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Fort Richardson State Park

Special celebration scheduled for fort's 140th anniversary.

By Marian Edwards

When the morning mists hang close to the parade ground at Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site, visitors need only close their eyes and imagine the sounds of creaking leather and the restless, muffled stamp of a hundred hooves waiting in cavalry formation. Perhaps the imagination can conjure up the smell of the stables mingled with the aroma of the bakery. As the sun burns through the mist, it reveals a vast, green parade ground, surrounded with historic buildings, but alas, no soldiers or mounts. Still, a stroll across the level and well manicured parade ground is a great walk at any time of day; pick up the interpretive guide and walking tour brochures at the park headquarters; they bring the old fort to life.

Established in the fall of 1867 near Jacksboro, Fort Richardson was at the north end of a long line of forts that ran from the Rio Grande River to the Red River. Established to subdue the native Comanche, Kiowa, Kickapoo, Tonkawa and Apache Indians along the frontier, the soldiers of Fort Richardson guarded the area and patrolled for Indian raiding parties. A glimpse into their lives on the wild Texas frontier of the 1870s is available for modern-day visitors when visiting the seven original historic buildings and the two replica fort buildings on the grounds. Guided tours are available and the park offers living history presentations and military re-enactments throughout the year.

Fort Richardson will celebrate its 140th anniversary this month. Activities include cavalry, artillery and infantry drills, soap-making, bread-baking, 1860s baseball, a frontier classroom, laundress presentation, chuck wagon cooking and children’s games of the period.

Hikers will make good use of the adjoining Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway, a 10-foot wide multi-use trail with loops that vary in length from one mile to an 18-mile round trip and can be enjoyed on horseback, bicycle or on foot. The trail meanders from Fort Richardson around the Lost Creek Reservoir (home to crappie, bass and catfish, for you anglers) and back. Plenty of pecan and oak trees offer shade along the trail, but pack in your water bottle; there is no potable water along the trailway. You can refill your bottle at the trailhead, where you will also find restrooms, picnic facilities and a fishing pier. The trailway is popular with equestrian groups, who enjoy the convenience of parking their horse trailers in a field close to the trailhead.

Visitors can choose tent or RV camping. The campsites are spacious with lots of buffers and wide open spaces, providing more seclusion when camping. The Quarry Lake near the entrance to the park provides bank fishing and is stocked periodically throughout the year with catfish, bass and trout. The park is popular for day use activities such as picnicking and has a volleyball court, horseshoe pits and a lighted group picnic pavilion. When a hot afternoon calls for some cooling splash-time, drive or walk to the swimming beach on nearby Lost Creek Reservoir, but keep in mind there is no lifeguard on duty.

Exploring historic Fort Richardson is a great way to absorb the history of the Western frontier. The hardships and dangers that challenged the soldiers and their families are keenly imagined when you walk where they once lived and worked, protecting settlers and townsfolk.

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