By STEVE KNIGHT
Lake Tawakoni State Park is the new kid on the block when it comes to state parks in Northeast Texas.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the 376-acre park has become a popular destination for visitors from the Dallas area along with local fishermen.
“We get a little over 66,000 visitors,” said Donna Garde, park manager the last five years.
Located in the middle of the southern shore of Lake Tawakoni, the park was developed on land acquired through a 50-year lease agreement with the Sabine River Authority.
To many the park is probably best known for a giant communal spider web that formed in the trees on one of its hiking trails in August 2007. The spider web attracted an estimated 3,000 visitors over the Labor Day weekend that year.
With the web long gone, it is the lake and park activities that attract visitors.
A swim beach is also a popular summer draw, although a low lake since last spring has kept the swimming area high and dry until recently.
Coming this summer will be canoe, kayak, fishing boats and pontoons for rent through the park’s concessioner.
A new amphitheater is also a popular location at the park. It is used for everything from interpretive programs to special events for area scout troops and movie nights under the stars that attract a crowd for flicks that more often than not didn’t win an Academy Award, but are still fun to watch.
While the biggest attractions for park visitors are Tawakoni and nearby Lake Fork, Lake Tawakoni State Park also has 5.5 miles of hiking trails and 40 picnic sites. Although there are no cabins, there are 78 multi-use campsites and a group youth area that can be used by scouts and other groups that will hold up to 35.
Located in the state’s Post Oak region, there is only one pine tree found within the park. But the park holds other surprises for those who enjoy nature, including a farkleberry tree that is so popular with the staff a half-mile walking trail was named after it.
“It is the cutest tree you will ever see in your life,” Garde said.
The park is also a part of a bluebird nesting box effort popular in Hunt County, and for serious birders it is an excellent place to visit.
“I believe we have 14 boxes, but the other notable thing is that in this tiny park there have been 254 birds identified. This is a fabulous birding spot,” Garde noted.
Working with scout groups and others, the park is also re-establishing several small native prairie grass sites that should attract even more wildlife in the future.
On the other hand, cell phone and WiFi service aren’t guaranteed throughout the park.
“People who need to get away from the hubbub can walk along our trails and get away,” Garde said.
Although Lake Tawakoni is considered one of the state’s urban parks, its design and distance from Dallas keep a rural feel.
She added there are plans for expanding park facilities to include cabins and dining hall, but those will have to wait until Texas park funding issues improve.
There has been a Friends of Lake Tawakoni organization created, and tax deductible donations to the organization will help fund projects that otherwise won’t get done.
Like many other parks across the state, cost of admission and camping sites have been increased at the park. Starting this spring visitors are paying $5 for day visits. Campsites went up a nominal amount.
“So far I have not had anyone bat an eye,” Garde said, adding for many frequent visitors that the $70 State Parks Pass may be a good option.
A 10th anniversary celebration will be held at the park on May 5. Activities will include youth fishing, Dutch oven cooking, blacksmithing demonstrations, doll making, an Old West gunfight re-enactment and live music.