The roads through the Birch Creek Unit were nicely paved, and the park had lots of trees. The areas of the park that we were able to see were all clean and well maintained. Although mostly functional, the bathhouses in the Old Hickory Camping Area were dated and in need of some maintenance.
The park has a wide variety of both land and water recreational activities available for outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to camping, land activities include birding, geocaching, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking and horseback riding (for those with horses). Lake activities include fishing (loaner gear available), boating, paddling and swimming. (As with all Texas State Parks, no fishing license is required to fish from the shore or from the fishing jetty.) The bathhouse in the day-use / marina area was new and very clean - a definite plus for those planning to spend time on or near the lake. In addition to a few bird sightings (herons, robins and hundreds of vultures - if you consider them birds), we also enjoyed some random animal sightings which included javelinas (or some other type of wild pig), goats, deer and rabbits.
As Scott and I enjoy taking short day trips to area attractions when we travel with our RV, the only downside to the park was that there were limited nearby attractions. Other than Blue Bell Creameries (which we had recently visited) there was nothing to lure us away from the park. Because of that, we spent our entire three days enjoying our RV and the park with its long list of amenities.
With our Texas State Park Pass, we paid a total of $50.00 for our three night stay. Having the pass saved us $24.00 in daily entrance fees ($4.00 per person per day) plus another $10.00 discount on our campsite (half price for our second night). Nightly campsite rental ranged from $12.00 (water only) to $20.00 (water & electric) with one park host site available for $25.00 (with sewer) during our stay.
While a very limited number of sites had covered tables, the majority had uncovered picnic tables, a fire pit with a grate and a lantern hook. Nearly all sites were surrounded on three sides with trees covered with dense foliage which provided some of the most private campsites at which we have ever camped. (Due to the large number of densely packed trees, most sites did not have trees suitable for hanging hammocks.)
During our three night stay, we took the opportunity to relax, float and most importantly cool off in the lake - both near our site as well as in the day-use area. Although it was nice to have a swimming area within walking distance of our site, with water that was more clear and the new, well maintained facilities in the day use area, the short drive was worth it.
Our wooden uncovered picnic table stood upon a concrete base with a nearby fire pit and lantern hook. Although site 67 was surrounded by numerous shade trees, we sadly had no trees suitable for hanging our hammocks.
Scott had good cell and data coverage on Verizon, however my T-Mobile coverage was virtually non-existent in the campground area. (I did have some coverage near the lake.) With only two television channels having any reception, also virtually non-existent was broadcast TV.
One of the many access points to Lake Somerville was located between campsites 69 and 71, so we could easily walk the short distance on the paved road to reach the Lake Trail.
Just a short hike from where the trail met the sandy beach area sat a tree shaded table - perfect for a picnic or just relaxing by the lake.
We would likely try to avoid campsites 95 - 103 as we noticed that many of the sites had less shade and were shorter.
While there is no camping in the Cedar Elm Day-Use Area, it is apparent that the park is committed to ensuring that the area is open and available. With a boat ramp, nice swimming area, individual picnic tables plus group picnic areas and the updated bathhouse, the day-use area is a nice place to spend a chunk of time.
Due to road closures, we had no opportunity to see any of the sites in the following areas:
In addition to the various Lake Trails (on which we hiked throughout our stay), we hiked a portion of the Wilderness Run trail. We chose the trail as we were in search of the "bowl" used by the Indians (likely for washing clothes) that was still reported to be visible hundreds of years later. We learned about the bowl during our check-in at the park, and all we knew was that it was near an off-shoot of the trail in a creek that would most probably be dry during our stay.
We hiked along the trail that was part sand, part packed dirt and surrounded by haunted trees.
The primary hiking trails within the park were well marked (and we even passed one shaded trail side park bench), however the brush was very dense and there were lots of burrs to watch out for when going "off trail". In order to find the bowl which we were searching for, we knew that we would have to go off-pathing (like off-roading but on foot!). We tried some trails that had been lightly traveled in the past that looked as if they would lead us closer to the creek.
Although we did find a couple of indentations in the dry creek bed, we didn't believe either one was the bowl previously used by the Indians. After hiking along several "off-paths" which each led to areas so heavy with tree brush that there was no way to pass through, we finally decided to give up on our goal.
We found our way back toward the real hiking trail which eventually led us to the sandy area near the water's edge. Walking along the shore, we began seeing hundreds of vultures flying about.
We finally came upon the attraction for the swarm of vultures - a dead wild pig. As we approached closer, it appeared that one of the vultures was standing guard to ensure that we did not interfere with their upcoming meal.
With most of the vultures hanging out in the surrounding haunted trees, we continued walking along the shore passing several side trails leading back up to the campsites.
The sandy shoreline coupled with a nice breeze made our walk back more enjoyable on this very hot June day. We passed a few rocky areas before heading back up to our site, and also came upon the picnic table which we had found yesterday. After taking a short break, we headed back to our site - it was time to cool off with a swim in the lake!