I’m not usually surprised driving into a state park.
Around Texas, and especially the Civilian Conservation Corps parks, parks tend to have a similar feel about them. The park sign greeting you in the front. Maybe a rock wall, or rock pillar, at the entrance. A paved, winding road that leads you to a stout headquarters building to check-in.
All of those things were the same at Martin Creek Lake State Park, but I’m not sure if it was because I almost didn’t go, or it really was just amazing, but Martin Creek was way more interesting than I thought it was going to be.
While planning my trip to Caddo Lake I looked for other state parks in the area. Some I’d already been to, Tyler S.P., and others were north of Caddo that didn’t make sense to drive to. But there were others directly on the way off of highway 21.
I knew that I wouldn’t want to stop on the way up, so I opted to wait to see how I felt on the way back home. After getting an early start on the day of my departure for Caddo, I set off on the road back home and drove through the road sign indicating the upcoming park, and its distance.
‘What the hell’ I thought. I won’t be in this area for a while, might as well just stop’. Almost as a throwaway.
It was early, I had a full belly of egg and sausage wraps, and I knew it had water to fish. So that was my excuse to go. Check out the water and try and do some fishing.
Off of the main road, you turn down a typical Texas ranch back road. It lacks the care and maintenance of a city road, but houses adorned the fields of yellows with metal silos off in the distance.
Some of the land was still being cultivated for cotton crops. Spray-painted bundles wrapped in green, with puffs of white pushed into the side of the road like foam from the ocean’s wave on the beach.
The entrance sign is what you’d expect. Two wooden posts holding up a brown sign with yellow letters saying ‘Martin Creek Lake’. Hoisted upon the stone platform that resembles CCC design.
The east Texas pines continued their march to this park, and they lined the road driving into the park. ‘How lovely’ I said to myself already happy with my decision to stop.
I was the only car in the headquarters parking lot, and the young lady at the drive-thru window greeted me. When I inquired about souvenirs we both thought it’d be best if I just came inside.
The two ladies represented the lasting heritage of the parks. You had one lady sitting at the computer who was filled with knowledge about the parks, and ready to suggest things to see and do here, but also at parks across the Lone Star State.
You also had the young lady who had welcomed me in, intrigued by the conversation, and listening closely while shuffling through paperwork.
The square lapel pin showcased the main draw at this park. It has a shadowed figure on a kayak floating on the water doing a little fishing. Though I’m not sure why the entire sky is colored red. You see the framework of the pedestrian bridge and pine trees in the background as well.
I grabbed my goodies, and my maps, and went on my way.
In the middle of the 19th century, not long after the Caddo tribe had abandoned this area, settler Daniel Martin helped to settle this land and established a community on Harmony Hill.
The trails here take you through all ends of this park, and the Harmony Hill Loop (1.5 mi.) will showcase the namesake’s cemetery where you can see gravesites dated back to 1844. Additional points of interest include a vintage gas pump still in its place, and the pine plantation.
Visitors to this point of interest will notice the almost perfect layout of pine trees. The trees are part of a pine plantation, so they were planted evenly placed, and make a sort of illusion of timber like soldiers in formation.
Two other trails are at this park; the Old Henderson Road Loop (1.2 mi) will take you down the road that was used as a trade route for the nearby towns of Henderson and Shreveport. It’s also a top spot for birding. Bald eagles and Osprey are known to frequent the area.
The Island Trails Loop (1.2 mi.) is accessed by using the footbridge to access the small island that also features the primitive camping site. From here you can get a closer look at the power plant that really can’t be missed from most parts of this park.
The water here is warmed by that power plant, and that creates a great fishing opportunity. So while it may seem a bit obtrusive, you don’t hear the plant as much as you think you would be based on its size.
For a PDF trail map visit this link: https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/park_maps/pwd_mp_p4508_0111k.pdf
I knew I didn’t have too much time here, so I drove around checking out the various campsites; of which there are three main sites and the previously mentioned primitive site. After exploring the woody areas of the park, and taking some pictures I made my way back to the beginning to get a closer look at the lake.
The weather had changed overnight to a windy 50 degrees. The sun was out and the waves on the water were blowing to my feet. The parking lot was empty, but it wasn’t hard to imagine families sunbathing on the grass, and kids running around laughing.
There were multiple sun canopies that curved around the water and the typical lifeguard warning sign. There’s also a restroom here that could be used to wash off in the showers after a day of swimming.
This wasn’t going to be a great spot for fishing, so I moved my vehicle over to the opposite end where you can drop in a boat.
There’s another restroom here, picnic tables, and another large empty parking lot. This one with elongated spaces to allow for a vehicle pulling a trailer. But on this day just me.
Windy conditions don’t make for an optimum fly fishing experience, and eventually, fellow anglers showed up to comment on that same fact. With a chuckle, I responded with a quip to save face but agreeing the entire time. I tried one more section that helped alleviate the wind, but nothing was biting.
I stood for a moment to take it all in, feel the sun on my face, and listen to the water splashing on the walkway. With the wind whistling by my ears, I reeled in my line and made my way back to my car to set off back on the road. There were still more pines to admire down the road.
Entrance fees for Martin Creek Lake state park are $3 for adults and free for children 12 and under.
Reservations are still encouraged, and if you’re not sure how to make one check out this post for more details.
For full park details from TPWD visit here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/martin-creek-lake