1gr8vacation

1gr8vacation

Texas – Martin Dies Jr. State Park

 It seems as though Martin Dies Jr. State Park has become an annual event for us.  This year and last year we spent the second weekend in October at this lovely state park. Read on to learn more about this unique state park in southeast Texas.

About our stay:

Martin Dies Jr. State Park located on  B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir is a park divided.  I guess I should explain what I mean by that statement.  There are three parts to this state park.  The side with park headquarters is the Hen House area. On the opposite side of highway 190 you will find Walnut Ridge area. Across the bridge you will find the Cherokee day use area.  The Hen House and Walnut Ridge area offer 89 (50 amp) and 33 (30 amp) electric/water campsites and 37 screened shelters. The Cherokee day use area has boat launches and picnic tables. Martin Dies Jr. State Park is located 11 miles from Jasper, Texas in deep East Texas. Jasper has a population of 7,583 and offers retail stores such as Walmart, Family Dollar, and Walgreens.  You will also find several restaurants to choose from.  We only visited Jasper to get gas in our truck. 
B.A. Steinhagan Reservoir at sunset

 

In October of 2020, we camped in the Hen House area in campsite 215. We liked site 215 because it had lake access and was in a cul-de-sac. The site was a bit narrow, but our 27 foot travel trailer was able to fit just fine.  Big rigs will want to avoid this cul-de-sac because of the trees overhead and narrow spaces.  However, there are nice sites on the lake in the Hen House area that would fit bigger RVs and offer a nice view as well in sites 200-214. The sites are spaced nicely and mostly level. 
Hen House Campsite 215

 

Hen House Campsite 215

 

In October 2021 we camped in the Walnut Ridge area in campsite 563. We liked this site because it had lake access, the site was paved with asphalt, it was level, and offered plenty of space.  Site 563 is located at the far end of a one-way street that is lined with campsites. This makes leaving easy as you are near the exit.  However, when you come back, you will have to drive the entire loop road to get to the campsite which takes several minutes due to the 5 mph speed limit on the campsite road. It’s not a deal breaker on the site for me, it’s just something you should be aware of.  When you camp in the Walnut Ridge area, you have a long road that is only one-way that you will have to drive no matter which end your campsite is on. Other campsites we thought would be nice to rent on our next visit include sites 503-505, 538-540, and 561. We like these sites in particular because there is easy access to the water for our kayaks.  Our campsite 563 had access to the slough that is adjoining the lake. We prefer kayaking the slough area over the lake because it is easier to navigate than the open waters of the lake. 
Our Campsite at Walnut Ridge
 
Slough/River Access from our campsite

Walnut Ridge Camping Loop

 

While we did not stay in the screened shelters, I will say they have great views of the lake.  Most of the shelters are screened shelters with only a picnic table located inside.  However nine of the shelters offer air conditioning which in my opinion is a must in Texas. 

 



Activities we enjoyed during our stay at Martin Dies Jr. State Park include ranger programs, hiking, biking, and kayaking.  

Ranger Programs:

During our stay the park rangers offered several programs including: a guided paddling trip, butterfly garden program, bicycling with the ranger, and guided hikes. The rangers were friendly and made the programs entertaining to all. Make sure you check out the ranger programs on the park website as you plan your trip. 

Hiking:



Island Trail: This easy trail follows the perimeter of the island.  You will have scenic views of the lake on this short trail. 

Wildlife Trail: We hiked this easy trail the same day we did the Island Trail.  On this trail you will hike through the forest. On the day of our visit the mosquitos were terrible on this trail. 

Slough Trail: The park map says this is a challenging trail. I did not find it challenging at all.  I would say it is an easy trail that will take you one to one and half hours to walk.  You will cross 16 bridges just as the park map describes, most of them are in need of repair. If you are like us and actually counted the bridges, don’t forget the bridge you cross on the park road as one. This trail is a walk through the woods and slough area. The trail is well maintained, wide, and flat. Other than tree roots that could potentially trip you, I do not see how this trail could be rated as challenging as the park map states. 

Shelter Trail: This shaded short trail between the Walnut Ridge shelter area and the kayak/canoe launch area is wide and flat. We rode our bicycles on this trail. 



Biking:

My son likes to ride his bike on the trails. I prefer the less bumpy ride on the park roads.  At Martin Dies Jr. State Park we were able to enjoy both rides.  There are miles of roads to ride. The roads are flat making for an easy ride. Both the Hen House and Walnut Ridge camping areas have plenty of places on and off road to ride a bicycle. We really enjoyed riding our bicycles during our stay. 

 

Kayaking:

As previously mentioned our campsite was located on the slough part of the lake.  We prefer to kayak on rivers and sloughs as opposed to open lake. The great thing about Martin Dies Jr. State Park is you have the option to kayak either on the lake or river/slough area. One morning during our stay we ventured out on the lake as we kayaked the Walnut Paddling Trail.  That morning the winds were blowing 15-20 mph from the north.  To say it was a bad choice on our part was an understatement.  Embarrassingly enough, we did not make it around the entire loop that day as the waves were too much for our kayaks.  We stopped at the day use area boat launch and walked back to our campsite to get the truck to haul the kayaks back to camp. The next day we kayaked on the slough/river area and had a blast fishing and exploring.  We did not see an alligator during our 2021 visit as we had the previous year.  I am not sure if that was a disappointment or a blessing.  

 

A Word to the Wise:

We had a blast during our three day stay at Martin Dies Jr. State Park. However, I must warn you of the one negative thing about this state park.  The MOSQUITOS are awful!! Bring whatever repellent you have to try to stop these annoying insects. We set up a fan at our campsite to keep them off of us.  However when we were on our kayaks and bikes we relied on bug spray and LL Bean No Fly Zone apparel to keep mosquitos at bay. 

I hope my post has helped you plan your next getaway.  Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a single post.

May God bless you on all of life’s adventures.