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March 2011 cover image The Best of Texas, Naturally!

Park Pick: No Wake-Up Call

Cleburne boasts a no-wake lake and spiffy new facilities.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Not long after obtaining his driver’s license in 1957, John Watson of Cleburne picked up his friends and hightailed it to nearby Cleburne State Park, located 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Suffice it to say that he made many subsequent trips, parent-approved and otherwise.

“Back then, the park was a real popular hangout with teenagers,” chuckles Watson, a travel columnist for the Cleburne Times-Review. “It was a great place to take your girlfriend for a Sunday afternoon drive and maybe ride the paddleboats.”

Alas, the teen haunts — a 1940s bathhouse and concession — fell into such disrepair that park officials closed them several years ago and then tore them down. However, there’s good news. Modern replacements should be online by summer, if not earlier.

At the park, a $2.83 million bond project — part of a bigger statewide effort to update state parks — has already built two new dorm-style barracks. The group facilities feature air conditioning and heat plus his-and-hers bathrooms, lockers and 44 bunk beds (with mattresses). After renovations, the dining hall will seat 75 and provide a commercial kitchen for families wanting to cook hot meals.

Cleburne State Park was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The 528-acre park, tucked into a heavily wooded valley, encircles Cedar Lake, a 116-acre reservoir fed by creeks and always serene thanks to a no-wake policy.

“Because of that, people like to fly-fish from kayaks and canoes,” says manager Collis Park. “If they want, visitors can bring big boats, just as long as they don’t make a wake.”

On the lake, the bond project also refurbished the swimming beach. Once the concession opens, visitors can order burgers, snacks and basic supplies or rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboats, just like the good ol’ days.

“We’ll also have a floating dock for the paddleboats,” Park says. “All these new facilities should boost our visitation.”

Extensive trails at the park attract many wildlife lovers, hikers and mountain bikers. In the summer, rangers lead interpretive hikes on Saturdays along Coyote Run Nature Trail, which meanders on the park’s undeveloped north side. Another interpretive hike takes visitors to the stair-step rock spillway, hand built by CCC Company 3804 workers in 1935.

On the lake’s west side, five campgrounds offer six screened shelters and 58 campsites. “Poplar Point is our most popular campground because it’s right on the lake,” Park says. “But a lot of campers also like North Creek area, too.” Camping fees vary and are based on utilities available at a selected site.

Cleburne State Park is located 10 miles southwest of Cleburne. For more information, call 817-645-4215 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/cleburne.

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