Labor Day usually marks the winding down of summer fun and gearing up of school and football. But, if you’re looking to catch one last hurrah, the upcoming long holiday weekend allows a great opportunity to enjoy some of the last moments of summer and the beauty of the Brazos River basin.
The Brazos River Authority’s lakes are great locations to pitch a tent. Camping is free year round at nearly all public areas at the three lakes: Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Limestone. Two parks at Possum Kingdom Lake, Sandy Beach and North D&D, charge a small fee for camping and day use from mid-May to mid-September. But the rest of the year those parks are free as well, and no reservations are required at any BRA camping area.
The campsites offer spectacular views – many are just feet from the water. Most have sheltered picnic tables, fire rings and grills. Some also offer amenities such as restrooms and showers nearby.
For more information about public use areas at Possum Kingdom Lake, click here. For Lake Limestone, click here and Lake Granbury, click here.
But if you prefer more seclusion on your camping trip you might consider the Brazos River bed. The bed and banks of the Brazos River are public lands. Camping, as well as activities such as fishing and picnicking are allowed there. However, most of the property along the banks is privately owned, so one should be careful near those areas to avoid violating trespassing laws.
The river’s many sandbars are ideal spots for campers to pitch their tents. When camping, picnicking or paddling along the river, it is important to stay alert for possible rapid increases in river levels and speed due to rainstorms or water being released from the upstream dam. You can check the BRA’s home page before you go to see if any releases are planned.
If you are looking for a more active vacation, put on those hiking shoes and hit one of the basin’s many trails.
Possum Kingdom features 16 miles of hike and bike trails winding through the lake’s cedar-covered hills and connecting the BRA public areas. The award-winning trail system averages a 5 to 20 degree slope that is suitable for hikers with a range of abilities. You can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature along the winding trails or at one of the 19 lookouts. One segment of the trail winds to the top of Johnson Peak, where a scenic rest area equipped with benches provides spectacular views of most of the lake, including the iconic Hell’s Gate.
Similar rest stops have been built at scenic overlooks across the trail system. The rest areas feature display signs with information about the region’s history, geology and animals. Click here for a printable map of the trail system.
Further south in Central Texas, Waco’s Cameron Park covers 416 acres of hilly land along the Brazos and Bosque rivers, just around the corner from downtown. The park is loved by local hikers looking for a quick break from city life as well as mountain biking enthusiasts who find its winding trails a challenge.
The park features more than 20 miles of twisting, climbing trails through dense wooded areas and along the Brazos River. The trails, with names like “Sidewinder” and “Act of Faith” have been listed among the 50 best in the country by Bike Magazine. For more information about Cameron Park, go here.
If you live closer to the lower Brazos basin, you might consider visiting Sam Houston Trail and Wilderness Preserve. This ring of greenbelts, waterways and parks around Houston. This part of the Brazos is being promoted for paddling and hiking, with numerous trails and take-out points along the segment that stretches to the Gulf of Mexico. There are also several parks in the area that offer camping spots. For more information about the wilderness area and river trail, click here.
Whether you are a professional angler or just like to drop a line into the water now and again, Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Limestone lakes have some of the best fishing spots in the state.
Possum Kingdom, the BRA’s largest lake, attracts people from all over the state looking to land “the big one.” The reservoir’s more than 16,000 acres provide a lot of elbow room for visitors to try their fishing skills. Among the fish you can find there are largemouth, striped and white bass; white crappie and catfish. Possum Kingdom has a reputation for being home to some larger than average blue catfish. The record there was a 55-pounder, caught last year.
Fishing at Lake Granbury attracts bass fishermen due to a healthy population of largemouth bass of both native and Florida strains. Anglers often stray below the dam to chase stripers and hybrid bass. Crappie fishing is plentiful around the perimeter of the lake, close to the docks and marinas -- perfect for those little anglers just learning to fish.
Lake Limestone provides anglers with a great opportunity to snag a prize bass. This lake is home to many species of fish and contains an abundance of water vegetation and timber. Many anglers who value solitude while fishing choose Lake Limestone.
To learn more about recreational fishing in Texas, check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Web site, here.
Whether your idea of fun outdoors is hiking, fishing or camping, the Brazos River basin offers many opportunities for a last burst of summer fun with the family.