Trip Date 06/29/2018
Posted On 07/19/2018 18:08:37
Camping | Hiking | Texas State Parks | Lake Somerville State Park Review | Birch Creek Unit Campground
As the month of June was nearing its end and we had slept in our own bed every night, we decided something was wrong! It was time to book a short getaway in "RV There Yet?", our RV that we purchased almost one year ago.
If you are looking for a campground that is within a few hours drive of either Austin or Houston, check out this post for our review of the Birch Creek Unit at Lake Somerville State Park.
Lake Somerville State Park - Birch Creek Unit CampgroundExcluding group sites, there are 113 campsites in the Birch Creek Unit located on the north side of Lake Somerville State Park. Due to damage caused by area floods in 2015, 2016 and 2017, only 53 of the sites (including park host sites) were available for use during our visit.
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.
Campsite Amenities at Lake Somerville State Park - Birch Creek UnitOnline reservations can be made, however sites cannot currently be selected until check-in at the park. (With a pilot program underway, it is anticipated that guests will have the ability to reserve specific sites beginning in late 2018 or early 2019.) The campsites in the Old Hickory Camping Area all had back- in parking onto a paved surface. Utilities included both on-site electric (50-amp) and water with a central dump station and dumpsters located on the road toward the park headquarters.
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.
Campsite 67 at Lake Somerville State Park - Birch Creek UnitUpon finding it, Scott had a relatively easy time backing in to our paved site. The site was noticeably sloped downward toward the main road. Since it was more trouble for us to correct than it was worth, we stayed for three nights with our bedroom sitting lower than our living room!
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.
Favorite Campsites at Lake Somerville State Park - Birch Creek UnitWith our park map in hand, we both walked and drove through the near empty Old Hickory Camping Area in search of our favorite sites so that we would be prepared to choose a site on any future visit:
- Campsite 61 was well shaded and flat;
- Campsites 63 and 64 had good shade, both had trees which would accommodate our hammocks, and both sites were definitely long enough for "RV There Yet?";
- Although we liked campsite 68, the only trees that would accommodate our hammocks were located on the side opposite the RV entry door;
- Campsite 72 was nice yet due to the tree layout we would only be able to hang one of our hammocks;
- Campsite 73 had some shade, was an ADA site and was near one of the trails leading to the lake; and
- Campsites 74 and 76 were also among our favorites.
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:
- Both the Group Trailer Area and Yaupon Camping Area were closed at the intersection with the main park road.
- Although the dump station at the entrance to the Post Oak Camping Area appeared to be open, the road was blocked off before the start of the actual camping area. (When open and available, campsites in both the Yaupon and Post Oak areas might be appealing as many were within walking distance of the day-use area.)
Hiking at Lake Somerville State Park - Birch Creek UnitWhen all trails are open and available for hiking and biking, Lake Somerville State Park has nearly 40 miles of trails including a 13+ mile long trail connecting the Birch Creek Unit with the Nails Creek Unit - and the mileage total does not even include the "side trails" found throughout the parks. With much of the park closed during our visit, there were still over 10 miles of hiking trails open within the unit.
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!
Local Attractions Near Lake Somerville State ParkIf you find yourself traveling between Houston and Austin and have an hour or two to spare, check out our post titled Visit the Little Creamery in Brenham to read about a stop at the little creamery - including a cheap sample scoop of ice cream.
Favorite Pastimes When CampingWhen camping in either an RV or tent, what are your favorite pastimes to enjoy - either during daytime or at night?
Weather:86F Mostly Cloudy
Other Recent Posts