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A group of Pine Trees at Atlanta State Park
From Atlanta State Park's Knights Bluff on a late fall afternoon, Wright Patman Lake stretches northward to the distant horizon—its still, silvery-black sheen broken only by a the occasional passing boat or the splash of a leaping bass or crappie.
The park's upland woods this time of year are showing tinges of autumn color, which depending on the whims of Nature, may burst forth in a riot of reds, oranges and golds, or quickly fade to brown and fall to the floor of the pine-hardwood forests. Visitors come to Atlanta State Park to access the lake named for a longtime U.S. Congressman, picnic and camp beneath loblolly pines and oaks, watch wildlife and revel in this refuge far from big city distractions.
Atlanta State Park distinguishes itself as the northeastern most state park in the far-flung Texas state park system. The 1,475-acre park about 20 miles southwest of Texarkana is only a short drive from the point where the Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana borders meet. Outdoor lovers from Shreveport, La., only 60 miles away, cities in southwestern Arkansas and towns throughout northeast Texas find their way to the scenic, lakeside park.
The gently rolling, forested land was once home to the Caddo Indians, who established villages and farmed the fertile land crisscrossed by creeks and dotted by springs. The mixed pine and hardwood forests that abut the 20,300-acre reservoir impounded by the U.S. Corps of Engineers for flood control purposes creates a good habitat for a variety of birds and other wildlife.
In cool-weather months, white pelicans, double-breasted cormorant, gulls and other waterfowl mix with woodland species, such as the pine warbler, Eastern bluebird and American goldfinch. Park visitors may even catch a glimpse during the winter of bald eagles searching lake waters for their next meal. White-tailed deer, raccoons, armadillos, bobcats and other critters populate the piney forests within park boundaries.
Atlanta State Park boasts 61 campsites spread out among three camping areas -- Knights Bluff (open year round), Wilkins Creek and White Oak Ridge. All campsites offer electric and water, and rent for $12 a night. Seventeen sites offer sewer hookups and cost an additional $2. Adults 13 and older pay a park entry fee of $2 per-person.
Atlanta State Park's reduced entry and camping fees from October through March prove especially popular with seniors (persons 65 and over), who pay half price for park entry and receive $5 off each night's camping.
Knights Bluff Camping Area proves the most popular with RV campers who can hook up to the full service campsites. Nearby are the main boat ramp, fish-cleaning station, group pavilion, day use picnic area, a playground with a volleyball court and amphitheater. The group facility can handle up to 100 people.
The Wilkins Creek Camping Area offers 20 sites with water and electricity, some pull-through sites and 50-amp service. Wilkins Creek Camping Area is closest to the Hickory Hollow Nature Trail that winds for almost a mile through the woods that are chock full of American beautyberry, their clusters of purple berries seeming to glow in places where golden shafts of sunlight penetrate the thick pine canopy.
Avid hikers might consider peeling off onto the adjoining woodlands trails that wind for 1.3 miles to the White Oak Ridge Camping Area. Catering primarily to tent campers, this campground offers 16 water-electric campsites that offer glimpses of the lake through thick stands of pines and hardwoods. Site 53 at the far end of the camping loop provides an ideal spot from which to enjoy lake views and access the lakeside hiking trail that skirts the ridge less a short climb down the hill.
A large number of the park's day users are anglers who use the park's boat ramps to put in and take out. While bass are plentiful, according to park staff, Lake Wright Patman is known for its excellent catfish and crappie fishing. It's not unusual for accomplished anglers to land 20- and 30-pound "cats". One park ranger even netted a 60-pounder off park shores.
Families travel from all over the United States to hold family reunions at Atlanta State Park. One family has been holding its reunions here for years, with some family members coming from as far away as St. Louis to enjoy the tranquil, scenic surroundings.
One visit to this sylvan lakeside sanctuary tucked into the northeast corner of Texas, and you'll likely be coming back, too.
Atlanta State Park is one of more than 90 state parks that make up the Texas State Park System. The park is located 11 miles northwest of the city of Atlanta. For more information, call the park at (903) 796-6476. To learn about all of the Texas state parks, call (800) 792-1112, or log onto the Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site: www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
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