Day Trips

Lake Bastrop's North Shore Park gets a major facelift.

North Shore Park
North Shore Park (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

The new North Shore Park hardly resembles the recreation area that has been attracting visitors to the cool waters of Lake Bastrop for 35 years. During the past year, the park has received its biggest face lift since it was established by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). The renovated facility is as spacious as a millionaire's back yard and as relaxing as an old easy chair.

"We created three distinct areas in the park," says Roger Lewis, chief architect of the park's new layout for the LCRA. Although the park is only 25 acres, the changes help users utilize the space to their best advantage. The fishermen were given improvements to the boat ramp and an improved parking lot, picnickers have the large area under the shade trees, and a new campground was cut out of the thick undergrowth.

A stand of oak and elm trees provides a canopy over the picnic tables looking out over the swimming beach. The gentle upward slope of the land from the bank toward the parking lot helps the trees catch the prevailing southern breeze.

Long popular with fishermen, the park sees rush-hour-type traffic at the boat ramp on weekend mornings and evenings as boaters come and go. Around the lake's shoreline, very little of which is actually open to the public, silent armies of tree stumps and standing timber extend from the bank into the water, providing ample cover for catfish and largemouth bass.

What was once a tangle of brambles, thorns, and vines now is the new campground with a dozen sites, many with water and electricity, and five with full hookups for RVs. All of the sites have a picnic table, barbecue pit, campfire ring, and a water spigot. A new blacktop road winds among the trees in a big loop through the camping area. Lewis says the roads and development in the camping area were minimized to keep the view across the lake that fills with the colors of the sunsets. Although they cut down very few trees during the construction, Lewis says wishes the campground had more shade and hopes that future efforts will include planting more trees.

On the back perimeter of the camping area are the plywood cabins that have been a part of the park for a generation or more. Plain as a white cotton dress and just as utilitarian, the little buildings come with mattressless bunk beds and a bare light bulb to fill the darkness. The screens over the windows and doors can make the small hovels seem like palaces in the buzzing evenings.

Lewis describes the park as once being a "hodge-podge" of mixed uses: "The day-use visitors were mixed with the campers which were mixed with the fishermen," he says. By giving the park defined-use areas, everyone is pleasantly situated. Gone are the roads that once cut through the picnic area, making it a safer place for children at play. The only thing missing is some grass to subdue the dust that fills the breeze behind every step of a flip-flop in the sandy picnic area.

The North Shore Park was built with one of the first Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) grants for non-state parks given out in the mid-1960s. Over the years the park had deteriorated with abuse and neglect, but was always a popular spot. Maybe too popular for the amount of maintenance provided to the idyllic spot. Beginning in February 1999, the boat ramp received $500,000 worth of new bulkheads, a dock, and other improvements. The park was closed last fall for the $700,000 remodeling of new roads and campground. The park reopened Memorial Day and was dedicated on July 12.

Lake Bastrop was built as a 906-acre power plant cooling pond in the early-1960s by the LCRA. Although it is not known as a lake with trophy-sized fish, in a 1997 TPWD survey the lake was second only to Lake Fayette for average weight and number of fish caught per hour.

The North Shore Park is about seven miles north of Bastrop; take TX 95 north to FM 1441. The South Shore Park on Lake Bastrop is a little larger than its northern sister park, and has also recently received a face lift in the past couple of years. South Shore Park, north of Bastrop off TX 21, might be a little more scenic because it has more pine trees, but both offer about the same services.

Daily entrance permits to the park are $3 per person over 13 years old. Camping fees range from $10-plus day-use fees for sites with water only at the South Shore to $25 plus day-use fees for the cabins at the North Shore. Camping reservations are handled through TPWD Central Reservations, 389-8900. Unclaimed camp sites are rented at the park the day of arrival on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information on Lake Bastrop, call the Park Administration Office at 303-7666.

Coming up this weekend ...

Western Days in Elgin includes a rodeo, a parade, street dances, arts & crafts, food booths, and more at Memorial Park, July 20-22. 512/285-4515.

Book & Paper Show at the New Braunfels Civic Center offer collectibles for sale, July 22. 512/759-2676.

Salado Legends, an outdoor musical drama portraying the Scottish settling of Salado and Central Texas, features music from local composers and singers, July 22 & 29. 254/947-9205.

Pari-mutuel Horse Racing at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds, south of Fredericksburg on TX 16, includes music, food, and the thunder of the ponies, July 22-23. 830/997-2359.

Coming up ...

Explore La Salle's Fort St. Louis on the Web by watching videos of the archeologists' work at the Texas Historical Commission's Internet site. The French explorer La Salle established the fort near present-day Victoria in 1685, but it was defeated by disease and Indian attacks. Some of the artifacts are also displayed at the Public Archeology Laboratory in downtown Victoria. www.thc.state.tx.us.

Area code 409 splits into three areas beginning August 1. The former 409 area code surrounded Houston. The three new areas will be 979, which stretches from Bryan-College Station to Lake Jackson on the coast, area code 936, which will be in the northeast corner including Nacogdoches and Huntsville, and the new 409, which will cover the area from Galveston to Port Arthur. www.texascode.com.

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