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 seventeen 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 which 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.
RV Rentals in Bonham State Park
Transportation in Bonham State Park
Bonham State Park is just 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.
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.
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.
Campgrounds and parking in Bonham State Park
Campsites in Bonham State Park
Huckleberry Hollow Camping Area
If you want one of the two full hookup sites, make your reservations early. In addition to a 30/50 amp electricity hookup, sewer hookup, and drinking water spigot, each back-in site has a picnic table, lantern post, outdoor grill, and fire ring. Twelve other sites are pretty much the same, except that there is one pull-through site and none of them have sewer hookups. There is a dump station at the edge of the campsite, along with 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. Reservations can be made up to 5 months ahead of time.
There are no first-come, first-served campgrounds in this state park.
Seasonal activities in Bonham State Park
You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats 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.
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.
Hiking the Armadillo Trail
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.
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.
Exploring the CCC Fireplace and Footbridge
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 trial as well. So if you need a break, there are plenty of opportunities.
Sightseeing on the Lake Loop Trail
If you 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.