By STEVE KNIGHT
ATLANTA STATE PARK– When it comes to real estate nothing trumps location.
The same can be said for state parks.
Tucked away in the northeast corner of the state on the shores of Lake Wright Patman and surrounded by six U.S. Army Corps of Engineer parks, Atlanta State Park isn’t in the best of locations.
That just means it has to try that much harder to attract a crowd.
“One of our strong points here is that we really try to provide that extra customer service,” said park spokesman Terry Lohr. “We don’t fill up like a lot of state parks do, so we have a chance to get to know our visitors. If they need some extra firewood, we don’t mind bringing it to them. That is the kind of park we operate.”
The park doesn’t have the historic past of nearby parks at Daingerfield and Caddo Lake. The property was acquired through lease from the Corps just prior to the 20,000-acre lake’s impoundment in 1954. The lease was just recently renewed.
Tucked inside a mature pine and hardwood forest about 10 miles out of Atlanta, the park is slightly off the beaten path. The park sits on a bluff overlooking what was the Sulphur River bottom and is now the lake. Its 66 campsites that can accommodate everything from tents to motor homes are popular with visitors because they offer ample shade from Texas’ summer sun.
Where Atlanta comes up short is activities inside the park. Those with a boat can access the lake, which is an excellent catfish and crappie fishery. There is also a small swimming area roped off in a cove near the boat ramp, and fishing from more than a mile of shoreline is also available, but that is always a hit and miss proposition. The park also doesn’t offer any permanent shelters or cabins.
“We do have several bald eagles that can be seen around the park. We have had a couple that have nested here near the Wilkins Creek Camping Area. We also see osprey,” Lohr said.
Because of its proximity to the lake, winter birders have a good chance to identify a variety of waterfowl and species such as white pelicans. There is a birders’ checklist available on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s website for the park.
Hiking the trails, visitors might also come across wildlife including deer, fox and, based on the occasional traps found in the woods, a wild pig.
Unfortunately the park’s biggest attraction stays hidden, and for the most part not talked about.
“One of the big things here is that Caddo Indians were in this valley. There are hidden treasures, but even the staff doesn’t know where they are,” Lohr said.
During development of the lake the entire area was surveyed by archeologists contracted by the Smithsonian Institute. Among the sites discovered was at least one inside what is now the park.
However, the exact locations of Native American sites are not identified because of concerns over theft. It is illegal to take artifacts from state parks in Texas.
Other than one informational sign, unfortunately the park doesn’t even offer an interpretive program teaching the Native American history of the area. The problem is because of budget concerns, Atlanta is at risk for closure in the future if the Texas Legislature doesn’t release more money to the park system.
The facility is well maintained by a staff of just four, but it lacks an interpretive officer who would provide information and the full-time park rangers that could be used to prevent theft from the archeological sites that include graves and possibly a village.
Its location and amenities may not make Atlanta State Park a perfect fit for everyone, but for those with a boat or those looking for quiet walk in the woods, it could be the right spot.