For National Grasslands week, we visited the LBJ National Grasslands in Decatur. This was our first time to visit, and my expectation was a dry and treeless ocean of tall prairie grasses. What we found was a beautiful mixture of grasslands and hardwood forest, lakes and plenty of recreational opportunities!
Our first stop was at the District Office in Decatur, which has maps for the different campgrounds in the grasslands, and general information about the grasslands and their importance in Texas. The LBJ Grassland encompasses more than 20,000 acres.
Things To Do:
We headed to Black Creek Lake, which is approximately 12 miles from the District Office. They offer 14 primitive campsites, set under hardwood trees, with a picnic table and fire ring, all for only $2/day fee, which can be paid in a self-pay station. There is not an attendant or gate into the campground. While the campsites seemed a little close together, we were the only campers (mid-week), and had plenty quiet time.
The campgrounds, lake and really ALL of the grasslands were extremely clean. There was some litter along roads, but some people still don’t get it, DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!
We really enjoyed all the wildlife we saw at our from our campsite. Deer, squirrels, raccoons and even a turkey visited our camp, but never when I was anywhere near my camera.
My Mommy Tips:
- It’s 12 miles back to the closest store, so be sure and bring plenty of food, water, sunscreen, toilet paper, soap, etc.
- The campsites do not have individual parking, so we unloaded from the road near the campsite and then parked our car in the parking lot.
- Yep, that’s a red slide you can see hiding behind a tree.
If you are wanting something a little more isolated, the LBJ Grasslands allowing camping ANYWHERE on their public lands. At Black Creek Lake, there were plenty of places around the lake to hike in and set up your tent. You can still utilize the restrooms at the campsite. You can also hike in from any of the trails along the road, just pull your car off the road, but you can’t drive off road in the grasslands.
Black Creek Lake is low, the concrete boat ramp just leads to sand. You can launch canoes or kayaks for fishing or just paddling around, but there is not a paddling trail.
In the morning and evening hours, there were plenty of people fishing along the banks. They were catching catfish, crappie and the kids were pulling in plenty of perch.
About 10 am, the people fishing loaded up and left, and we watched as they were replaced by another demographic, families with children, who came for the day just to play in the lake!
The lower lake levels make the shores seem like sandy beaches, but just under the surface is the black soil from the nearby vegetation, common to Texas lakes. There isn’t a designated swim area, and there are no life guards on duty. The water wasn’t very deep along the shore, although there were a few drop offs so be sure young children wear a life jacket and keep them supervised at all times!
Dogs must be kept on leash at Black Creek Lake, and of course, our labs wanted to run, chase stick and play in the water. With the help of google maps on my phone (yes, I had service almost the entire time), we were able to find a small lakes (there are more than 400 on the grasslands) where I could take them off leash and have fun!
The Cottonwood – Black Creek Hiking Trail is a 4 mile trail from Black Creek to Cottonwood Lake. It’s a very pretty trail, crossing hardwood timber and some grasslands. We saw plenty of animal tracks, including deer.
Dogs are not allowed off leash in any of the campgrounds at LBJ National Grasslands, however, they are allowed off leash on all trails. We love camping with our dogs, but they want to run and play, and this is a terrific place to take them and let them off leash!
TADRA Point Trail is a 75 mile multi-use trail for horseback riding, mountain bikes and hiking. You can access it from the Cottonwood – Black Creek Hiking Trail (horses must enter from the TADRA Trail head. The trail loops around the grasslands, and horses can also traverse the open areas along the trail, but mountain bikes must stay on the trails.
If I can EVER get my 6-year-old off training wheels, (he refuses, it’s embarrassing) we definitely want to plan a return trip with our bikes and dogs. As we explored around the TADRA trail, we saw several horse riders, so be sure your dogs well-behaved around them if you plan to take them off leash.
In Season hunting is allowed in the LBJ National Grasslands. Check with the district office for more information.
Black Creek Lake is only one of 3 camping sites at the LBJ National Grasslands. There are 4 other lakes for recreational use (check water levels). and plenty of other opportunities for exploration outside the designated recreational areas!
Click HERE to visit the LBJ National Grasslands website for more information on visiting this wonderful Texas resource!
We spent a day exploring the town of Decatur. The beautiful Wise County Courthouse sits in the middle of the courthouse square. The courthouse construction was completed in 1897, designed by J. Riely Gordon, who is also responsible for the Ennis County Courthouse in Waxahachie, one of my favorites!
The courthouse square is filled with antique shops, boutiques and some pretty yummy places to grab a bite to eat, including Fuzzy’s! I love Fuzzy’s! We had a decadent visit to the Sweetwater Baking Company, filling up bags with fresh made cookies and cupcakes!
But for lunch we took the recommendation we received at the LBJ National Grasslands District Office, and visited the Whistle Stop Cafe! Since we had our dogs in the car, we placed our order to go and had a few minutes to explore this unique stop on the road.
Part of the Texas Plaza Complex, the Petrified Wood Station has been completely covered in petrified wood! You can see several similar buildings in Glen Rose, as well as some examples in Denton and Jacksboro, where farmers in the 1920’s found an abundance of it in their fields.
Love these old Texaco gas pumps!
Although no longer in use, the Texas Plaza was built in the 1930’s as a way stop for travelers. Before the cabins were built, travelers were allowed to set up camp along the road for the night.
When the TX-287 highway bypass was built, the property closed, another victim of progress.
10 minutes later, our cheeseburgers to go were ready! One of the best burgers I can remember eating, they were amazing!!!!
We headed to shady Melba Doyle Park, a short 1.5 miles away, for a picnic. There are several parks in Decatur, click HERE for a list.
Black Creek Lake, LBJ National Grasslands
Click HERE for directions and to visit their website.
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