Ray Roberts Lake State Park, TX

ray-roberts-lake-state-park-tx-2October 28, Friday

Three weeks down, eight to go… time for a break! I’m up bright and early at the crack of dawn errr, 8 am this morning to pack a picnic lunch and hiking essentials. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the humidity is up. It’s going to be another warm day in northern Texas, better get a move on.

Sometimes it’s hard to summon the motivation to get out and do stuff on weekends. After a hard week of work, it can be really tempting to sleep in late and be lazy on days off. It’s not always convenient or easy to get out and have an adventure while working full-time hours, but in my experience the payoff is always worth it. Time spent out in nature rejuvenates the soul in a way that hanging out inside can’t.

Today’s destination is Ray Roberts Lake State Park, which is hard to pin down on a map because it has nine units along the shore of Ray Roberts Lake in several different townships. I pick the Johnson Branch unit, which is in Valley View on the north shore, but I hear the Isle du Bois unit on the south shore has good hiking too, and true hiking enthusiasts can tackle the Greenbelt corridor which runs 20 miles from Ray Roberts Dam to Lake Lewisville. The entry fee is $7 per person, there are year long passes available that get everyone in the vehicle in.

Johnson Branch Unit map

Johnson Branch Unit map

A need to make use of the facilities upon arrival lands me in the first parking area with an outhouse that I find. It also happens to be the trailhead for the Dorba loop, a 3 mile paved trail that sticks to the interior of the park. Parts of the trail that follow the lake shore are closed right now due to flood damage, so this works out well. Given the rapidly rising temperature, I don’t waste any time getting started.

The park is all but empty this morning, which I am happy for. After being cooped up in a concrete box most of the day during the work week with a couple thousand people, the peace and solitude of the trail, surrounded by the hum of insects and occasional chirping of birds is a very welcome change.

Also very welcome is the tree cover. Ray Roberts lies smack dab in the center of the Cross Timbers, a narrow band of hardwood forest sandwiched between Blackland Prairie to the east and Grand Prairie to the west. Post Oak dominate the landscape, their branches arching over the trail to provide shade on a hot day.

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Part-way down the trail, an ancient dilapidated house is barely visible as a pile of rotting wood mostly covered by leaves. A more recently built corral is still upright nearby and in better shape.

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A sign explains that the Jones family moved here from Missouri in the 1850’s to start a homestead and farmed here for120 years over the course of several generations before the land became a state park. Early settlers liked this area for the abundant timber, easy access to water, and plentiful wildlife. They survived by planting vegetable gardens and raising hogs and chickens and keeping a cow for milk and butter, and trapping and hunting wild game like rabbit, quail and squirrel to help fill out their diet. Seasonal treats included wild blackberries, dewberries, plums, and wild greens such as dandelions, pokeweed, and wild onion.

I’m notoriously bad at identifying plants and would probably be dead inside a week if I had to survive off the land. For instance I have no clue what this next plant is, but the purple berries sure are pretty!

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Readers tell me this is American Beautyberry. Birds love it.

Identifying wildlife is easier… if I can see it that is. Several times on the trail I hear rustling in the woods but can’t spot anything through the thick foliage. The crows, however, are about as stealthy as a marching band on parade and are easy to find, they caw loudly to each other in the branches and circle overhead – stark black against the blue sky.

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Interspersed with the stands of oak are more open prairie areas, brown with the coming of fall. In one field a grass snake is sunning itself on the walkway. It holds very still as I crouch down for a picture, hoping I don’t notice it. Well fella, your camouflage works great in the grass but here on the gray concrete, not so much.

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By noon I’m finished with the hike, and not a moment too soon. When I get back to the truck the thermometer states that it’s up to 80 now. Luckily the rest of my planned activities here are more leisurely.

The next order of business is finding a good place to eat lunch, which I find at Oak Point along the shore of the lake at the end of the road. A good breeze rises off the water and makes for a pleasant picnic. Oh, and the view isn’t bad either.

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Last year this part of Texas had record-breaking rainfall totals, which brought up the level of the lakes up from drought stage to overflowing. While not as dramatic as last year at Lake Tawakoni the water level here at Ray Roberts is still high, so I’m guessing there’s been plenty of rain this year too.

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Fishing is good from what reviews online say (and at 29,000 acres, there is plenty of lake to fish). I wouldn’t know about that, but the beach at the point is quite nice looking. This whole area looks like it’s meant to hold a lot of people. There are tables and shelters all over and the beach is big, the bathroom here has flush toilets and a lot of stalls, the playground is impressive in size and scope, but there isn’t a soul around. I bet that will change this evening when people get off work and families come out to camp for the weekend.

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And there is plenty of camping to be had at the Johnson Branch unit. I mean a lot of camping –166 sites from what I can tell on the map. Juniper Cove and Walnut camping areas (93 sites total) have concrete pads and electric and water hookups and a dump station at the entrance.

Site 57 in Walnut, demonstrating the two smaller parking spots side by side - less ideal for RVs.

Site 57 in Walnut, demonstrating the two smaller parking spots side by side – not ideal for longer RVs.

Most sites are 30 amp and $25 a night (plus the entrance fee), but 11 have 50 amp hookups and are $26 a night. Some of these sites have tent pads (most of those with two smaller parking spots side by side) and some can accommodate big rigs. Most are back-ins and most have at least partial shade, Juniper Cove 1-6 and 36-39 are in a more open area though.

Site 38 in Juniper Cove, a more open site

Site 38 in Juniper Cove, a more open area.

Oak Point and Dogwood Canyon areas are developed walk-in tent sites with water nearby, most with less than a ¼ mile walk from a parking lot. The cost is $15 a night. Some of these are spaced pretty close together, shade varies. Willow Cove is home to more primitive walk-in sites, you have to hike in to them and all of these have good shade.

Tent site 146 in Dogwood Canyon.

Tent site 146 in Dogwood Canyon.

All sites have a picnic table, grill, and firepit. Very few sites are actually on the water (11 and 12 in Juniper Cove, and I think 50-53 in Walnut), although many have water views between the trees to varying degrees, and there may be paths that lead from these sites down to the water.

Site 55 in Walnut with a water view between trees.

Site 55 in Walnut with a water view between trees.

With my campground reconnaissance mission complete, I head home to write this blog post and prepare for work tomorrow. Have a good weekend all.

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31 Responses to Ray Roberts Lake State Park, TX

  1. Sandy Tibbs October 28, 2016 at 9:06 pm #

    Th unidentified bush with the purple berries is an American Beautyberry. Love their looks this time of year as the berries turn richer shades of purple and the leaves become a vibrant chatreuse. Birds love em too! We live about 20 mins from Lake Tawakoni so it’s fun to hear about your adventures so close to home!

    • Becky October 29, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

      Thanks for the identification Sandy. I bet you enjoy living here, there are a lot of nice parks to visit.

  2. Jodee Gravel October 29, 2016 at 7:12 am #

    Looks like a perfect day to get out and enjoy nature – and having it to yourself is a real bonus!! Love your little green friend, what a beauty. That is quite the beach – much bigger than those we saw on the Great Lakes 🙂 Glad somewhere isn’t still under drought conditions!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Wrapping Up Our Time in New EnglandMy Profile

    • Becky October 29, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

      It sure was nice Jodee. I’m glad the grass snake stayed still long enough for the photo, usually when I try to get snake pictures they move off before I can get that close.

      That beach looks like it was made for families. I guess when you have 166 campsites you need a lot of beach and picnic tables to accommodate everyone. And yeah, the lakes here look so bountiful compared to the poor west.

  3. Tom October 29, 2016 at 7:53 am #

    Beautyberry is also a natural mosquito repellant, though I’m not sure how you’d use it for that. We first saw it in North Carolina, it is very pretty!

    • Becky October 29, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

      Interesting Tom, thanks for sharing.

  4. Jim October 29, 2016 at 10:18 am #

    Thanks for that leisurely stroll through the campground. Very nice.

    I certainly know what you mean about dragging yourself out on your days off from Amazon. Up real early, walk for 10 miles at work, get home late. On your day off, can barely move. Heh.
    Jim recently posted..Drive around…My Profile

    • Becky October 29, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

      The first day off is usually a lost cause, by the second day it’s easier to summon the willpower to move Jim, heh.

  5. Wendy October 29, 2016 at 10:52 am #

    Thanks for sharing your day with us. Very enjoyable read! I want to compliment you on your writing style. (Nerd Alert–English teacher talking.) I have followed your blog for several years and bought both of your books. Your content has always been original and interesting, and you have always tried to vary your sentence structure and diction. Your attention to proof-reading is appreciated. But over the summer your written expression has blossomed. Thank you for working so hard to make it so easy for us to read!

    • Becky October 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

      I guess practice makes perfect Wendy, thanks for the compliment. 🙂

  6. MnDreamer October 29, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    Good to see that you are getting out and away from the hectic pace of your work environment, Becky. Thank you for the tour of the park and the lovely photos! You’ll be free again before you know it– hang in there!

    • Becky October 29, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

      Thanks Mn and glad you enjoyed this.

  7. Joy October 29, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Beautiful campsites. Does Texas have a long term pass? Or do they do any senior discounts?

    • Reine in Plano (when not camping) October 29, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

      Joy, I’m not Becky but i do have the answer. Texas has a Texas State Parks Pass that costs $70 and provides admission to everyone in your car (up to 15 people) to all the State Parks. Since all the state parks in Texas have a per person/per day entry fee that varies from $3 to $7, the $$ can add up quickly if there are several folks camping together. You also receive 4 coupons for half off the second nights camping fee when you book a two night stay. The pass is good for 12 months. If you buy it early in the month you get almost 13 months use – buy it Nov 2 and it’s good till Nov 30 the following year. Senior discounts for entry fees are available but the regular Parks Pass is a better deal unless you were born before 1930 – then entry to the parks is free if you’re still alive.

    • Becky October 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

      As a native Texan Reine has all the answers. Thanks for responding Reine. 🙂

  8. Doug October 29, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    Enjoyed your post and have been following for several weeks. Live in Sacramento, CA and are retired. Talked of exploring Texas and this was very interesting.

    • Becky October 29, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

      Thanks for following along Doug and glad you’re enjoying IO. Texas has a lot to see and is definitely worth a visit in my opinion.

  9. Mark leonard October 29, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Awesome post! Now I have to go. Thanks 🙂

    • Becky October 31, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

      Texas has a great state park system Mark, I haven’t been to a bad one yet. I actually volunteered at one two winters ago and had a blast.

      • Jeff Byrd November 8, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

        Thanks for the great write up on this park. I’m going to start full-time RVing next summer and will spend it out west. However, I need to find a place to stay next winter and Lake Ray Roberts looks like a great place to stay since it’s close to my family who live in the D/FW area.

        • Becky November 9, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

          Glad you found this helpful Jeff! Ray Roberts is a good option for those in DFW, I think it’s the closest actually but there are a couple others around too.

          • Jeff Byrd November 10, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

            Yes, I’ll probably be staying there for a few days this summer. It was good timing that Interstellar Orchard popped up on my FB page. Reading your blog about your journey gives me inspiration since I’m heading out full-time solo with my travel trailer in two weeks.

          • Becky November 12, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

            Two weeks, how exciting! I bet you’re pretty busy, I remember how the last couple weeks were a mad rush trying to get everything in order. All the hard work will pay off soon though, trust me. 🙂 Best of luck! Safe travels and happy trails.

  10. Anthony October 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Great blog, and I love the picture you took of the snake. Amazing captures!

    • Becky October 31, 2016 at 7:32 pm #

      Thanks Anthony and you’re welcome, glad you enjoyed the pictures. It had been a while since I’d been able to go out and take photos, was a nice change of pace.

  11. Cletus October 31, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    Thanks for bringing back nice old memories of our times at Ray Roberts. We use an outfitted van some 15 to 20 years ago and a small pull behind in 2005-6. I cycled some of the trails and sailed on the lake in a porta bote with a sail kit. Your pictures show it still looks quite the same, I remember that old corral.

    We used to use Ray Roberts as our last camp before heading north in the spring. We’d leave at 5:30AM and drive all the way to Sioux Falls, over 800 miles. Yikes! What were we thinking? Nowadays 300 miles seems a stretch. Thanks again for your pictures and posts.

    I recently bought (of all things) a washing machine on Amazon through your affiliate link. With the Holidays on the horizon and the ease of online shopping I hope others will do the same.

    • Becky October 31, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

      I’m happy to have brought them back Cletus, it really looks like a great park for families and the lake is so big that I bet sailing on it was a lot of fun.

      800 miles? Yikes. My longest day with the trailer was about 650 miles and even that was pretty awful, 200-300 is more my normal.

      Thank you very much for using my affiliate link! Every purchase big or small helps, I appreciate your support.

  12. Robbie October 31, 2016 at 9:47 am #

    I agree with all the other compliments on this site! !!!!!!

    If I were your Dad I would be EXTREMELY proud of you!!!!!!, but still worry about “my little girl” out there in the Big Bad World.

    I am amazed and gratified by your discipline and resiliency and I applaud you work ethic!

    I had hoped you would Ditch the Dodge when it died and convert to a 4WD Toyota or a Toyota with a “Limited Slip Differential”. You had expressed a desire for 4WD before and Toyotas are extremely reliable. You could put a “LSD” in your Dodge too, probably be $1000 out the door. LSD’s in most cases are pretty darn good for getting you out of the semi-marginal spots that us “Off Pavement” RVers get ourselves in. It sounds like you considered everything in your usual methodical way and came up with the repair as being best, considering all. I would recommend considering a Casita compatible Toyota in the future though.

    Could you, or some other reader, tell me please what Weather App. you like for planning your next destination? I can’t seem to find a good/easy one for my phone. I want one that gives you temperature and weather forecast maps for the Western States for the next 10 days. Most only give you Temps. for one or two cities in a state.

    Thanks for the inspiration you provide to us wandering old Codgers!

    • Becky October 31, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

      Hello Robbie, welcome to IO and thanks for the compliments.

      Toyotas are reliable but expensive even used, I looked at the brand when I was shopping for Bertha years ago and couldn’t justify the cost compared to domestic names. I’m hoping Bertha will last another couple years before needing a major repair again and at that point I’ll replace. At this point Bertha is only worth about $2,000 on paper so there’s little sense in paying big bucks for upgrades, I still can get to some pretty sweet spots even without 4WD, my next vehicle will probably be more off-road capable.

      I haven’t found an app that’ll display extended weather information like you’re talking about, I use the Weather Underground website on my computer (https://www.wunderground.com/) for trip planning (you can get it to show about anything) and the associated app on my phone for daily use (more limited, but still good).

      You’re welcome for the info and inspiration, safe travels and happy trails!

  13. Marc June 6, 2017 at 6:14 am #

    Great pictures. Love the snake picture. Fishing is good at Ray Roberts too.
    Marc recently posted..Pioneer Airbow HypeMy Profile

    • Becky June 6, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed this Marc.

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