Day Trips

If you are looking to relax, do some fishing, or maybe some bird watching, the Spoonville RV Park and Lodge might be right for you

Smith Point
Smith Point (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

Smith Point marks the end of the road on most maps of Chambers County in Southeast Texas. The Spoonbill RV Park and Lodge occupies the tip of the yellow land jutting out into the blue water.

Chambers County is one of those places on the map that you can't get a true sense of until you drive the two-lane highways lined with forests and marshes interrupted occasionally by a ranch, pasture, or trailer park.

Directly across Trinity Bay from Houston, the county is the complete opposite of its neighbor. "We have more alligators than people," says Ben Nelson, owner of the Spoonbill RV Park and Jeri's Seafood, which specializes in fresh oysters. Jeri is his wife.

The abundant oysters of the bay put food on the Nelson family's table. Galveston Bay is the largest producer of oysters in Texas and the sixth largest in the nation. Only the West Coast bays produce more. Nelson has 13 boats that sail out of the dock at Smith Point.

Nelson opened the Spoonbill RV Park six years ago in order to provide jobs to his extended family. "There isn't much else to do around here," he says. Fishing and ranching are the prime employers unless you work at the convenience store.

Although the Spoonbill caters to a large number of bird and wildlife watchers, the "lodge" part of the official name is what most people would call a fishing camp. Besides the 42 drive-through RV slips, the lodge has 17 basic bedrooms. The bathrooms are communal, the air conditioning is cold, the water is hot, and the bay is right outside the front door. Luxurious accommodations for someone on a fishing excursion.

If your tastes lean more toward the privacy side, one of the two cottages at the park will be more to your liking. The cottages are actually RV trailers. The one- and two-bedroom trailers come completely furnished and have a small kitchen, bathroom, and living room.

"Come for the peace and tranquility," Nelson says. "This is the place to relax, fish, enjoy the scenery, or for terrific bird watching." At the mouth of the Trinity River, Chambers County is home to four national wildlife refuges, one state wildlife management area, and several county parks. This is one of the densest concentrations of wildlife in the state.

Nelson recommends visitors look up Joe Whitehead while they're in the area. Whitehead is a representative of the National Audubon Society and maintains his own natural history museum in his home. When time allows, he also takes visitors on a tour of birding spots in the area.

"We have the best fishing in the world," Nelson says. The son of a fisherman, he has been working the Gulf waters for the better part of 65 years. Most visitors come in search of the flounder, red fish, and drum that inhabit the murky waters of the bay. Nelson claims that he prefers croaker to any other sport fish.

For those without boats, the East Bay side of the point offers great wade fishing, especially from July to September. The Anahuac-Liberty Canal runs along the Trinity Bay side of the point. Nelson says that it was the first part of a canal that was to be built in the 1940s from the Gulf to Dallas. "It only got as far as Fort Anahuac," he says.

Nelson says he gets a lot of Elder Hostel groups at the campground. Bicyclists enjoy the roads around Smith Point because there is very little traffic on the narrow, but flat back roads. The camp also attracts kayakers and canoers who explore the islands that dot the coast and the miles of marshes. Unlike some RV parks, Spoonbill welcomes tent campers.

The Spoonbill RV Park and Lodge is about 100 miles east of Houston. The closest supply point to the park is 25 miles north at Anahuac (pronounced ana-whack). RV parking spots run from $18 to $24 a day. Lodge rooms cost between $30 and $50 a night, and the trailer cottages are $60 a night. For more information, call 409/355-2347 or visit their Web site at

670th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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Smith Point, The Spoonville RV Park and Lodge, Chambers County, Jeri's Seafood, Joe Whitehead

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