The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2009-03-06/751749/

Day Trips

By Gerald E. McLeod, March 6, 2009, Columns

Fort Boggy State Park, south of Centerville, is a special little place that few Texans know about. That's a shame too, because the wildlife area mixes recreation with a tranquil landscape.

Not far enough east to have many pine trees, the rolling hills of the park are covered in a thick forest of hardwood trees. Within the park's boundaries the hills drop into bottomland meadows along Boggy Creek. The diverse environment attracts migrating and resident birds, including five kinds of woodpeckers. Nearly 700 species of plants have been documented in the park, including the rare Centerville brazos-mint.

The two-mile nature trail leads hikers and mountain bikers to the lowland marshes where beaver ponds dot the 250-acre floodplain. The path winds across fields of tall grass and wildflowers and then tunnels through thick stands of dogwood, pecan, and oak trees. "It's just a beautiful view," the park ranger said of the hike.

From the top of a hill, the 15-acre lake reflects the vibrant colors of the surrounding forest that comes right to the water's edge. Fishermen cast their lines from a dock, the shore, or paddle quietly along the banks. The lack of anglers has resulted in a crop of good-sized bass, catfish, sunfish, and seasonal trout in the lake. This is the kind of fishing hole that you keep secret.

The park is named after a log fort built on the north side of the creek in 1840. Pioneers from Tennessee and Mississippi farmed the fertile bottomland in the Texas wilderness. The palisades were erected after American Indians killed one of the settlers. Two blockhouses and 11 homes inside the fort sheltered the community of 75 people.

Although many of the settlers were defeated by sickness and the harsh environment, the settlement lasted for nearly 100 years. At one time Fort Boggy included a sawmill, store, and post office.

The 1,847-acre park was used as farmland until the 1930s. After lying fallow for 60 years, nature reclaimed the land. It was donated to the state parks system in 1985 and opened to the public in 2001.

Since the state Parks Department discontinued camping in the park, it has become day-use only, but there is no admission fee. The park's restrooms and group pavilion are built in the style of the 1930s by state prison inmates using local red sandstone and lumber. Along with picnic tables and grills, there is a playscape for the kids and a swimming beach.

Fort Boggy State Park is close to I-45 about halfway between Dallas and Houston. The entrance is off TX 75, four miles south of Centerville. The park is open Friday through Sunday, 8am to sunset. No fishing license or stamp is required within the park. For more information or to reserve the group shelter, call 903/344-1116.

922nd 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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