Texas is not known as a place for conservation of natural places. Brazos Bend is about as good as it gets around here, but don't expect national park-quality offerings. The park is along the south and west side of the Brazos River in the far reaches of the Houston suburbs. It's not easy to access the river, however, and much of the standing water in the park is artificial lagoons and flood-control ponds. Further, for some reason massive swaths of the park are not left natural but instead are mowed. Still, this is the spot to see birds -- and lots of them -- as well as plenty of alligators. There is a nature center, plenty of hiking (and biking) trails, a large campground, and lots of spots to fish -- though take care where you cast, as the dangling detritus of limb-caught lures attests to. And, like the sign says, don't pet the gators.