Walk on the wild side

Photo Montage by Gabriel Espinosa and Marci Wells / The Flare
Photo Montage by Gabriel Espinosa and Marci Wells / The Flare

Staff Writers

Wild adventures are waiting for you to enjoy right here in East Texas. A rich, colorful world of wilderness and natural beauty is closer than you think.

There is more to do on Spring Break than your standard clichéd beach trip. The state parks of the Piney Woods provide plentiful options for branching out and exploring this colorful region of the state. Staying close to home will not only help you save some hard-earned cash this Spring Break, but it can give you a level of excitement you might not even realize was possible. This year change it up, broaden you horizons and explore the wild side of East Texas.

Spring Break is around the corner. People are looking to do something entertaining and possibly memorable, though the presence of alcohol may make it more memorable for some than others. Why not spend it out in the woods? Camping, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, hiking and fishing are just a few of the opportunities that the great outdoors has to offer. East Texas has plenty of places to go camping, some right next door. Literally, go ask the neighbor with the 20-acre property.

Now, for those who want a more official place to stay, plenty of places are not that far away. So, plan ahead, pack up and take a walk on the wild side.

Where to go

1. Clear Springs

Along the shores of Wright Patman Lake nestled within the piney woods of Northeast Texas, Clear Springs features a boat ramp, playground and a swimming area, providing fun for families, boaters, anglers and hunters alike.

Activities and Amenities: Accessible boat ramp, flushing toilets, basketball courts, beach, boating, drinking water, dump station, fishing, horseshoe pit, hunting, pay phone, playground, showers, swimming and volleyball courts.

Hours: Campground gate is locked from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., but a lock combination will be given to visitors upon check in.

Prices: Daily/Nightly fees are standard non-electric are $12, campsites with standard electric are $20-$32, group campsites featuring standard electric are $80 and group picnic areas are $60.

Phone Number: 903-838-8781

Info Graphic by Jonathen Ruesch / THE FLARE
Info Graphic by Jonathen Ruesch / THE FLARE

2. Caddo Lake

Nestled against the border of Texas and Louisiana, Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in Texas, according to Texas Park and Wildlife. Home to 71 species of fish and 225 species of birds, Caddo Lake National Park is popular among anglers and bird watchers.

Activities and Amenities: Hiking, paddling trails, picnicking, nature study, photography, fishing and boating.

Hours: Open seven days a week year round. There is no gate.

Prices: You must pay the daily entry fee of $3 for every day that you are at the park as well as the fee for your facility. Campsites with water are $10 a night or $60 a week; campsites with water and electricity are $15 a night or $90 a week; campsites with water, electricity and sewer are $20 a night or $120 a week, though the full hook-up campsites do not permit tents. Cabin prices can be found online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/caddo-lake/fees-facilities/cabins.

Phone Number: 903-679-3351

Phone Number for Reservations: 512-389-8900


3. Alley Creek Camp 

Found on the northern shore of Lake O’ the Pines, Alley Creek Camp features 67 campsites. The temperate climate makes boating, fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing popular year-round.

Activities and Amenities: Accessible flushing toilets, boat ramp, boating, drinking water, dump station, fishing, playground, showers, swimming, water skiing and wildlife viewing.

Hours:  Visitors of campers must leave by 10 p.m.

Prices: Tent only without electricity sites are $12-$16 a night. Sites with standard electric range from $22-$42 an night.

Phone Number: 903-755-2637


4. Brushy Creek

On the opposing side of Lake O’ the Pines, Brushy Creek is home to many species of birds, such as Brown-headed Nuthatchers and Great Black-backed Gulls,  along with fish such as bass, sunfish, crappie and catfish.

Activities and Amenities: Accessible flushing toilets, boat ramp, boating, drinking water, dump stations, electric hookups, fishing, playground, showers, swimming and water skiing.

Prices: Tent-only non-electric sites range from $14-$16 for their daily/nightly rate while tent-only with electric sites are $18.

Phone Number: 903-777-3491


5. Lake Tawakoni

With 376 acres and more than five miles of shoreline and a variety of activities, Lake Tawakoni National Park also offers a variety of educational opportunities. This national park is 60 miles northwest of Tyler and is known for the largest spiderweb ever documented.

Activities and Amenities: Swimming, fishing, boating, mountain biking, geocaching, hiking and birding.

Hours: The gate is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Prices: You must pay the daily entry fee of $5 for every day that you are at the park as well as the fee for your facility. Campsites with water and electricity are $20 a night; ADA accessible campsites with water and electricity are $24 a night; premium campsites with water and electricity are $22 a night; premium campsites with water, electricity and sewer are $24 a night; and the group camping area is $42 a night.

Phone Number: 903-560-7123

Phone Number for Reservations: 512-389-8900


Don’t Forget the Gear!


  • Tent
  • Tarp
  • Extra stakes
  • Mat for tent entrance
  • Broom head
  • Rubber Mallet


  • Sleeping bag
  • Sheets/blankets
  • Pillow
  • Air mattress/sleeping pad/cot
  • Air pump
  • Utility bags for storage


  • Large water jug & water bucket
  • Stove with fuel/propane
  • Matches/lighter
  • Charcoal/firewood
  • Dutch oven
  • Fire starters/newspaper
  • Plates & bowls/paper plates & bowls
  • Silverware/plastic silverware
  • Measuring cups
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Dish soap
  • Pot holders/oven mitts
  • Pots and frying pans with lids
  • Cooking utensils
  • Tongs
  • Skewers/grill forks
  • Can opener/bottle opener
  • Cups
  • Mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Dish pan
  • Dish rags/towels
  • Scrub pad/Brillo
  • Seasonings and condiments
  • Knife


  • Shoes/boots
  • Jeans/pants/belt
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Socks
  • Hat
  • Bandana
  • Sweatshirt/jacket
  • Underwear
  • Sleep clothes
  • Rain gear
  • Swim suit/towel
  • Laundry bag


  • Shower shoes/flip flops
  • Towels/washcloth
  • Soap
  • Tooth brush/tooth paste
  • Deodorant
  • Comb/brush
  • Razor
  • Toilet paper
  • Personal medications
  • Sunscreen/Chapstick
  • Lantern with fuel
  • Extra batteries/bulbs
  • Compass/GPS
  • Bug repellent
  • Whistle
  • Water filters/purification/treatment
  • Camera
  • Books/magazines
  • Candles
  • Maps/directions
  • Backpack
  • Fishing gear
  • Fishing license
  • Radio
  • Camp chairs
  • Sunglasses
  • Tissues
  • Saw/axe
  • Park map/guidebooks/trail maps
  • Lantern pole or hanger
  • Marshmallows, Graham crackers, Hershey bars (S’mores)
  • Flashlight
  • Pocket knife
  • Binoculars
  • Rope/clothes line
  • Canteen/water bottle/coffee pot
  • Bungee cords
  • Cards/games/toys/golf
  • Duct tape/electrical tape
  • Notepad/pen
  • Reservations info/confirmation
  • Cell phone/charger
  • 2-way radios/walkie talkies
  • Small shovel
  • Safety pins
  • Money/ID/credit card/quarters
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Work gloves
  • Hand wipes
  • Small sewing kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Hot chocolate/tea bags/coffee
  • Scissors
  • Watch

Basic First Aid Kit

  • Roll bandages
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Cotton swabs
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Bee sting kit
  • Sinus medications
  • Sterile compresses
  • Splinting materials
  • Personal information/contact person
  • Feminine products
  • Ipecac
  • Razor blades
  • Plastic bags
  • Small bottle of water
  • Blanket
  • Small mirror
  • Triangular bandages
  • Misc. Band Aides/bandages
  • Anti-acids
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Aspirin/Ibuprofen/Tylenol/Naproxin
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Ace bandages
  • Sunburn lotion
  • Burn ointment
  • Snake bite kit
  • Eye drops
  • Poison ivy cream/cleansers
  • Heat/cold packs
  • Latex gloves
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Thermometer
  • Antibiotic soap
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Twine
  • Mole skin for blisters
  • Road flares
  • First aid manual
  • CPR mask

Tips & Tricks

  • See if your designated camping area has a nearby shower, and see if it requires you to buy shower time. Yes, sometimes you have to pay a few quarters for so many minutes in the shower.
  • As romantic or adventurous as sleeping under the stars may sound, it’s not going to be as much fun when it starts to rain. Don’t buy a two-man tent whenever there’s going to be two of you going. The tent company doesn’t seem to know exactly how big people are and tend to forget that yes, people bring gear.
  • For cold weather, bring a thermal sleeping bag. Too hot for a sleeping bag? It’s never too hot for a sleeping bag. Temperatures drop at night, don’t forget that there’s dew and if your sleeping bag can double as a sauna, use it as extra padding.
  • Illustration by Jonathen Ruesch / THE FLARE
    Illustration by Jonathen Ruesch / THE FLARE
  • Dogs bark, air mattresses leak; these are facts. So, unless you want to be breathless before you even begin your trip, you might want to bring an air pump. Otherwise, pucker up and get to it.
  • Big hint you guys. Make sure your tarp is smaller than the bottom of your tent so that when you set the tent up on top of the tarp, you won’t see the tarp. Why? When it rains, you really don’t want that tarp to catch the water and send it right underneath your tent and pooling up in places.
  • Tell someone of your plans – give details of where you are going and when you expect to return. Give directions and possible alternative roads that you may take, provide cell phone numbers, vehicle description and license plate numbers, hand-held radio channel and codes that you will use, and provide local authority phone numbers (State Police, Game & Fish Commission, Sheriff Dept, etc.) for the county or area that you will be in.
  • Not a “hard-core camper” who likes to “rough it” by sleeping directly on the floor of your tent? Make sure you bring something to alleviate your back from extra aches and pains in the morning.