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Purtis Creek State Park

This North Texas park offers good fishing and plenty of solitude.

By John R. Meyer

A land donation in 1977 eventually led to the establishment of Purtis Creek State Park in 1988. Located in Henderson and Van Zandt counties, the park is nearly in the shadow of Dallas. But once there, the thick trees and quiet solitude make it seem much farther away.

People come from across the state to experience a fishing resource that has a unique combination of controlled use and minimized pressure. Since the park opened, the largemouth fishery has been catch-and-release only. There is also a strictly enforced no-wake rule. Though as much for safety around the submerged timber as anything, it adds a noticeable measure of quiet. This, and a limit of 50 boats on the lake at one time ($5 daily boat fee required) keep things at a relaxed pace. Crappie, coppernose bluegills, redear sunfish and three species of catfish (channel, blue and flathead) round out the fish offerings. Check at the entrance for minimum length and limits on those retainable species.

For those without a boat there are two wheelchair-accessible, lighted fishing piers with nearby fish-cleaning tables. Also worth noting is the fact that early autumn is a good time for big largemouth bass.

If land suits you better, try the hiking trail loop that originates in the middle of the multiuse camping area. The trail winds through the thick woods and passes by a wildlife viewing blind. An observant hiker can see a variety of colorful and chatty birds as well as a beaver dam.

The trail skirts the edge of the primitive camping area. Each of the 13 sites is a small spot carved out of the trees within a stone’s throw of the water’s edge. Though the closest is a half mile walk, the solitude is well worth it. If you’ve got more stuff than you want to carry that far, you might consider, instead, one of the 64 drive-up sites. These offer the usual amenities including fire ring, picnic bench and tent pad. Each site also has hooks for hanging food items up and out of the way of curious animals such as raccoons, armadillos and opossums, all frequent visitors to the area. Thick vegetation surrounds many of the drive-up sites — adding a nice bit of privacy.

Depending on your needs, sites may also include water and electricity or just water. Facilities are also available for RV use. Firewood is available across from the restrooms by the campground host’s RV. Reservations are recommended, but if there are open sites when you arrive, ask for advice from one of the park employees at the check-in desk. They can recommend strategic locations for optimal access to important features such as the bathroom, fishing docks or extra quiet.

In the summer, there are interpretive canoe tours every two weeks (call the park for dates and reservations at 903-425-2332). For a $6 fee, you can paddle on Purtis Creek through a natural marsh and eventually out onto the lake. On the way, check out beaver dams and other natural wonders up close.

There is also a playground for the kids, designated swimming area and canoe and paddleboat rentals that round out the possibilities for the entire family.

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