"We're the least-polluted and least-known of the Texas lakes," says G.W. Atkerson at Fisherman's Point Marina and Campground. Fishermen have voted the lake the best in the state for sand bass and catfish and one of the best overall for fishing. It's not uncommon to see pictures hanging on the bulletin boards in the convenience stores near the lake southeast of Corsicana of catfish as large as small children and stringers that could fill a good-sized ice chest.
Shaped by the joining of two creeks into a V-shape, the surface area of the lake covers 44,752 acres. All kinds of water sports are popular, with more than 26 miles up one channel giving boaters lots of room to spread out. Probably the reason more people haven't discovered Richland-Chambers Lake is because there is very little public land on the 330 miles of shoreline.
The rolling hills surrounding the lake are covered with a dense hardwood forest. Housing developments around the lake have turned villages like Eureka, Navarro, and Chaneyboro into retirement and vacation home neighborhoods with names like The Wilderness and Millennium Estates.
Still, there are some very nice private campgrounds on the lake that offer more amenities than the average state park. The following is a list of some of the more popular campgrounds:
Fisherman's Point (1 on map), 903/389-5218, www.fishermanspoint.com, the largest campground and marina on the lake with more than 30 acres including 20 acres of tent camping. Has full RV hookups, restaurant, store, bait, boat rentals, gasoline, sand volleyball, and a sandy beach. Cabins will be ready to rent by the end of August. One mile west of FM 488 on FM 416.
Oak Cove Marina (2), 903/872-0888, off U.S. 287 at the bridge over the lake. Has a motel with kitchenettes, restaurant, pier and bank fishing, boat rentals, store, bait, RV hookups, and tent camping.
Wooded Acres Campground (3), 903/599-2314, doesn't have waterfront access, but is still very nice. Has cabins, tent sites, RV hookups, playground, hot tub, and swimming pool. Three miles east of Streetman on FM 416.
Clearview Marina & Resort (4), 903/872-1442, www.clearviewmarina.com, is one of the nicest places on the lake. Has cabins, camping, RV sites, store, bait, bird sanctuary, nature trails, beach, and enclosed fishing barge. Off U.S. 287 at the bridge over the lake.
Midway Landing Campground and Cafe (5), 903/599-2202, is a small but pleasant campground with RV hookups, boat ramp, and store. On FM 416 between Streetman and FM 488.
Chambers Creek Marina (6), 903/874-1130, is in the process of upgrading, but has a small campground with a store, docks, and boat ramp. Outside of Eureka on FM 2859.
Opened in 1983, Richland-Chambers Reservoir is owned by the Tarrant Regional Water District, a state political subdivision founded in 1924. The water district sells water to municipalities surrounding Fort Worth and also owns Lake Bridgeport, Lake Cedar Creek, and Eagle Mountain Lake.
When Richland and Chamber creeks were flooded by the reservoir, federal law required that destroyed wetlands had to be replaced. The result was the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on FM 488 near the dam. Deeded to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, it is a primitive wilderness.
"We're totally unimproved," says Jeff Gunnels, biologist at the wildlife area, "we don't even have trash cans." Although the WMA has areas set aside for camping, they offer no accessories like water or restrooms. The area is primarily used by hunters in the fall and birdwatchers in the spring.
Between March and May the bottomland hardwood habitat attracts 246 species of birds, many of them migrating. The heavily wooded area is also home to a wide variety of other animals and an array of plants.
For most of 40 years, beginning in the 1930s, the area was heavily logged and explored for gas and oil. The roads left behind by the companies make for fairly good biking trails, but if the buffalo gnats and mosquitos don't get you, the snakes might. "We don't get a lot of visitors in the summertime," Gunnel says, "we're a little too rough for most people."
Gunnel makes no apologies for the lack of visitor services at the wildlife management area. "There is a lot of value to keep it wild," he says. As new housing developments are sprouting around the lake it is not difficult to see the uniqueness of the nearly 14,000 acres of flood plain and wilderness area. There are two biologists that work at the property doing studies and helping coordinate research by area universities.
In order to fish or hunt at the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area you'll need a $40 permit. To bike or hike the trails, visitors need to have a Limited Public Use Permit that sells for $10 where hunting licenses are sold. For more information on the wilderness area, call 903/389-7080.
Coming up this weekend ...
Pepper Party at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center celebrates native peppers with pepper gurus, food, stories, and a salsa contest, July 15. 292-4200.
Conjunto Shootout at Market Square in San Antonio features some of the best bands in the area competing for prizes and applause, July 14-16. 210/246-9622.
Night in Old Fredericksburg brings out the German-Texan culture for a day of entertainment, beer tastings, and arts & crafts in Fredericksburg, July 15. 830/997-6523.
Berges Fest in Boerne presents a delightful small town party with a parade, carnival, street dances, food booths, and live entertainment, July 16-19. 830/249-8000.
Old Gruene Market Days turns the historical district north of New Braunfels into a shopping mall with hundreds of vendors and music in the dance hall, July 15-16. 830/629-6441.
Coming up ...
Harvest Festival at Messina Hof Vineyards in Bryan features grape stomping, tastings, food preparation, and more, July 22-23, 29-30. 409/778-9463.
Old Faithful may be the centerpiece of Yellowstone National Park, but there is lots more to do there. For full information and reservations, go to www.yellowstone.net.