July 2007 Park of the Month
Lake Brownwood State Park
Past is Present at Lake Brownwood State Park
Mitch Stovall began visiting Lake Brownwood State Park as a youth growing up in the north central Texas town. Today, the Denton high school football coach brings his children each summer for a family reunion at the park located on the south shore of the 7,300-acre lake to fish, swim, picnic and explore rock buildings, benches, stairways and pavilions that seem to sprout from the earth.
Had Mitch come of age in the post-Depression years of the 1930s and 40s, he might have been one of hundreds of young unemployed males employed at Lake Brownwood by the federal government in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Two different companies of "soil soldiers" bivouacked from 1934 through 1942 at the park, planting hundreds of trees and shrubs, clearing roads and building park structures of native rock that define the 538-acre park today. It is just one of 800 state parks the CCC built in the United States just before the outbreak of World War II and one of 29 CCC-developed Texas state parks managed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Let your imagination run free while visiting the park and you can visualize the legions of young men in hats, khakis britches and t-shirts hammering on stone blocks and cementing them in place to make bridges, culverts, cabins and other structures before sitting down to a supper of ham, chili, beans, hominy, coffee and bread. The young men’s handiwork remarkably has stood the test of time at this popular recreational park that opened in 1938.
"This park has a number of facilities with all kinds of campsites, lodges, cabins and group facilities," says park superintendent Michael Krahn. "It also has what has to be one of the greatest numbers of CCC structures of any state park. I’ve been here right at 13 years and I’m still amazed at all the work they did."
Krahn says it's not all that unusual to occasionally find something the CCC built that he never knew about. Including wayside markers, culverts and the like, there are more than 100 CCC structures in the park (excluding CCC-made furniture still in use).
The cut-block Recreation Hall with its picturesque observation tower, arched glass portal, soaring fireplace and Old West-style dining room with ceiling beams bearing the cattle brands of Texas ranches reigns as the park’s premier example of CCC craftsmanship. An unusual sundial clock built into the façade of the three-story observation tower was made with a cistern cover.
The hall, which rents for $220 per day, proves popular for family reunions, wedding receptions and high school proms. A grand, rock stairway nearby leads from the bluff and down through oak woodlands to the shoreline, affording a scenic view of shimmering waters.
Whether you're looking for a tent campsite, trailer site, screened shelter, small cabin or family-sized lodge with all the comforts of home, Lake Brownwood State Park has you covered. Choose from among 20 full-hookup RV sites ($25 per night) or 35 water-electric sites, all with 50-amp service ($20); 11 trailer sites with water and 30-amp service ($15); or 12 non-electric campsites ($12 a night). Screened shelters rent for $30 per night. The park also charges a $3 daily entrance fee for persons 13 and older and $2 for seniors.
Park guests seeking more creature comforts can choose from one of
the 16 air-conditioned and heated cabins that feature kitchenettes with stove
refrigerator (no coffee pots or microwaves), a dining table, double beds
and bath with shower. The rock cabins ($55-65 a night) built along the wooded
bluff overlooking the lake also have operable fireplaces, outdoor grills
and patios with picnic tables. Four lodges, accommodating from 4 to 26 people,
cost anywhere from $95 to $260 per night.
Large groups often opt for the Group Camp that boasts a dining hall and four barracks with eight single beds in each. It rents for $260 per day.
In addition to the variety of accommodations, Lake Brownwood State Park offers a host of recreational facilities. They include a lighted fishing pier, dock/boat stalls, softball field, swimming beach, outdoor basketball court, three boat launches and day-use picnic area. A rich fishery of crappie, bass and catfish brings in anglers throughout the year to try their luck.
Lake Brownwood State Park's location near the geographical center of Texas adds to the park's popularity, making it handy to reach from nearby cities such as Abilene, San Angelo and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Travelers from Oklahoma, New Mexico and throughout West Texas often frequent the park as well, according to Krahn. One of the primary reasons is because even during prolonged dry spells, Lake Brownwood's water level - fed by creeks on two different watersheds - usually remains high enough to launch boats.
The park also sits at the confluence of several distinct ecological regions, which provides for a compelling biodiversity. Its terrain and vegetation reflect elements of the limestone-laden Edwards Plateau to the south, the sandy soils of the Western Cross Timbers to the north and mostly clay Rolling Plains lying to the west. Watchable wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, turkey, fox, raccoon, rabbit, water fowl and a variety of songbirds, inhabit the park.
Lake Brownwood State Park is located 16 miles northwest of Brownwood six miles east of State Highway 279 on Park Road 15. It is one of 113 state parks that make up the Texas State Park system. For more information visit the Lake Brownwood State Park web site.
Article by Rob McCorkle