Park Pick: Winter Fun
Equestrian trails, fishing and starry skies await at Cooper Lake.
By Barbara Parmley
Wondering what to do in the great outdoors this time of year? Winter is a wonderful month to visit state parks, especially if you love avoiding the crowds. Think starry skies, blazing campfires and cozy cabins. Think Cooper Lake State Park.
Although the lake level has dropped significantly in recent drought conditions, there’s still plenty to do at the park. Try self-guided and ranger-led hiking, birding and geocaching opportunities at the park’s South Sulphur Unit, the larger of two park units on the lake. The park is a little more than an hour’s drive east of Dallas.
Cozy lakeside cabins beckon nature lovers to retire in comfort for the evening after a chilly day of outdoor adventures. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors from the deck of one of 14 furnished, air-conditioned and heated cabins tucked into the hardwood forest abutting the south shore of a 19,000-acre reservoir. The cabins have one large bedroom, a combination living room/breakfast room, a private bath with tub/shower, and a kitchen with stove, microwave and refrigerator.
Bring soap, pots, pans and cooking utensils to cook up a steaming pot of soup or chili. Remember to bring charcoal if you want to enjoy a traditional camping meal that’s easy to fix on the barbecue grill at each cabin’s elevated deck. The cabins also come with a fire ring for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows under the stars.
After supper, venture back outside to view the dark Texas sky. Check at park headquarters for a schedule of night programs. Learn the sounds of nocturnal birds and critters as day turns into night and discover wonders of the stars and moon while looking through a telescope.
Guests not staying overnight can spread out among four day-use areas and 62 picnic sites. The park also has a group pavilion, playground, basketball court, sand volleyball court and swimming beach. Almost 12 miles of equestrian trails, from easy to moderate levels of difficulty, and equestrian-friendly camping facilities draw horseback riders from miles around to 15 sites with water and electricity at the South Sulphur Unit.
Doctors Creek, a 715-acre unit with just over six miles of shoreline, has a group picnic pavilion, 42 multi-use campsites with water and electricity, five screened shelters and two cottages. Hike on the nature trail or enjoy the children's playground, sand volleyball court and outdoor amphitheater while you relax among the age-old trees.
Boat ramps, lighted piers and fish cleaning stations can be found at both park units and are popular with catfish, bass and crappie anglers.
Cooper Lake State Park is east of Dallas. For more information about the South Sulphur Unit, call (903) 945-5256. For more information about the Doctors Creek Unit, call (903) 395-3100. For more information about renting a cabin in Texas state parks, call (512) 389-8900 or visit www.texasstateparks.org.
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