Texas State Parks were visited more than 7.4 million times last year, and when people come to the parks, they spend money in the local communities. According to the state Comptroller’s office, out-of-state visitors to our parks spent $283 million in the local community in 2008.
Cleburne State Park
At Cleburne State Park south of Fort Worth, a $2.79 million bond project—part of a bigger statewide effort to update state parks—has already built two new dorm-style barracks. The group facilities feature air conditioning and heat plus his-and-hers bathrooms, lockers, and 44 bunk beds (with mattresses). After renovations, the group area dining hall will seat 75 and provide a fully equipped commercial kitchen for families wanting to cook hot meals.
In addition, Cleburne Superintendent Collis Park says he’s excited that summertime visitors will be able to enjoy a new concession building, bathhouse/restroom, outdoor patio, and beach at popular Cedar Lake.
“Having a new restroom will be a wonderful asset. We’ve been using the two restrooms in the park for years and they’ve been getting hammered.”
A pleasant respite from the beaten path, Cleburne State Park quietly glows like a little emerald gemstone pocketed in the folds of the rolling prairie. Nestled where the hill country meets the wide-open spaces, the park’s limestone hills and deep thicket provide shade in summer and trails in winter. A small spring-fed lake forms the park’s centerpiece, but rocky creek-beds winding throughout keep hikers who love the back trails returning again and again.
Visitors find plenty to do at Cleburne State Park. Located just 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth, and 14 miles from Cleburne in Johnson County, the park was acquired from the city of Cleburne and private owners in 1935-36 and was opened in 1938.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) on the site where Native Americans and cowboy trail drivers used to camp. The 528-acre park encircles 116-acre Cedar Lake, a no-wake lake that features a lovely three-tier spillway built by the CCC in 1935.
“Because of that, people like to fly-fish from kayaks and canoes,” says manager Collis Park. “If they want, visitors can bring big boats, just as long as they don’t make a wake.”
On the lake, the bond project also refurbished the swimming beach. Once the concession opens, visitors can order burgers, snacks, and basic supplies or rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats, just like the good ol’ days.
“We’ll also have a floating dock for the paddleboats,” Park says. “All these new facilities should boost our visitation.”
Extensive trails at the park attract many wildlife lovers, hikers, and mountain bikers. In the summer, rangers lead interpretive hikes on Saturdays along Coyote Run Nature Trail, which meanders on the park’s undeveloped north side. Another interpretive hike takes visitors to the stair-step rock spill way, hand built by CCC Company 3804 workers in 1935.
The region surrounding Cleburne State Park was a favorite hunting ground for many Indian tribesmen, since it comprised densely wooded country amidst plains and included several clear water springs. The Comanches used this area as a trail from the northwest to raid the homesteads in the south. The Indians would lead two fresh horses as they rode a third one, switching to a fresh horse as each one was winded. In this manner, they would escape their pursuers.
On the lake’s west side, five campgrounds offer six screened shelters and 58 campsites, all with water and either 30- or 50-amp electric service. Some include sewer facilities. “Poplar Point is our most popular campground because it’s right on the lake,” Park says. “But a lot of campers also like North Creek area, too.” Camping fees vary and are based on utilities available at a selected site.
The heavily-wooded park is a draw for wildlife lovers, with plenty of raccoons, turkeys, ducks, bobcats, possums, rabbits, and squirrels, plus plentiful songbirds and other native fliers.
Trail bikers also are attracted to the six-miles of wooded hike and bike trails.
NOTE: Due to road work by the Texas Department of Transportation, the Park will be closed on Monday, April 25 and Tuesday, April 26. It will reopen on Wednesday, April 27. Contact the Park for more information.
Elevation: 764 feet
Entrance fee: $3/person
Camping fees: Campsites with 30 amp electric and water, $16; campsites with 30/50 amp electric and water, $20; campsites with 30 amp electric, water, and sewer, $28; campsites with 30/50 amp electric, water, and sewer, $30
Directions: 10 miles southwest of Cleburne; take Highway 67 south out of Cleburne, then turn left on Park Road 21, the park is another 6 miles on the right
Address: 5800 Park Road 21, Cleburne TX 76033
Contact: (817) 645-4215
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