Purtis Creek State Park
A Little History of Purtis Creek State Park...
The lands of Purtis Creek State Park were acquired from private property owners by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1977, according to the State Park's literature. In 1980, a dam was built on Purtis Creek to control floods, thus producing a 350+ acre fishing lake. Purtis Creek State Park is a relatively new park, compared to other Texas State Parks. It was opened to the public in 1988. Purtis Creek State Park is also located about 25 miles southwest of the site of the Cherokee War and the Battle of the Neches, fought in 1839, near the headwaters of the Neches River. There's a Historical Marker* posted at a roadside park on I-20 East, about a 30-minute drive from Purtis Creek, that marks the location of the historical battle between 800 Indians and 500 troops of the Republic of Texas.
Purtis Creek State Park
The road to Purtis Creek State Park from Fairfield Lake was difficult. A couple of times our new trailer became unstable, while traveling through gusty north winds along FM 488. I need to look into upgrading the sway controller assembly for the 30-foot trailer - the one we bought for our old 24-footer doesn't seem to be adequate, I thought. FM 488 passed between the Richland-Chambers Reservoir Dam and the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area. There were several signs posted along the road that read, Forbidden Zone.
The signs reminded me of the original Planet of the Apes movie, released in 1970, where a particular geographic region of the earth, known as the Forbidden Zone, was off limits to the apes to prevent them from discovering the truth of their past.
At US-287, past the Forbidden Zone, we turned right toward Cayuga, then trekked north on FM 59 through the town of Crossroads, then continued a few miles further north into Athens. We stopped at a Walmart for groceries, ice, beer, and a new ceramic heater for our trailer (taking Alex's advice - a fellow we met at Fairfield Lake S.P.). After stocking up on supplies, we gassed up and headed northwest on 175 to Eustace.
At Eustace, we traveled three miles further north on highway 316 to Purtis Creek State Park. At the park's headquarters, we picked up a park/trail map and navigated our way to campsite 30, where we spent the next two nights of our nine-day RV trip into northeast Texas. Purtis Creek was known for its bass fishing, and I was eager to bait my hook and find out for myself. Once we got the trailer leveled and hooked up to the site's power and water, I discovered a narrow trail leading from our campsite to the lake. At the end of the trail, there was a small cove.
The tiny slough was full of stumps and cattails, and there was thick brush and overhanging branches along its banks. After a little exploring, I found an opening in the brush that was perfect for bank fishing. The ground along the shore was packed as though it had been visited many times. This is where I will fish tomorrow, I thought.
On Tuesday, we woke up to chilling temperatures. The cold air had settled in and it was the perfect opportunity to test our new ceramic heater. It performed just as Alex said it would. It heated the entire trailer from front to back. We cooked breakfast and drank coffee and enjoyed the early morning hours in our small vacation home on wheels.
After breakfast, I gathered my fishing gear and aimed for the cove. I attached an orange and green spinner-bait to the end of my line and cast out several times, but did not get any strikes. They describe the lake water as clear, although it appeared to be brown, probably due to the color of the silty bottom. I switched to a pumpkin-seed worm and continued to cast. I could see into the shallow water about two feet and spotted a small gar a few yards from the bank. No fish on Tuesday, but I still had another morning of fishing ahead of me before we needed to break camp and journey to our next destination.
After about an hour of fishing, I walked back up to our campsite to begin a day of hiking. My wife and I outfitted ourselves for a short 1.5 mile walk on the Beaver Slide Nature Path. The scenic nature trail also provides access to the park's primitive campsites, that are stretched along the western shores of Purtis Creek State Park Lake. Along the trail we came across a Bird Blind that was built for viewing birds roosting in the small cove where I had been fishing. A little further down the trail, we heard the melodious song of a Brown Thrasher.
After lunch, we hiked another 4 miles on the three Wolfpen hike and bike trails. On the Purtis Creek State Park's trail map, the 1.4 mile northern section of the Wolfpen hike and bike trail is marked red. The 2.0 mile southwestern section of the Wolfpen hike and bike trail marked purple, and the .8 mile eastern Wolfpen trail is marked green. We wondered why they didn't just make up new names for each of the three trails. So, if you say you are planning to hike the Wolfpen trail, which path should we travel to find your bootprints?
While hiking the Wolfpens, we saw Beautyberry plants at almost every turn. The trails periodically passed openings to the lake, where we spotted several small Jon-boats venturing out for a day of fishing.
At the lake's dam, there is a .5 mile Solar Walk Trail that stretches along a concrete walkway on the lake-side of the dam. The trail begins with a sign indicating the location of the sun, then has 8 more signs (representing each of the eight planets), spaced along the trail at their relative distances from the sun. It was an excellent way to get perspective on the position of the planets in our solar system, and to discover just how far the orbits of the outer planets are from the sun (and from each other), compared to the four inner planets.
On the morning of our last day at Purtis Creek, I made one final trip down the trail to my private fishing spot. The air was cool and humid and the smell of decomposing leaves on the forest floor was both pungent and refreshing. I didn't catch any fish, but the magnificent sunrise reflecting off of the low-hanging fog over the small cove was worth the trip.
During our stay at Purtis Creek State Park, the fishing pier was always crowded with fishermen. I never saw anyone reel in a fish, but the seriousness of their intent made me think the fishing must be generally better than my experiences.
We hooked up our trailer and left Purtis Creek State Park around 10:30 and proceeded to the third park, of our four-park adventure, Daingerfield State Park.
* You can locate the Historical Marker on the Texas Historic Sites Atlas website. Search for Atlas Number: 5467011380