The Frio River Basin is a great place for a reservoir, and Choke Canyon provides most of Corpus Christi’s drinking water. But this place is a lot more than just a water source. Choke Canyon State Park is a great place to watch the sun come up over the South Texas flatlands, listen to birds rustle and sing nearby, and cast the day away in the lake.
Choke Canyon State Park is actually two parks in one. The South Shore Day Use Area is on the southeast shore close to the town of Three Rivers and adjacent to the dam. This day-use area is mostly for powered boats. The Calliham Unit is about a mile to the west. This part of Choke Canyon State Park caters more to campers and fishers. Other Calliham Unit facilities include a tennis court, basketball court, and a 75-acre lake within a lake.
This park is one of the newest ones in Texas. The state acquired the land in 1981, and the park opened in 1986. Much earlier, the mysterious Paleo Indians first inhabited this area in their quest for mammoth, bison, and other large game. When those animals left, so did the Paleo Indians.
Today, Choke Canyon State Park is a getaway destination for RVers looking to enjoy aquatic activities on the massive Choke Canyon Reservoir. The reservoir is truly quite large, spanning across more than 25,000 acres. This provides an idyllic setting for fishing since the lake is stocked with bass, crappie, and catfish. However, you will need to keep an eye out for alligators. No matter when you visit Texas in your rig, you'll want to make a stop at Choke Canyon State Park to experience all of its amazing beauty and charm.
Surrounded by the James E. Daughtry Wildlife Management Area, Choke Canyon State Park is located about halfway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi just off Interstate 37. So, whichever direction you come from, the trip to the park is interstate almost all the way. Interstate 37 is mostly a four-lane divided highway. It’s a bit narrow as far as interstates go, but there is still plenty of room for RVs.
Since you will be so close to Corpus Christi, stop in and visit Lake Corpus Christi State Park, which is actually in the town of Mathis, Texas. This lake is over 18,000 acres and has some of the best access to boating, fishing, and swimming in southern Texas. If you want to stay a night or two, you can find over 100 RV campsites right on the lake.
Three Rivers is the closest town to Choke Canyon State Park. There are a couple of small grocery stores in town, but for your stocking-up RV camp needs, you’ll probably need to stop someplace closer to Corpus Christi or San Antonio.
Choke Canyon State Park is rather small, so RV parking is a bit limited as well. There is one parking area in the South Shore Day Use Area and another one near the Callihan Unit boat launch, but that’s about it.
Calliham Campground features two camping areas right on the shore of Choke Canyon Reservoir that are connected by a one-mile hiking trail. Forty of the sites are best suited for RV camping since they feature electrical and water hookups. Another 16 sites are primitive and geared toward tent campers. All campsites have covered picnic tables and a fire ring with a grill to cook on, as well as a lantern pole.
Other amenities include two restrooms with shower facilities, several large sheltered picnic areas, and a screened outdoor shelter. There’s a dump station near the Group Facilities Area as well. RVs up to 55 feet long can be accommodated. Pets are welcome to join you during your stay but must be on a leash or otherwise restrained at all times. The campsites are available year-round, and reservations can be made up to five months in advance.
Choke Canyon has 20 cabins that can sleep up to eight visitors in case you were thinking of getting out of the RV for a couple of nights. Fido will have to miss this outing, though, because pets are not allowed. Also referred to as air-conditioned shelters, these are not cottages or hotel rooms with all the extras. These are strictly buildings with three twin beds and some room in the middle for sleeping bags or cots.
You won’t find a bathroom or kitchen in your cabin, nor will there be bedding or linens provided. But it will keep you cool during the hot southern Texas summer and protect you from the bugs at night. You will have a water spigot outside along with a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill to cook on. Restrooms with showers are nearby, and half of these cabins (cabins 10 - 20) are right on the water. Reservations can be made up to five months in advance.
Do you have a youth group such as a club or scouts? If you are looking for a place to camp with the kids in a wooded area with a lake, check out the youth campground at Choke Canyon State Park. This tent campsite area can accommodate up to 50 people with picnic tables, campfire grills, lantern hangers, and you are within walking distance to the lake. In fact, the campsites are so close you can see the lake from your tent.
Although there are no restrooms or drinking water at the campsite, you will have access to the restrooms and potable water at the day-use area just across the lake. The site also has a covered pavilion so you can cook for the whole group in the shade. Located in the southeastern corner of the park, you and the kids can have all the fun you want without having to worry about bothering the neighbors. You can make your reservations online up to a year in advance.
Do you have an upcoming party or family get-together? If you want a spot to host a large event, Choke Canyon State Park may be a good place. The indoor Sports Complex has a sound stage, tables and chairs, bleachers, and a full-size basketball court. There’s another basketball court outside, along with a tennis court. Other group facilities include a recreation hall, dining hall, and two outdoor group pavilions. Not only that, but your group will have access to the lake, trails, and all the other amenities.
Choke Canyon State Park is a great place to see unique birds and wildlife. This part of Texas is the northernmost habitat for several species of Mexican birds, including the Mexican Eagle. These birds come here for the abundant water supply. This area is also the westernmost habitat for alligators. Other land animals include coyotes, raccoons, and Rio Grande turkeys. Most of these animals live around the mesquite thickets that dot the landscape. If you want to spot any of these majestic creatures, make sure to pack your binoculars in the camper.
Choke Canyon Reservoir has some patches of cattail, water seagrass, and a few other plants. But for the most part, it is pretty much open water. The catfish and largemouth bass are usually biting. In fact, double-digit bass hauls are quite common. You might also see a few crappie and sunfish. Use spinnerbaits, rattletraps, crankbaits, buzz baits, and unweighted soft plastic worms to catch largemouth bass during the spring, fall, and winter. In the summer, don’t bother. There are lots of white bass in the Frio River channel during the winter. Creeks and shallow areas (less than eight feet) are good catfish spots.
The Ancient Seabed is kind of cool. Thirty million years ago, the Gulf of Mexico shoreline was about where the Choke Canyon Dam is today. The land formed during the Cenozoic period, which was right after the dinosaurs died off. There is still lots of silt and sediment left from when the sea retreated, and this debris are still clearly visible today. It's not on every RV vacation that you get to see an ancient seabed so be sure to bring your camera to get some pictures.
Choke Canyon Reservoir has lots of open water, so it’s great for boaters. That’s especially true of the water near the South Shore Day Use Area. Once you get away from the dam and out of the 30-foot no-wake zone, you can open the throttle and go a long way. There’s not quite as much open water space around the Calliham Area, but most of these boaters are fishing boats. Bring along some poles and try your luck at catching some bass or catfish for dinner.
Be sure to pack the sunscreen and water toys in the rig before heading to Choke Canyon State Park. The entire park is open to swimmers but beware that there are no lifeguards. Swimmers probably should stay away from the South Shore Day Use Area, because of all the powerboats. You can splash around in the no-wake area or near the dam, where boats are prohibited. The east side of the Calliham Unit is good for swimmers because the boat launch is on the west side.