February 2007 Park of the Month
Cooper Lake State Park
Catch Cabin Fever at Cooper Lake State Park
As the chilled, gray days of winter lay siege to most of Texas, cabin fever can reach epidemic proportions. But not all cabin fever is bad. Cooper Lake State Park, located a little more than an hour's drive from Dallas, features cozy lakeside cabins where nature lovers can retire for the evening after a day of outdoor adventures.
At the park's South Sulphur unit, the larger of two park units, guests can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors from the deck of one of 14 furnished cabins tucked into the hardwood forests abutting the south shore of a 19,000-acre reservoir. The one-bedroom, wood-frame cabins have one large bedroom, a combination living room-breakfast room, a bath with shower, and kitchen with stove, microwave and refrigerator.
About the only things visitors need to bring are soap, pots, pans and cooking utensils. Don't forget charcoal if you want to enjoy a traditional "campfire" meal that's easy to whip up on the barbecue grill on each cabin's elevated deck. The cabins also come with a fire ring, perfect for knocking off the chill of a winter's evening under the stars.
Cabins can comfortably sleep four, but have a maximum capacity of six persons. A two-night minimum stay is required on weekends. Cabins hosting up to four persons cost $70, plus tax, per night through February. Each additional person, including children, is $10. Cabin rental fees will be going up to $85, plus tax, for four persons starting in March.
The park's cabins come sans television and telephone, but do have a clock radio. Cell phone users receive a strong signal thanks to the South Sulphur Unit's location only 15 miles north of Interstate 30.
In addition to the cabins, the 2,560-acre South Sulphur Unit has four heated and air-conditioned cottages that are minimally furnished.
Cooper Lake State Park, opened to the public in 1996, is one of Texas' newer state parks. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department leases the park property from the U. S. Corps of Engineers, which completed the impoundment of the South Sulphur River in 1991. The lake level is currently 10 feet below normal, which has cut off access from all but two of the park's boat ramps, but waters have been rising due to winter rains.
While the South Sulphur Unit receives the heaviest visitation, mostly urbanites coming from the Dallas area, says the park's Mindy Hicks, the smaller Doctor's Creek Unit draws well from surrounding communities such as Cooper and Ladonia.
"December through February is the slowest period, but we still rent a handful of cabins a week," Hicks says. "Some people who have been to our older parks are expecting to find log cabins here, so they're pleasantly surprised to find our newer, furnished facilities."
Both park units offer plenty of facilities and recreational activities to keep both youngsters and adults busy. Camping, fishing, boating, hiking and wildlife watching can be enjoyed at both units. A greatly expanded equestrian trail and camping facilities draw horseback riders from miles around to the South Sulphur Unit.
Traditionally popular with bass and crappie fishermen because of its boat ramps, lighted piers and fish cleaning stations, Cooper Lake State Park has suffered a slight drop in angler traffic in recent years due to a drop in lake levels. The park, however, is seeing an increase in campers.
Doctor's Creek, a 715-acre unit that offers just over six miles of shoreline, has a group picnic pavilion, 42 multiuse campsites with water and electricity and 5 screened shelters for rent. No reservations are required. Overnight camping is allowed seven days a week on a first-come, first-served basis. A nature trail, sand volleyball court and outdoor amphitheater round out the unit's facilities.
Reservations are required for overnight facilities at the South Sulphur Unit, which in addition to the furnished cabins and cottages, includes 17 screened shelters, 87 water-and-electric campsites and 15 walk-in campsites. Four restrooms with showers are available. Guests not staying overnight can spread out among four day use areas and 62 picnic sites. Facilities also include a group pavilion, playground, sand volleyball court and swimming beach.
While Cooper Lake State Park is the newest Texas state park to offer fully furnished cabins that make spending a few nights the great outdoors an enticing option no matter what the season, there are more than a half dozen other state parks offering similar, albeit more rustic, accommodations. They include Bastrop, Caddo Lake, Daingerfield, Garner, Lake Brownwood, Martin Creek, Palo Duro Canyon and Possum Kingdom. For more information about cabins and other indoor accommodations in Texas state parks, go to our lodging page.
Cooper Lake State Park is comprised of two main units in northeast Texas. The South Sulphur Unit is reached by taking Exit 122 on Interstate 30 west of Sulphur Springs, heading north for 10 miles on State Highway 19, then west 4 miles on State Highway 71 and north 1 mile on FM 3505. Doctor's Creek is located on the north shore of the lake three miles southeast of Cooper on FM 1529. Cooper Lake State Park is one of 113 state parks, historic sites and state natural areas that make up the Texas State Park System. For more information visit the Cooper Lake State Park web site.
Article by Rob McCorkle