Erin's Nature in Lights.jpg

Twinkling and blinking, glistening and glowing, the lights of the holiday season are shining brightly once again during the annual Nature in Lights program at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, despite a major set-back presented by Mother Nature.

Fall found Belton Lake more than 14 feet over the normal water level. Consequently, Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area experienced flooded conditions throughout the park. The initial major area of concern was the Nature in Lights route. The lower roads of the park were flooded and displays that had been set-up during late summer were steadily going under.

The venue for Santa’s Depot and the train route were also under water. So, the park maintenance crew began to take down displays while still trying to set-up the remainder of the park for the annual holiday program. The upper park road was decorated and the normal route altered to accommodate the rising water. Nature in Lights opened as scheduled, with a few alterations.

Pony rides are currently offered at BLORA Ranch during Nature in Lights. Turn right off of Cottage Road at the BLORA Ranch sign before you reach the park’s main gate to find them.  Stop at Sierra Beach to enjoy concessions under the stars, tackle a climbing wall or grab a glow-in-the dark toy for added fun along the route. For a chance to visit with Santa Claus, enjoy a few snacks, paint ceramics and shop for gifts, guests can stop at Santa’s Village that is located two-thirds through the trail of lights in the enclosed and heated Live Oak Pavilion. All three stops along the route are open nightly through Dec. 24.  Pony rides are $5 and the climbing wall fee is $3. At the time of submission for this article, the ride through the exclusive trail of lights via train is not open.  

Despite the changes, waving Santas, dancing elves, prancing reindeer and singing snowmen still greet visitors that drive through the winter wonderland. For the 22nd year the trail of lights illuminates the night sky each evening from 5:30-11 p.m. The program opened Nov. 16 and runs nightly through Jan. 6 for vehicle traffic.  

The lights at night truly shine bright as Nature in Lights reflects the joy of the season. New displays, including the new “Bell and Bow” entry skylines, “Painting Patty” and “Santa Stocking Up!” will brighten the route, along with old favorites for return guests. Come early and receive a commemorative ornament Monday through Wednesday evenings, while supplies last.

For the equestrian, call BLORA Ranch at 936-346-0350 and reserve your spot to enjoy the lights by horseback during Saddle Night. Two rides, 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., will be led through a portion of the lights on Jan. 12 or Jan. 13, the inclement weather date.

Nature in Lights evolved as a means to promote community partnerships, instill the holiday spirit in visitors and enhance the quality of life for Fort Hood Soldiers, their Family members and the surrounding community. A sincere note of thanks to the community for the sponsorship support enabling this holiday tradition to continue each season.

As the lake recedes and the lower park roads open, the traditional trail of lights will resume.

For more program information, directions or the weather related program status, contact the park’s reservation office at 287-2523 or visit www.hood.ArmyMWR.com.