In these parts, Bonham is perhaps best known as the home of legendary Congressman Sam Rayburn. The man who once said that “power's no good unless you have the guts to use it” was Speaker of the House for 17 years between the 1940s and his death in 1961. Rayburn passed away shortly after he administered the oath of office to his protege and another prominent Texas politician, Lyndon Johnson. History buffs will love to learn more about the backstory of this unique state park.
But enough about politics. Like many other facilities, Bonham State Park is a dual-purpose facility that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. In the 1930s, the wild Red River was untamed. Soil erosion was a serious problem for agricultural communities like tiny Bonham. CCC workers built a small dam, which created tiny Bonham State Park Lake. The dam was a boon for local farmers.
In classic CCC-style, workers also used Texas limestone and other such materials to build a number of buildings, most of which still stand today. Noted architects William Caldwell and Joe Lair had the vision, and CCC workers had the muscle.
Originally, Bonham State Park was basically a backwater. Now, it’s a convenient place for Dallas city slickers to spend a weekend. RV visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, and a number of other activities. The park has just over 8.5 miles of hiking trails that meander around the sides of the lake. Whether you hike or bike, the forest, hills, and lakeside trails provide wonderful opportunities to enjoy the local flora and fauna.
If you'd like to explore more of the parks in this area, a visit to Eisenhower State Park is highly recommended. This park is 40 miles northwest of Bonham State Park and lies on the banks of Lake Texoma. Eisenhower State Park is a wonderful place for RV camping and offers excellent facilities for fishing, hiking, and cove swimming.
Bonham State Park is 75 miles northeast of Dallas and close to the Caddo National Grasslands. The park is just four miles southeast of the town which bears its name. The park is in the midst of a web of farm-to-market roads (thank you, Congressman Rayburn). FM roads are a bit narrow, but they are designed to accommodate large, slow farm machinery. So, these roads are very good for RVers as well. RVers do not have to worry about any driving restrictions or challenges on the roads heading to the park.
Bonham is not a very big town, but it does have a lot of facilities. One of the largest VA hospitals in the state is in Bonham, and we know who was at least partially responsible for that massive project. Bonham also has a large department store and some smaller grocery stores. So, if you did not stock up with camping supplies before you left Dallas or Oklahoma City or wherever you came from, you’ll probably be okay. If you're looking for an ATM or gas station, Bonham has these too. The road inside the park is easy to navigate as it circles the dam. RVers will find it wide enough and comfortable to drive.
When you reach this rather small park, there is parking near the fishing pier and boat launch as well as near the primary trailheads. Other than the RV campground, those are probably the only two places you’ll go. The road around the lake is wide and well-maintained. That’s a nice bonus if you like sightseeing.
The RV camping area at Bonham State Park is separate from the tent-only camping area. There are 20 campsites in total, and, of these, 13 campsites are specifically set up for RVs, and all but one are back-in. If you want one of the two full hookup sites, make your reservations early.
The other sites have water and 20/30/50 amp electric hookups but do not have sewer hookups. Every site has a picnic table, lantern post, outdoor grill, and fire ring. There is a dump station conveniently located at the edge of the campsite. Right next to the campsite, you'll find a children’s playground, restroom/shower facilities, and a group picnic area. The swimming area, fishing spots, and hiking trails are all within walking distance.
Next to the RV campsites are seven campsites with electricity, suitable for tent camping. They all have 20-amp electricity and share a communal water spigot. Each site has its own fire ring, lantern holder, picnic table, and tent pad. The restrooms are located closeby, near the park headquarters. Tent campers can use any of the 20 campsites in this park. Reservations can be made up to five months ahead of time.
Accommodating groups of up to 50 people, the group tent site is separate from the park campground. There are six campsites here, each with its own water spigot, grill, and picnic table. Groups can relax together around the large fire pit and a large collection of picnic tables. Restrooms are located near the park's headquarters.
Groups of up to 94 people want to enjoy the outdoors but aren't keen on camping can make use of the group barracks. Twenty people can be accommodated on bunk beds in each of the four separate buildings. The staff building can sleep 12 people, and two people can stay in the area provided in the dining hall. The restrooms have showers but no linen or cooking utensils are provided. The kitchen area has a refrigerator and stove, and there are enough tables and chairs and a large enough grill to cook for a large crowd. Groups can also make use of the open-air pavilion.
If you are looking for a relaxing stroll during your RV trip to this state park, you'll love this one-mile trail that winds around the lake. It alternates between higher points that offer great views and low points adjacent to the shore, which are good fishing areas. You’ll probably share the trail with wood ducks, so watch your step. If you’re looking for additional serenity, try the Lake Loop Rest Stop near the western edge of this mostly-flat trail. It’s one of the most tranquil spots in a very tranquil park.
These Depression-era relics are a bit hard to reach, as they are on the challenging three-mile Bois D’Arc Trail. This trail has lots of sharp and sudden elevation changes, but the CCC facilities make it worth the trek. The footbridge, fireplaces, grills, seating, and everything else are made from stone. There are several picnic areas along this trail as well. So if you need a break, there are plenty of opportunities. Look out for the CCC Pump House while you're on the route; this well and tower used to provide water for the park.
Don't forget that fishing gear in your camper since bass and crappie bite pretty well here, especially in the fall and winter. Try the deep water in the winter and the shallow water in the fall. The best time for catfish is late spring and early summer. Bonham State Park Lake also has lots and lots of bluegill sunfish. Kids love catching these large, easy-to-catch fish, which somewhat resemble SpongeBob bully Flats the Flounder. You do not need a license to fish from shore in a Texas state park. If you do not have your own equipment, you can borrow some from a Ranger.
This winding 1.5-mile trail is rated moderate so, hikers need some experience, some stamina, and some special equipment, such as hiking boots and a walking stick. The trail doesn’t have much of a lake view, but it does go through some of the dense forests that once covered this entire area. Watch for armadillos, especially the rather rare nine-banded armadillo, as they forage for insects in the undergrowth. Cyclists are welcome to explore the park's trails, and this one is a favorite!
One of the nice things about Bonham State Park is that everything is pretty close together. The main swimming area is next to the fishing pier. Swimmers may venture out farther, but there are no lifeguards on duty. The lake is rather shallow (19 feet at its deepest point), and since it’s an artificial lake, there are no underwater cliffs or steep drop-offs. But watch out for riptides and underwater currents, even in a placid place like Bonham State Park Lake.
You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats year-round during daylight hours. Or, of course, you can bring your own. The main boat launch is next to the fishing pier, and also near a large parking area. The lake is oval-shaped and the water is quite clear, so it’s a great place to do some relaxing unpowered boating. The lake is a great place to spend the day as all the water activities happen in the same area, close to the park headquarters and campground.