Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


Bonham State Park

Hike, bike and mingle with your fellow campers around a lake with no name.

By Elsa K. Simcik

“I always call it intimate,” says Lee Ellis, Bonham State Park’s superintendent. The 262-acre park is packed with plenty to do like hiking, biking, camping and boating. He says that the park’s size makes people more likely to mingle. “We get lots of repeats,” he says. “I get to know the campers. It’s a compact little park.”

As soon as you enter the park (which is about 60 miles northeast of Dallas), you spot the lake. Don’t mistake it for Lake Bonham, though. That’s a different body of water just north of town. No, this lake is so special it doesn’t even have a name. Ellis says some people call it Bonham State Park Lake, which is appropriate since it’s the epicenter of the park.

And at just 65 acres, the lake is small enough to see across but big enough to hold boats. Lake lovers have to keep it under five miles per hour and there are no personal watercrafts allowed. While Ellis says the lake is ideal for kayaks and canoes it’s actually not bad for motorized boats since you might be the only one out there. If you do find yourself alone on the lake, you’ll have your pick of bass, crappie and catfish.

No need to worry about lake levels at this park. Even though the lake was low last year, it’s getting better. “We’re in good shape,” says Ellis. Regular rainfall as well as the fact that they’re not a water source for anybody has helped. Plus, Ellis adds, even when it was low, there was never a problem with silting. “It’s such a clean lake,” he says.

Many come out to use the clean, no-name lake just for the day. Ellis estimates that 70 percent of his visitors are day use. They mostly drive from the Dallas area and specifically from north of the Metroplex (Frisco, Plano, Allen and McKinney). Their busiest day? The Fourth of July, when he expects to be packed. For those who want to stay overnight, the park has 21 campsites. Keeping with its intimate reputation, the sites form a circle (perfect for social hour). If you’d prefer to socialize with people you already know, you have to check out their group camping area with barracks. Set behind a private gate, it has five large cabins and a dining hall (which has its own commercial kitchen). With plenty of bunk beds and even a game room, the area can hold up to 94 campers. It’s popular with church and Scout groups who love the privacy, the nice accommodations (each cabin has an A/C window unit) and their proximity to the lake and 11 miles of hike and bike trails.

While Bonham’s popularity may grow and the lake may rise, Ellis has no plans to change the park’s intimate setting. It will always be small, low-key and friendly. As he says, “It’s a park you come to to kick back.” For more information call (903) 583-5022 or visit <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/Bonham>.

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