By De Castillo, Contributor
Located a bit north of Central Texas, Lake Brownwood is a true gem for nature vacationers and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Whether seeking a romantic escape, an inexpensive and interactive outing with the kids, or just a peaceful, scenic refuge from the office, this beautiful park has something for everyone. While the available activities would make a great day trip, visitors will likely want to stay at least a night or two to fully enjoy all the park has to offer.
Some of the activities available include:
- Fishing and boating
- Wildlife and nature study
For tent camping, there are several sites available with adequate shade and great views of the lake. While you will need to bring your own firewood or purchase it from the park office (gathering firewood is prohibited in all Texas state parks), there is ample room the either gather around (or cuddle up together next to) the fire ring at night. Restroom and showering facilities are reasonably placed, clean, and well maintained.
While the tent sites are more than adequate, for those less inclined to brave hot summer nights, inclement weather, or the comforts of a solid mattress, RV sites and rental cabins are available. Couples will find the smaller cabins appealing, rustic getaway spots. Larger cabins are available for families or large groups as well, accommodating up to ten people. All of the cabins feature a fireplace and private restrooms and many have a wonderful view of the lake. For extremely large gatherings, the Beach Lodge can sleep up to 26 and is located in a separate area, so your party won’t bother other visitors. While blankets and towels are furnished, kitchen dishes and utensils as well as restroom toiletries are not, so be sure to plan on bringing your own.
If you don’t have time to camp, Lake Brownwood is still worth making a day trip. The park features picnicking areas, three miles of tranquil, scenic trails, a fort-style playground for the kids, volleyball courts, a mini-basketball court, a softball field, plentiful wildlife, and, of course, the lake.
The picnicking areas are well placed, clearly with activities in mind. Each is located close to a volleyball court, the softball field, or the lake shore so that you won’t have to bring your activities to a screeching halt just to eat. Picnicking is really the best option for this park as the restaurants in town are about twenty minutes away.
The trails in this particular state park are mild enough for casual hikers and lead to many fascinating stone structures, tables, and benches erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. An interpretive trail loops around the interior of the park and an interpretive guide is available for download from the park website highlighting historical information about the site. There are also trails along the lake, some offering access to sandy beach spots. All throughout the park you’ll see picturesque limestone formations highlighting the native flora. The views of both the lake and the essence of the native environment make excellent subject for photography, so you’ll want to make sure you have your camera in hand before you set off on your hike.
The park also contains three geocaches within its boundaries, two of which are maintained by the TPWD and qualify for the Texas Geocaching Challenge for kids. For those new to the concept of geocaching, it’s essentially a treasure hunting game of sorts played all around the world. The object is to use coordinates provided for the location of the cache which can be any sealed container from the size of a short, fat pencil nub, to an ammo container or larger that contains a small logbook – basically an “I was here” signature opportunity. It’s a fun and educational activity for kids and varies between a bit of a cult fad and hiking passion among adults. GPS units specifically for geocaching can be used to located caches, but many cell phones can be used by way of an app. Passports for participation in the Texas Geocaching Challenge can be printed from the park website prior to your trip.
Fishing at this lake is great when the water levels are up, but isn’t too bad during lower level periods if you know what to fish for and when. The Lake Brownwood page of the TPWD website has information on the various kinds of fish in this particular location, which times of year they are more active, and helpful tips on where to try for different varieties and which baits and techniques have shown to be most successful with them. There is a 24-hour fishing pier available along with several great bank fishing spots. Boats with motors are permitted here, but caution should be used in vegetative fishing areas when water levels are low. Jet skis are also permitted on the lake as well as kayaks, canoes, and other types of leisure boating. An unsupervised swimming area is available as well.
Whether you’re on the trails, in the water, or just relaxing by your tent, you’re bound to spot some of the area wildlife. Common in this area are turkeys, deer, armadillos, foxes, raccoons, and a plethora various types of birds. The park office has booklets available for purchase as resources for nature study. Topics include butterflies, birds, animal tracks, etc. The same resources are also available in Jr. Ranger packs for kids. The packs also include a trail journal, binoculars, compass, and tools for hiking and nature study and can be checked out from the office free of charge. The park rangers and staff are also very knowledgeable and extremely friendly. They love to answer questions and can give you mounds of information regarding the native flora and fauna. If you have little ones along, check with the office for a schedule of upcoming activities. Often on specific Saturdays, the park staff offers educational programs such as fishing, guided nature hikes, star gazing activities, and many other interactive activities for children and families.
Another big draw for this, and most state parks, is bird watching. Often spotted throughout the park are Carolina Wrens, Hermit Thrushes, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Northern Mockingbirds, Mourning Doves, Bewick’s Wrens, Northern Cardinals, Black-crested Titmice, and Carolina Chickadees along with many sparrow species.
Overall, for any purpose one uses the park for, the fees are extremely reasonable. Campsites begin at $10 per night. Cabins start at $65 per night but offer most of the benefits of a hotel (minus the TV and free breakfast, of course) but at a lower or comparable rate and with a superior environment. The cost of admission whether staying overnight or just for day use is $4 for each adult or child above the age of 12. Kids 12 and under are free. Better yet, if you choose to purchase a Texas State Park Pass for $70, you can skip the entrance fees for the whole crew for an entire year.