Cooper Lake State Park
Hurry before the crowds discover this northeast Texas haven.
By Elsa K. Simcik
If you make your way to Northeast Texas to visit Cooper Lake State Park, you’ll find panoramic views, plenty of bass and deluxe cabins for sleeping. And the best part? You might have this pretty much all to yourself. “It doesn’t get that crowded because lots of people don’t know about it,” says Rodney Franklin, the park’s superintendent.
Why the secret? With its opening in the mid-90s, Cooper is a relatively new park. It’s made up of two units — South Sulphur (which is a little over 2,000 acres) and Doctor’s Creek (about 700 acres). Franklin manages both of them and explains that the secrets don’t end there.
“We have the gamut of recreation,” he says. This includes a nice beach area where visitors can relax, play or hop in the cool water. The 19,000-plus acre lake is ideal for jet skiing and boating.
That is, when conditions are ideal. And it’s no secret that they haven’t been for awhile. Cooper Lake, like most other lakes in Texas, has suffered from low lake levels — last summer being no exception. The lake can blame its low levels on drought and the fact that it is a water source for Dallas, just about 90 miles away.
While the state of the lake forced Franklin to close the park’s boat ramps last year — causing a decrease in visitation — he has higher hopes for this year. Thanks to some good winter rain he’s been able to open two of his boat ramps. And that’s especially great news for fishermen. The park features a wooded area just for fishing that makes the bass-catching opportunities even better.
Franklin says that most of their visitors (both to the South Sulphur unit and Doctor’s Creek) come just for the day. But for those who do come to spend the night, the park boasts a nice variety of facilities. They’ve got everything from primitive camping sites to traditional camping sites to equestrian sites. Sure, you have to bring your own horse but each equestrian site includes a 20-foot tether post. There are also 13 miles of trails for four-legged friends. And even if your group consists only of campers with two legs, you can still hike on the five miles of nature trails.
Besides the campsites, the South Sulphur Unit also features indoor facilities at different levels of luxury. At the top level there are 14 cabins that are as nice as any hotel with the added bonus of lake views. For $85 per night during peak season you get a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bath plus linens. If you don’t need quite all that luxury you can opt for a furnished cottage (at $45 per night with no linens or bathroom) or the basic screened shelter (for $25).
No matter if you come for the day or stay for the night (in luxury or otherwise), you might want to hurry to Cooper Lake State Park. With the lake levels looking better they’re sure to draw more crowds this summer. Guess that means the secret’s out.
For more information call (903) 945-5256 or visit <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/cooperlake>.