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Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway

Palette of scenic trails entices equestrians of all ages.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Several times a year, Carol and Walt Isenhour of McDade pack a lunch, load up their horses and rendezvous with a group of friends. Then the caravan heads for nearby Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway for a day of trail riding.

“It’s a beautiful place to get away,” Carol says. “I never look at a watch when I’m out there.”

More than 20 miles of trails crisscross Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway, an 8,700-acre complex consisting of two parks (Birch Creek and Nails Creek), a 13-mile trail system, and a wildlife management area. The complex lies on the western side of Lake Somerville.

Equestrians and their horses may camp overnight at Birch Creek (water-only sites and corrals available); Nails Creek is open for day-use only (corrals available). All equine must have proof of a negative Coggins test within the past 12 months.

Site manager Darrell Fischer explains that the extensive Somerville Trailway, which links the two parks, appeals both to large and small groups of riders.

A one-day excursion typically starts at Nails Creek, where everyone unloads and parks trailers, then rides 6 miles to a picnic area called Newman Bottom. Along the way, the main trail (actually a dirt service road) meanders over gently rolling hills, across open meadows, and through dense stands of yaupons, post oaks, blackjack oaks, water oaks, and hickory trees.

Four miles down the trail, a scenic overlook perched atop a high bluff offers a panoramic view of Flag Pond — a haven for migrating ducks, geese and other birds — and beyond to Lake Somerville. Riders often report seeing wildlife, too, including white-tailed deer, armadillos, rabbits and foxes. In the spring, bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, phlox and other wildflowers grow in abundance along the trails.

At Newman Bottom, riders make use of shaded picnic tables, tie rails, and water for animals (riders should pack their own drinking water). After lunch, many head back along Flag Pond Loop Trail, an alternate route that skirts the pond’s northern side.

From Birch Creek, the trail winds approximately 7 miles to Newman Bottom. Four primitive camping areas are located along the 13-mile trail linking the two parks.

John Leach, a member of the Texas Equestrian Trailriders Association who’s ridden at Somerville for years, points out that the trails can even accommodate old-fashioned buggies and wagons.

“You can just about pretend you’re a pioneer — it’s that wonderful of a trail,” Leach says.

Birch Creek is located 15 miles west of Somerville on Park Road 57; Nails Creek is located 20 miles northeast of Giddings on Farm to Market Road 180. For more information about Lake Somerville State Park and Trailway, call Birch Creek at (979) 535-7763 or Nails Creek and Trailway at (979) 289-2392 or visit Lake Sommerville State Park on the Web.

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