March 2006 Park of
Purtis Creek State Park
Purtis Creek State Park 'Best Little Bass Lake In Texas'
Purtis Creek State Park's name is a bit misleading. Yes, there is a creek with that name, which also happens to be known as Big Creek and South Twin Creek. But it is the smooth-as-glass, 355-acre lake, rather than the creek, that serves as the park's main draw.
The U.S. Soil and Conservation Service built a dam as a flood control measure to impound creek and runoff waters in the mid-1980s, creating a prime fishing lake. Purtis Creek State Park welcomed the public in 1988. Today, the 1,582-acre park receives up to 100,000 visits a year from folks in such nearby towns as Athens and Canton, as well as from Dallas that lies about an hour's drive away.
"It was designed as a bass fishing lake," says park manager Justin Rhodes. "People come here for two things primarily - fishing and camping."
Though the lake is catch-and-release only for bass, the park attracts droves of dedicated anglers during fishing season, determined to hook one of the whopper largemouth bass that lurk around the tree trunks that jut from open water and nest near underwater brush piles in sheltered coves. Purtis Creek State Park has placed two bass in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Sharelunker program, which collects for breeding purposes any bass weighing more than 13 pounds. The lake bass record is 13.8 pounds, lending credence to the "The Best Little Bass Lake in Texas" boast found on caps and other park merchandise.
The state's record bluegill - an 11.5-inch, 1.8-pound sunfish - was hauled in at Purtis Creek State Park as well. It is not uncommon, too, for anglers to reach their 25-catch limit fishing for crappie or sand bass, some of which tip the scales at more than three pounds.
Due to the small size of the lake, Purtis Creek State Park employs a 50-boat limit and wake/speed restriction. TPWD implemented the boat limit to reduce the impact on the park's fishery. The boat limit, however, is rarely reached, according to Rhodes.
Anglers without boats often try their luck from the shoreline or from one of the two illuminated T-shaped piers. Fish-cleaning stations are located near each of the piers. A park concession now sells live bait, tackle and sundries.
The best anglers at Purtis Creek, however, may be the cormorants and a pair of bald eagles frequently seen nesting in the area. They are but two of more than 200 recorded bird species that are making the park an increasingly popular place for birders.
Eastern bluebirds, painted buntings and other colorful species can be readily spotted flitting from tree to tree in the picnic and camping areas, and surrounding woodlands. A tree swallow was recently spotted at the park for the first time. It is not unusual to see a number of shorebirds and waterfowl, such as white-faced ibis and great blue heron, in and around the lake.
Though geographically located in East Texas, Purtis Creek State Park occupies the post oak savanna in a transition zone between the pineywoods and blackland prairie regions, where Wichita and Caddo Indians once roamed. In the spring, park visitors are treated to colorful displays of dogwoods, redbuds, prairie verbena, mayapple and other flora.
Purtis Creek proves a popular recreational destination for many Dallasites, who come to not only fish, but also to pitch a tent or park their recreational vehicles in shaded and lakeside campsites. There are 58 available campsites with water and electric service. Five water-only tent sites are located on the other side of the lake adjacent to the group pavilion in the Day Use area.
Campers seeking maximum solitude head for the 14 primitive backpack or boat-in sites located along the edge of the lake roughly half a mile from the nearest parking lot. An old-fashioned, rock water fountain marks the entrance to the 1.5 mile loop trail that leads to the primitive camping area.
Those visiting the park just for the day will find dozens of picnic tables in a wooded site next to one of the scenic inlets, as well as a playground for the kiddoes. Canoes, kayaks and a flat-bottom boat and several paddleboats also are available for rental.
First Monday Trade Days at Canton, only 17 miles away, bring an influx of campers during the preceding weekend. The park proves a perfect place to stay for couples whose interests may differ. The guys can stay and fish at the park, while the gals head to Canton to shop for antiques and other keepsakes at one of the largest flea markets in the state.
The park manager suggests that during spring months, campers should book reservations for weekends two to three weeks in advance. On popular holidays, such as Memorial Day weekend, reservations should be made well in advance. A number of families reserve campsites coinciding with Free Fishing Day, the first Saturday in June. A mini-outdoor exposition, free hotdog's and prizes attract some 200 children to the annual event, one of the park's largest of the year.
Purtis Creek State Park is one of about 120 state parks that make up the Texas State Park System. The park is located about 3 miles north of Eustace off U.S. 175 and FM 316. For more information visit the Purtis Creek State Park web site.
Article by Rob McCorkle