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April 2011 cover image Paddle On!

Park Pick: Easter at the Park

Though not eggs-actly traditional, folks rush to gather at Lake Corpus Christi every Easter.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Brothers Greg and Jesse Mendoza used to arrive at Lake Corpus Christi State Park the Thursday before Easter so they’d get their pick of campsites for the busy holiday weekend. Then their friend, Edward Ochoa, upped them by one day.

“So we got there on Wednesday,” Greg Mendoza recalls. “Now Edward arrives on Tuesday, and we just can’t leave work that early in the week.” Chuckling, he adds, “Yes, we have a rivalry going, but it’s a friendly one.”

The competition started 25 years ago when the Corpus Christi trio — close friends since boyhood — met at the 356-acre park to celebrate Easter with their wives and children. In recent years, the annual gathering has expanded to include children’s spouses and grandchildren.

Every Easter weekend, the park always attracts hundreds of folks who come to barbecue, picnic, hunt eggs and play in the lake.

“People line up outside the gate as early as 5 and 6 o’clock Easter morning, just to get a spot!” says Ethan Belicek, park manager.

Celebrating holidays on the lake dates back to 1935. That’s when workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps completed many of the facilities at the park. Today, only a Mediterranean-style pavilion — made of caliche blocks and accented with arched entries — survives. Up a brick staircase, visitors can glimpse the southern end of the huge 21,000-acre reservoir from a covered tower.

Year-round, people enjoy the lake, which impounds the Nueces River. “Even if it’s chilly, the kids always jump in the water,” Mendoza says. “We also take them skiing and tubing.”

Naturally, fishing’s a big draw, too. From both banks and boats, anglers report ample catches of bass, catfish and crappie.

Throughout the park, thick stands of mesquite and brush provide habitat for white-tailed deer, rabbits and javelina. As for birds, more than 300 species have been documented, including long-billed thrashers, white-eyed vireos and black-throated sparrows.

“One of our most noted species is the green jay,” Belicek says. “It’s not suppose to be this far north, but we have quite a few resident pairs.” Heads up: This spring, a new bird blind will open in a brushy area not far from the pavilion.

Whenever they camp, the Mendoza-Ochoa bunch prefers pull-through sites with full hookups in a centrally located campground. The park also offers campsites with water only or water and electricity. Fifteen renovated screened shelters and 10 enclosed shelters (with air conditioning and heat) perch on a high bluff above the lake. Many campsites overlook Lake Corpus Christi, too.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park is 4 miles southwest of Mathis off Texas Highway 359. For information, call 361-547-2635 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/lakecorpuschristi.

 


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