Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Night at Texas' Martin Dies, Jr, State Park

Spent a night here on our way to visit friends. This is a nice, huge (10,687 acres) park just west of Jasper, Texas. I don't think any site is not full shade. A well forested area on the B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir, there are three areas, Hen House Ridge Unit and Walnut Ridge Unit, which are overnight rv and tent areas and Cherokee Unit, a day use only area.  I don't know if all Texas State Parks are set up as this one, but this one has some really unique amenities for day or longer visitors. There are over 200 campsites to choose from with a variety of different options, including RV sites, tenting sites, mini-cabins, screened shelters, waterfront, 50 amp or 30 amp, pull through or back-in.  One would have to spend a week here to see most of the park.  Especially if you are hiking all the trails and kayaking the water trails.

We stayed in Hen House Ridge Unit. Our site, #7, was huge and on Gum Slough. All 35 RV sites in two loops are pull through, paved and fairly level. 50/30/20 amp and water.  The price in Texas State Parks in inexpensive. This site is $16/night. The only short fall we saw at this park is the bath house. Too small for the number of sites in the loop and much dated. But, we have our own bath house.

The utilities are right at the pull through, but the site is open and goes to the slough. The picnic table pad, grill, firepit and lantern hook are about 50 feet toward the slough. The slough is another 50 feet away. A lot of space to enjoy.


Fishing the slough.

There are several miles of paved roads in the park for biking.

  And, several miles of easy hiking ranging from .8 miles (Sandy Creek Trail) to 2.2 miles (Slough Trail) . Most of the trails have benches along the way, Slough Trail has bridges as it is through the swamp. All are easily navigable.

There are an abundance of these shelters. They have 20 amp electric inside and potable water outside. Plenty of room separates each shelter making for a great family area. This is not necessarily a day area. One can overnight in these shelters. These are altenatives to tenting or RVing. There is one small cabin each in Hen House and Walnut Ridge.

Gum Slough
A boat dock and ramp not far from our site on the slough. Fishing is allowed from the dock, shore or boat. Swimming is allowed during daylight, but watch for alligators.

The slough on the other side of the bridge. Nice area.

Two Overnight Stays

Two overnight stays for your information.

We spent a night at this small mom & pop RV park just off  I-49, about halfway between Shreveport & Alexandria, Louisiana.  Recommended by friends
 it turned out to be a nice, quiet place to stay.  The owner/operators are friendly folks.  This is a great overnight park or longer if you want to visit the area. One of the towns not to miss is about 22  miles south called Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish), the oldest permanent settlement in the region.  Country Livin' is a Passport America park.

There are 27 sites, mostly unshaded and pretty level. All sites have full hook-ups. Some have 30/20 amp, some have 50/30/20 amp.  We were in #8 which is a good site, but better would have been #11 as we later saw it had better afternoon shade.  Next time.


The sites are open and fairly close together, but we were there in a slack time so we had no neighbors. The loops are good for walking or biking.  There is a rather "rustic" bathhouse/laundry building. Old, small, but clean.

A catch and release pond on the property.
The area by the pond has a few picnic tables under the trees. Take your meal down there and have a picnic....

...or, just sit and enjoy the quiet and scenery.  Off to one corner is a short trail into the surrounding trees.  Don't know if it is official or not, but was an easy walk in the woods.  Also, there is an area for Blongo Ball and Horseshoes.

Alas, the only wildlife we saw.
Some reviews mention a saw mill across the road.  Not an issue. You can hear it, but it is not loud or bothersome.

What else across the road is a great little restaurant and fruit/veggie stand. Great fried catfish and fixin's, and crawfish in season. Prices are very reasonable.  Vegetables and fruit at the stand are very fresh. The owner/operators are friendly folks.

The second overnight stay.

Another overnighter on the Texas trip was the Baton Rouge KOA.  We are not big fans of KOAs, but it was Easter weekend and they were the only place in the area without a 2 or 3 night minimum. Big surprise!  The park is actually in Denham Springs and near shopping centers. The staff are great.
We apparently got the last site available, #7, a pull-through.  FHU, 50/30/20 amp. Spacing gave one some privacy. Not much shade in the front sites.  More in the back rows.

We were by the pool, rec area and bathhouse (updated and very clean).

The office has a good camp store/gift shop and the laundromat. In front was a miniature golf course, a dump station and LP sales.

Not needed by us, but a pretty good dog park. Great as there is not much grass at the sites.  They were pretty much gravel and concrete.

One of the 6 premium sites. Grass instead of gravel, delux lights, swing, furniture, fire pit, price. And, a view of the dumpster. The others didn't have that amenity.

The park is well laid out with minimal spacing and shade.
The further back in the property the more shade trees.

One loop contains the Activity Center, 2 cabins, 4 tents, and 2 lodges, along with another bathhouse and laundry. That's one of the lodges in the background. Bigger, two bedroom.


The folks next to us had this cute "free range" cat which stayed in our site or the owner's site unbridled.  Chased the squirrels out from under the vehicles.  Good cat.

We would stay at both these places again.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Stop-off At Louisiana's Tickfaw State Park

One of the stop-offs on our Texas trip was Tickfaw State Park about 32 miles east of Baton Rouge, LA on the Tickfaw River, near Springfield, LA. An excellent park with a lot to see and enjoy it has RV sites, tenting sites, 2-bedroom cabins, 52-person Group Camp, a playground with water park and pavilions and picnic tables.  One of the big attractions is the Nature Center with boardwalk trail. The staff are friendly and helpful folks. 

All 30 improved (RV) campsites are back-in, paved, level and either full or partial shade. Electric is 50/30/20. The sites have a wooden deck with picnic table, a concrete pad with fire pit, grill and lantern post. I didn't see a bad site there. Ours was #19 and had a lot of space between our neighbors.  The 20 tenting sites, unimproved, have water only, a 12'x12' sand tent pad plus the grill, fire pit and lantern post.  There is a canoe landing and canoe rentals.

Paved sites and loop with shade, good privacy and drainage for all sites, improved and unimproved.

Had to show the bath house and laundry. Awesome.

There are 14 nice looking 2-bedroom cabins, but we were unable to get to them as there was utility damage from recent rains and flooding. The road was blocked at this point, and the cabins closed for repair.

For us, the biggest attraction is the Nature Museum which includes a half mile or so boardwalk trail through wetlands (swamp).  Notice all the buildings in the park are on stilts. Good reason.

The Nature Center is very well done. Here is a small aquarium showing Tickfaw River and swamp area life.

Other displays of the inhabitants of the area forest. There are a lot of interactive things to do at each display.
A chart to identify plantlife and birds in the area. The ten flags represent the flags the state existed under during its history.  There is also a small gift/souvenir shop in the building.

One of the interactive displays in the foreground. Identify the footprint. Open up the disc to see the answer.

There is a small theater that displays the front porch of back in the day housing. A short video tells the tale of the park and history of the surrounding land. Ranger talks are also held from the porch.

Step out the back door and you enter the wetlands via a mile long trail mostly on a boardwalk. There is a short cut just around the bend which cuts the trail in half. But it is best to do the whole trail.

Along the trail. Walk quietly to hear the sounds and not scare off the wildlife.

My tree picture of the day.  Brilliant green algae covers this once proud tall tree.
In some spots the boardwalk is at ground level. Semi-dry soil. This was covered a few weeks ago when prolonged rain covered most of Louisiana. Had we been here 10 days ago we may not have been able to stay.
And for a short distance we actually got to walk on dry land. There are benches all along the trail to stop, rest, and listen and look for wildlife. And, feed the mosquitoes. Just kidding. It was surprisingly bug free on our walk.

Not what we were looking for, but we did see some wildlife. A Ground Skink on the boardwalk.

Malacosoma disstria Hübner (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae) or....Forest Tent Caterpillar.  A small brownish moth as an adult. 

 Hine's Emerald Dragonfly

A Southeastern Five-lined Skink gets a meal.

More wet trail.

At the end there is an observation deck. It is equipped with a sound system and lights for scheduled nature talks. The center and boardwalk trail are a must see.


 Just off our campsite is a service road to a fair sized fishing hole with fishing pier on one side and a dock on the other.

  Heed the sign.


The resident gator.  He has learned to grab the fish off the hook the fishermen catch before they can reel them in. Fun to watch.

The unimproved trail circumventing the pond. There are several small pavilions with picnic tables along the trail.

In some places the trail widens.

View from the dock across the pond.

 Along the trail.


Yellow-tailed Ashy Skimmer Potamarcha congener juvenile male. Um, dragonfly.

Another boardwalk trail through the swamp further up the road. The Bottomland/Hardwood Trail. This leads to the River Tail and Oxbow Point Trail.


Again, through the swamp.


This fallen tree root system had to be 15+ feet in diameter.

At the end of the boardwalk trail is the entrance to the River Trail. A fairly easy trail, but subject to flooding thanks to heavy rain two weeks ago. Hardwood trees prevail.


The River trail. Not a loop.
Decided this was not a trail to take this trip. No proper gear today.

The bridge at the end of the boardwalk. It crosses the Tickfaw River to an open space on the shore. There is no trail on this side.


The river overlook.

The river and bridge from the overlook.

There are two other trails for hiking. One, the Gum/Cypress Swamp Trail, a boardwalk loop trail through the swamp (similar scenery to the Bottomland/Hardwood Trail) and the Pine/Hardwood Trail, a long unimproved land loop trail.  Each of the trails mentioned have very nice large pavilions with restrooms at the trail head. Some are for day use, first come first served and some can be rented for events.  A lot of hiking in this park.

For biking the park has a long wide paved road from the entrance to beyond the origin of the Tickfaw River. There are slight elevation changes, but they are not devastating. All the trailheads are along this road.

The entrance road crosses Gum Bayou. A couple of yellow belly turtles pose on a sunken tree trunk.

A large Cypress in the bayou.  Do you see a face, or is it just me?

By the bayou canoe launch is yet another loop trail. Unnamed and gets a little wet about half way. About a half mile long.

Empty nest. This box was once a place for information pamphlets about the bayou. It has been replaced with a larger kiosk board.  Apparently a bird family took up residence.  No one home today.