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Park Pick: Twinkle Tour

Lake Tawakoni celebrates holidays with illuminated displays.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

No matter the season, patio lights strung across a camping rig’s awning create a cozy ambiance. For the holidays, enthusiastic campers spruce up their sites with extra lights, glittering decorations and glowing displays.

“Of course, the more you put up, the more you have to take down,” jokes John Blackmon, a Mesquite resident who plans to deck out his campsite for this month’s Twinkle Tour at Lake Tawakoni State Park, located 50 miles east of Dallas. “It’s lots of fun,” Blackmon adds. “Last year, my family and I handed out candy canes to visitors, too.”

The after-dark festivities — set for Saturday, Dec. 10, from 6 to 9:30 p.m. — will feature hayride tours of lit-up campsites. “Our Twinkle Tour follows a Christmas parade and bazaar during the day in nearby Wills Point,” says park manager Donna Garde. “As part of the event, we also serve hot chocolate and cookies.”

Other times of the year, abundant wildlife, wooded hike-and-bike trails, shady campgrounds and easy access to water make this 376-acre park a favorite with visitors. It’s also a best-kept secret among birders, with the best viewing below the dam.

“Our park list has 245 documented bird species, including 31 species of warblers,” Garde says. “White pelicans winter on the lake, and it’s not uncommon to see eagles and osprey hunting for fish. In the spring, bluebirds nest in boxes throughout the park.”

Lake Tawakoni, which stretches across more than 36,000 acres, draws swimmers, skiers and paddlers. Anglers hook largemouth bass, catfish and crappie. TPWD personnel also stock striped and hybrid bass. Located on the reservoir’s south-central shores, the state park offers 78 multi-use campsites with concrete pads, electricity and water (some also have sewer connections).

With the addition of a new amphitheater, Garde expects to schedule more park events, such as concerts and nature programs. “We’re also going to show family movies,” she adds.

In August 2007, Lake Tawakoni State Park gained worldwide attention when a park ranger, while mowing along a remote trail, came upon towering trees shrouded with gigantic webs and millions of spiders. In one weekend, more than 3,300 people hiked the trail to see the strange phenomenon. “The webs are long gone, but we still get calls about them,” Garde chuckles.

Lake Tawakoni State Park is located 5 miles north of Wills Point. For more information, call 903-560-7123 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/laketawakoni. Camping fees will be waived the second night for those who decorate for the Twinkle Tour; call the park for guidelines and other information.

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