ally of the Austin History Center.

Monte Akers and Charles Peveto at Angelina Eberly Luncheon for the Austin History Center Association. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

One hot topic was the Driskill Hotel, traditional site of the always gratifying midday event. Leading the public chat about the venue’s rollercoaster past was Monte Akers, attorney and author, whose “The Grand Dame of Austin: A History of the Driskill Hotel” was recently released by Waterloo Press (must be transparent, also the publisher of my two books).

His best anecdote, however, was told off the cuff: Before lunch a lady introduced herself as Helen Corbitt. Could she really be the celebrated Driskill chef who had popularized the cheese soup that we sipped in the lobby? (She died in 1978.) Perhaps it was her daughter? Akers asked around. But the well-attired woman had vanished for a while like a Driskill ghost. Luncheon chairman Charles Peveto put the questions to rest: That was Helen Covert, not Helen Corbitt.

Also on the stage in the banquet room were Luci Baines Johnson and Julian Read. Johnson’s family was closely associated with the hotel. For decades, LBJ held periodic court in the ornate 1886 palace. His daughter told the stories behind the stories, including the fact that LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson‘s first breakfast date at the hotel was later rendered in several conflicting versions by her parents and their friends.

Read, one of the greats of public relations and public affairs, shared a detailed history of the hotel’s modern ownership. Best known in some circles for his work with Texas Gov. John Connally, Read represented the Driskill through several of those owners, all struggling to bring the building up to its historic potential.

The other subject? The association plunged deep into the campaign to give over a portion of the shuttered Faulk Library to the center, which long ago maxed out its storage, exhibition and office space. It would take $11.8 million for critical infrastructure to bring it up to code, then another $3 million for the center to expand into two floors and the basement. For a long while, leaders have endorsed a public-private partnership that could mean little or no cost to taxpayers. Luckily, in the audience this day were Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, as well as former mayors Lee Cooke and Frank Cooksey, all strong backers of the center.

Out into the arts

Sandhya Shardanand, Stephen Torrence and Janet Brooks at Malcolm Bucknall opening at Wally Workman Gallery. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

The Austin spring performing arts season is up and running. We thoroughly enjoyed Zach Theatre‘s staging of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” a fluid telling of 15-year-old Christopher’s experiences as he negotiates parents, teachers and strangers through the lens of autism in the United Kingdom. Director Dave Steakley‘s team was particularly good at visualizing the mindset of Christopher, played expertly by Texas State University student Preston Straus. It will be remembered as one of the performances of the season.

We also finally caught cabaret singer Ute Lemper live at UT’s McCullough Theatre as presented by Texas Performing Arts. The modern embodiment of the 20th-century cabaret scenes in Berlin, Paris, New York and Buenos Aires, Lemper can channel Marlene Dietrich and any number of performers set off into the world in part by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, while sharing the theater history in priceless asides. That is not all. Lemper spent a good portion of the show with a pianist and a bass player scatting in high jazz form. Although technically amazing, this style paled in comparison to Lemper’s clear-eyed, clear-edged cabaret. Note of approval: “Mack the Knife” should always be performed in German. Always.

We also stopped by the opening reception for artist Malcolm Bucknall at Wally Workman Gallery. The longtime Austin artist presented exquisite amalgamations of human and animals, of in Victorian or Edwardian dress, as if borrowed from outrageous children’s books from the period. We had a fairly long talk with Bucknall about his time in the U.K., India, Cyprus and ultimately Austin, after his father moved here to start UT’s metallurgy program in 1958. We plan to hear more of these stories at his studio this week.

Austin parties we love: Early 2018

After a holiday break, the Austin social scene warms up rapidly. Peek at some parties we eagerly anticipate.

Jan. 27: Opening night of Austin Opera’s “Ariadne auf Naxos.” Long Center.

Jan. 27: Dell Children’s Gala. Austin Convention Center.

Jan. 27: Human Rights Campaign Austin Gala. JW Marriott.

Jan. 31: Promise to Children Award Luncheon for Camp Fire Central Texas. St. David’s Episcopal Church.

Feb. 2: Angelina Eberly Luncheon for Austin History Center Association. Driskill Hotel.

Feb. 3: Rodeo Austin Gala with Jack Ingram, Bruce Robison and Charlie Robison. Palmer Events Center.

Feb. 3: Casablanca for CASA of Travis County. JW Marriott.

Feb. 3: Corazón Awards for Con Mi Madre. After-party with Bidi Bidi Band. Brazos Hall.

Feb. 3: Puppy Bowl for Austin Humane Society. 124 W. Anderson Lane.

Feb. 3: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner for Project Transitions. The Thinkery and other venues.

Feb. 10: Winemaker Valentine Luncheon. Fall Creek Vineyards.

Feb. 10: Carnaval Brasileiro. Palmer Events Center.

Feb. 11: The Nobelity Project’s Feed the Peace Awards. Four Seasons Hotel.

Feb. 11: Women’s Symphony League presents Red Haute Valentine Party. Omni Barton Creek Resort.

Feb. 12: Austin Blues Revue and mixer. Antone’s Nightclub.

Feb. 15: Rockin’ Round Up for Any Baby Can. ACL Live.

 

Best Texas books: Start off with ‘The Nueces River’

We’ve learned more about the Nueces River, Texas birding, a standout West Texas Congressman, the King Ranch and Texas swimming holes.

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“The Nueces River: Rio Escondido.” Margie Crisp with artwork by William B. Montgomery. Texas A&M Press. Much admired Texas artist and naturalist Margie Crisp made quite a splash with her award-winning “River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado,” a gorgeously written and illustrated look at the long, ever-changing waterway that runs through Austin. Now she turns her attention to the Nueces River, which she calls “Rio Escondido,” apt since this stream that falls off the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau goes underground during dry seasons until it reemerges at Choke Canyon Reservoir near Three Rivers.  A team project with William B. Montgomery, this book represents an ideal marriage of words and images. One only wishes that Crisp were given several lifetimes so she could do the same for 48 more Texas rivers.

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best recent books on Texas rivers.

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“One More Warbler: A Life with Birds” Victor Emanuel with S. Kirk Walsh. University of Texas Press. To say that Victor Emanuel is a god among naturalists is almost an understatement. The owner and operator of one of the world’s most prominent nature tour groups grew up in Houston and has lived in Austin for decades. This memoir, written in close collaboration with S. Kirk Walsh, tells not just about birding adventures, but also looks deeply into the way that habitual observation of nature changes the way we perceive the world around us. Bonus: Emanuel employs a natural literary touch, which Walsh clearly amplifies. You might have read our own profile of Emanuel. We promise a big feature interview about this book before long.

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best Texas books to read in November 2016.

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“The Swimming Holes of Texas.” Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy. University of Texas Press. Like our much more adventurous colleague, Pam LeBlanc, we love this guide book. We had to add our tributes. It’s crucial, first, because this information was previously not readily available in such a user-friendly, physical format. Arranged by region — the Austin area counts as its own region — it fully lists addresses, phone number, websites, hours, entrance fees, park rules, camping options, amenities, and swimming opportunities, along with sharp descriptions that could only be acquired through sustained personal reporting. Funny thing: Writing this capsule, my thumb led me to the entry for Choke Canyon Reservoir (see above). Oh no you don’t! Last time we were there, alligators floated just offshore. No swimming for us.  Pam, don’t take that as a challenge!

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best Texas books to read in December 2016.

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“A Witness to History: George H. Mahon, West Texas Congressman.” Janet M. Neugebauer. Texas Tech University Press. We must admit up front we have not made a big dent into this biography that runs almost to 600 pages with notes and index. But what we’ve read so far has impressed us enough to place it here. Mahon, a country lawyer, went to Congress in 1935 and served on the House Committee on Appropriations almost he his entire tenure of 44 years. Along the way, he acquired enormous power, which, if this book is any evidence, he used judiciously. A specialist in defense spending, his career spanned World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and almost the entire Cold War. We look forward to digging deeper into this crisp volume when we have more time. A lot more time.

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best Texas books to read in October 2016.

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“Bob and Helen Kleberg of King Ranch.” Helen Kleberg Groves. Trinity University Press. Not as many books have been published about the King Ranch as have been about Texas football, rangers, tacos or politics. But it sometimes seems that the vast, daunting South Texas empire of cattle and thorn brush holds writers in an unbreakable spell. This time, the motivation is personal, since this volume was written by Helen King Kleberg Alexander-Groves. It constitutes the memoirs of the only child of the celebrated Bob and Helen Kleberg. At first, it feels like a picture book with historical and contemporary photographs that take you directly into the world of ranching past and present. Yet don’t overlook the words, because Bill Benson has helped Groves thoroughly research and confirm the history, genealogy and other aspects of this quintessentially Texas family tale.

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best Texas books to read in September 2016.

Order a double dose of Mattie’s at Green Pastures

Matthew Odam just released his review of Mattie’s at Green Pastures, giving it a rating of 8 out of 10. He opens with a moving personal story about the slow decline of the previous restaurant before praising the current one.

Two excerpts:

“Things fall apart. But, if you’re lucky, they can be remade into something even greater. And if you’re really lucky, they do so under the animating force of developer Greg Porter and Jeff Trigger of La Corsha Hospitality Group, who acquired the Green Pastures property in 2015.”

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Mattie’s at Green Pastures. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Yes, the birds are still there,” Odam continues. “And so is the milk punch. And it’s even punchier now. Crafted by La Corsha Hospitality Group beverage director Jason Stevens, the petite glass packs a wallop of aged bourbon, cognac and Jamaican rum, sloshing beneath a hood of nutmeg-dusted vanilla cream. The 1965 Milk Punch ($6) made me wobblier than my dad that night a few years ago and would’ve been lovely enough to dip my fluffy brioche French toast ($15) in if the candied-pecan-flecked triangles hadn’t come with their own powerful bourbon-maple syrup.”

As you know, the old house and former farm are crammed with history. Here’s my look back at Green Pastures, published a few months ago. Includes a video.

An excerpt:

Martha Koock Ward remembers the yeast rolls. “Rising, baking, baked and blanketed in a linen napkin lining a basket, revealed, ready for sweet cream butter,” says the Austinite who grew up in her mother’s childhood home, which Mary Faulk Koock turned into the hospitality legend Green Pastures. “The earthy smell of these rolls added another layer of satisfaction to a carefully prepared meal. And if all went well, I’d get a hot roll and homemade peach preserves for the best dessert ever.”

“She and other family members knew well that customers and guests came first at the South Austin eatery spread out over a Victorian farmhouse. “I often heard the words, ‘Don’t eat those!’” Ward recalls. “‘They’re counted!’”

“The unbroken spell of this oasis — it has served diners for more than 70 years — resonates in its name. Green Pastures sounds like a sweet, soothing, sacred place, something out of Psalms.”

 

Catch up on these Austin parties that passed us by

We’ve been been away for a while, but our social spies have passed on some delicious updates from the past few weeks, edited for these pages. More contributed reports to come Tuesday and Wednesday.

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At the Umlauf Garden Party, this appears to some dessert made into the shape of a wading bird. Contributed by Jonathan Garza

From Darlene Fiske:

“The 19th annual Umlauf Garden Party welcomed 800+ guests for an evening “Under a Texas Sky.” Twenty-five restaurants served delicious bites while Twin Liquors showcased some of the season’s best bubbles and wines. The museum raised more than $300,000 in its biggest fundraiser of the year, under the direction of Nina Seely, executive director and Allyson Maxey, the 2017 Garden Party chair.  All monies raised contribute to cultivating art, culture and community through educational programming and stimulating exhibitions at the Umlauf.”

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Dorothy Knox Houghton and Joe Pinnelli at Abner Cook Award Reception. Contributed by Rose Betty Williams

From Andrea Perry:

“The Neill-Cochran House Museum hosted a benefit cocktail reception to honor Austin builder, contractor, and historic preservationist Joe Pinnelli with the Abner Cook Award. The event was held  in the Centennial Garden. A capacity crowd celebrated Joe’s long career in historic preservation as well as his careful recent restoration of the Neill-Cochran House. Supporters enjoyed hors d’oeuvres from Word of Mouth Bakery, cocktails and wine while a jazz band played against the backdrop of the historic house. This year’s event, co-chaired by Liz Maxfield and Caroline Caven, raised over $40,000 in support of operations, programming, and preservation at the historic site, owned and operated by the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in Texas.”

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CADF Executive Director Megan Woodburn, CADF patient Deloris Fields and her dentist and CADF volunteer, Dr. Kent Macaulay. Contributed

From Amy Spiro:

“The Capital Area Dental Foundation celebrated its 10-year anniversary at its annual gala held at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Austin.  The event was attended by more than 500 guests and raised more than $175,000 for charitable dentistry. One of the highlights of the evening was when the foundation honored Deloris Fields, a patient who was connected to CADF through the American-Statesman’s Season for Caring program. Deloris, who is undergoing treatment for Stage 4 breast cancer, received extensive dental care at no charge by volunteer and Access to Care chairman, Dr. Kent MacaulayComedian Pat Hazell served as the emcee for the gala, which included a seated dinner, casino games and a special musical performance by the Rockets Brothers Band.

 

Salute the stunning new Dell Seton Medical Center

The Austin parties are picking up again. We attended three fine ones recently.

Dell Seton Medical Center Big Reveal

Have I mistakenly entered a luxury hotel? That’s the first impression one receives in the ground-level guest areas of the new Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas.

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Opening of Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

For the Big Reveal at the $300 million teaching, charity and research hospital, which goes fully operational in May, numerous top citizens sipped bubbly, nibbled on delectables, then set those aside to tour the seven-floor state-of-the-science facility that will take the place of University Medical Center Brackenridge.

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Pete and Tomi Winstead at the opening of Dell Seton Medical Center University of Texas. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Fortuitously, among our first contacts in the comfy cafe was Pete Winstead, the Austin power broker who led the charge to raise $50 million for the hospital, along with his charming wife Tomi Winstead. By the way, as State Sen. Kirk Watsonauthor of the 10-point regional health plan that includes this new medical center, pointed out: No taxpayer money was spent on facility. Jesus Garza, retiring CEO of Seton Healthcare Family, and Christann Vasquez, president and CEO of the medical center, were also on hand to salute the sleek new building, filled with natural light and brightened with fine art.

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Cafe at this charity hotel feels like Four Seasons Hotel. Opening of Dell Seton Medical Center University of Texas. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

This whole series of medical structures along Waller Creek are so much more pleasing than the old Brack complex and the blocky government buildings that bank up against them. But it’s how the hospital works that keeps one transfixed with such wonders as a hybrid cath lab and OR and a design that will facilitate care of the worst-off patients that impresses the most.

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Hybrid cath lab and OR. Opening of Dell Seton Medical Center University of Texas. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Too much spent on the hotel look? Vasquez explains that they chose less expensive materials for the backside and inside of the place, but they wanted people to feel relaxed and at home during traumatic times. And after all, Dallas spent $1 billion on its charity hospital redo and San Antonio $500 million. So Austin’s $300 million looks like a bargain.

Tailwaggers for Austin Pets Alive

As promised, the Tailwaggers “non-gala” or “neo-gala” for Austin Pets Alive at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum was gloriously liberating. A perfect April evening. Unhurried strolls through the lovely gardens to find stations with drinks, animal welfare info or pledge options.

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Mike and Catherine Kaviani at Tailwaggers for Austin Pets Alive. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Almost every top social in town — thanks to chair Mary Herr Tally and her team — was present, along with young couples who we’d never met before. Plus some pets.

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David Kurio’s floral genius at work during Tailwaggers for Austin Pets Alive. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

The program was short. The Big Band music was romantic. An errant buffet line put the only crimp in the evening, although once self-served, the fresh, healthy food was excellent. I’m not even going to try to list the social movers and shakers who attended, because the list would go on into next week.

We’ve got another signature Austin event on our hands.

Ribbon Cutting for Briscoe Center

“We are not a museum,” said longtime director Don Carleton about his research archives, the Briscoe Center for American History. Well, just a little bit. Along with a first-rate reading room and new gathering spaces, the renovated ground floor of the center — located across the plaza from the LBJ Presidential Library — is quite a bit of exhibition space. As Carleton says: “Now we can share some of our treasures.”

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Patia Sandifer and Stephen Bedsole at the grand reopening of the Briscoe Center. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

And we are grateful for it. We’ve been digging around the Briscoe since it was named the Barker Texas History Center in the 1980s. It’s a superb collection overseen by top-notch professionals. And it always bugged me that its historical shows were staged in the hallway to the restroom. (I have the same problem with the admittedly lovelier hallway at the Austin History Center.)

At the recent ribbon cutting for the refabricated center, Carleton welcomed UT bigwigs such as President Gregory Fenves and Provost Maurie McInnis, who said that archival material: “Makes the past real in a way that just reading about history does not.” He also thanked major donors, such as the family of late Gov. Dolph Briscoe and expert on early UT history, Clyde Rabb Littlefield. Also present were Dan and Jean RatherKathy CronkiteBen Sargent and former U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

We’ll deliver at fuller report on what’s inside the new Briscoe very soon.

This week’s most inviting Austin parties and shows

It’s already April 4? Where do the spring days go in Austin? Below find some of the most inviting parties and shows of the week.

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Pete Leibman, Courtney Jacobs, Brooklyn Decker Roddick and Keith Kreeger at the 2016 Opportunity Matters Luncheon for Andy Roddick Foundation.

Best Texas rivers: Angelina River

The Angelina was the last of the larger Texas rivers traced during our 10-year program to follow 50 of them from their sources to their mouths, or vice versa. Actually, it was also the last river altogether.

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We had to stop in Looneyville. Had to. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

RELATED: How to Trace the Medina River.

It rises in an area with a lot of history in Rusk County not far from Nacogdoches, winds down into the giant Sam Rayburn Reservoir before wriggling down to join the Neches River at B.A. Steinhagen Lake.

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Angelina River near Douglass, Texas. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

RELATED: Repost: Texas River Tracing: Neches.

We left civilized Nacogdoches early and found the river at Douglass, a not very wide spot in the road that was the location for several Spanish missions. A little collection of historical markers with their backs to the road gave a detailed history of the Spanish presence in this area.

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Lots of history on the Angelina River. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman.

We picked up the Angelina through some gentle bottomlands that glowed with late fall colors.

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Angelina River not far from Lufkin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

But pretty soon we hit the Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a vast lake that we had spied the day before at the mouth of the Attoyac. Once again, we found the perfect spot to view its expanses, an Army Corps of Engineers park laced with pines and brightly colored hardwoods high atop a bluff.

Related: Tracking down good reads on Texas rivers.

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Sam Rayburn Reservoir on the Angelina River. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

It’s easy to see why this stretch of lake would be a recreational magnet, especially during the summer. But why not in the winter? At every park during this December trip, we were typically the only guests. Couldn’t be a better time for camping, picnicking or boating, as far as we were concerned. The air was comfortably cool and dry, and — more to the point — there were no mosquitos.

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Love the Army Corps of Engineers parks all over Texas. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Right below the dam, we found a river community that rightly hugs the shores of what must be an ideal stretch for fishing and exploring. The Angelina at this point is broad and slow-moving as it approaches the Neches.

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Angelina River below Lake Sam Rayburn Dam. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Finally we ended up at B.A. Steinhagen Lake. We’d been here before on our Neches tracing, when a drought left it a meager patch of water. Now it’s full and clear and ready for visitors.

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Angelina River as it drains into B.A. Steinhagen Lake. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

That’s it. We traced 50 Texas rivers in 10 years. We saw a lot of the state that very few people have seen. We took a lot of backroads and saw a lot of back country. The sense of accomplishment is, needless to say, mixed with nostalgia.

The question comes up now: What to do with all these experiences? Book? Digital guide? We honestly don’t know.

For 10 years, it was just about the roads and the rivers.