Chill Out at Cooper Lake State Park
As Mother Nature cranks up the thermostat, tent camping becomes less and less alluring. Cooper Lake State Park, located a little more than an hour's drive east of Dallas, has just the solution. It features cozy lakeside cabins, where nature lovers can retire for the evening in comfort after a day of outdoor adventures.
At the park's South Sulphur unit, the larger of two park units on the lake, guests can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors from the deck of one of 14 furnished, air-conditioned cabins tucked into the hardwood forests abutting the south shore of a 19,000-acre reservoir. The one-bedroom, wood-frame cabins have one large bedroom, a combination living room-breakfast room, a bath with shower, and kitchen with stove, microwave and refrigerator.
About the only things visitors need to bring are soap, pots, pans and cooking utensils. Don't forget charcoal if you want to enjoy a traditional "campfire" meal that's easy to whip up on the barbecue grill on each cabin's elevated deck. The cabins also come with a fire ring, too, for roasting weenies and marshmallows under the stars.
Cabins can comfortably sleep four, but have a maximum capacity of six persons. A two-night minimum stay is required on weekends. These cabins rent for $85 for up to four persons. Each additional person, up to six, costs an extra $10 each.
The park's cabins come sans television and telephone, but do have a clock radio. Cell phone users usually receive a strong signal thanks to the South Sulphur Unit's location only 15 miles north of Interstate 30.
"Some people who have been to our older parks are expecting to find log cabins here, so they're pleasantly surprised to find our newer, furnished facilities," says Doctor's Creek park superintendent Mindy Hicks.
Cooper Lake State Park, opened to the public in 1996, is one of Texas' newer state parks. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department leases the park property from the U. S. Corps of Engineers, which completed the impoundment of the South Sulphur River in 1991. The lake level, which dropped some ten feet in past drought conditions, has climbed back to normal levels in recent months, making the park's boat ramps operable again.
In addition to the cabins, the 2,560-acre South Sulphur Unit park has four heated and air-conditioned premium shelters, or cottages, that are minimally furnished without restrooms and rent for only $45 per night.
Reservations also can be made for other overnight accommodations at the South Sulphur Unit, which, in addition to the furnished cabins and cottages, include 17 screened shelters, 87 water-and-electric campsites and 15 walk-in campsites. Four restroom facilities with showers are available. Guests not staying overnight can spread out among four day-use areas and 62 picnic sites. Facilities also include a group pavilion, playground, sand volleyball court and swimming beach. A greatly expanded equestrian trail and equestrian-friendly camping facilities draw horseback riders from miles around to the South Sulphur Unit as well.
While the South Sulphur Unit receives the heaviest visitation, Hicks says the smaller Doctor's Creek Unit draws well from surrounding communities such as Cooper and Ladonia. In addition, Doctor's Creek park has recently reopened to the public, after being closed for some two years.
"And we are just so happy to have the Doctor's Creek Unit open again," continued Hicks, discussing the park's recent grand re-opening in the spring. "With the park having been closed for so long because of funding issues, we want everyone to know that we are staffed and open for business."
Doctor's Creek, a 715-acre unit that offers just over six miles of shoreline, has a group picnic pavilion, 42 multi-use campsites with water and electricity and five screened shelters for rent. A nature trail, sand volleyball court and outdoor amphitheater round out the unit's facilities.
Both park units on Cooper Lake offer plenty of facilities and recreational activities to keep both youngsters and adults busy. Camping, fishing, boating, hiking and wildlife watching are popular activities. Both park units also draw lots of bass and crappie fishermen because of boat ramps, lighted piers and fish cleaning stations.
While Cooper Lake State Park is the newest Texas state park to offer fully furnished cabins that make spending a few nights the great outdoors an enticing option no matter what the season, there are more than a half dozen other state parks offering similar accommodations. They include Bastrop, Caddo Lake, Daingerfield, Garner, Lake Brownwood, Martin Creek, Palo Duro Canyon and Possum Kingdom. For more information about renting a cabin in Texas state parks, visit the TPWD 'Campsites and Lodging' web page, or call the state park customer service center at (512) 389-8900.
Cooper Lake State Park is located in northeast Texas. The South Sulphur Unit is reached by taking Exit 22 on Interstate 30 west of Sulphur Springs, heading north for 10 miles on State Highway 19, then west four miles on State Highway 71 and north one mile on FM 3505. Doctor's Creek is located on the north shore of the lake three miles southeast of Cooper on FM 1529. Cooper Lake State Park is one of 93 state parks, historic sites and state natural areas that make up the Texas State Park System. For more information about the park, call (903) 945-5256. For general Texas State Park information, call 1-800-792-1112 or visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site at: www.tpwd.state.tx.us/parks.