The Fort Richardson State Park, Historic Site & Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway is not just one of the longest names in the Texas State Park system. It’s also one of the most significant sites, especially to people in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, as well as one of the most fun ones.
Jacksboro residents purchased Fort Richardson’s remains in the 1960s and turned the facility over to the state. Today, seven fully-restored fort buildings are the centerpiece of Fort Richardson State Park, Historic Site & Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway. However, as the name implies, there is more here than history. A pure, fully-stocked lake attracts swimmers and fishers from all around. Fishing is also available under a picturesque bridge that spans Lost Creek. There are also several miles of hiking trails for various ages and skill levels. These trails include an extra-wide multi-use trail that’s designed for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.
This park has about two dozen RV camping sites along the banks of Lost Creek. There’s a combination of rustic camping sites and full-hookup sites in a quiet and isolated part of the park. So, whatever your camping pleasure, you’ll probably find what you are looking for at Fort Richardson State Park.
Fort Richardson is outside Jacksboro, a quiet Northwest Texas town that’s about 30 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Highway 199, which connects these two locales, runs through some pretty Last Picture Show-type communities, like Springtown and Joplin. Alternatively, if you want to take the scenic route, take U.S. 180 west to Mineral Wells, and then take U.S. 281 north to the park.
For the most part, Highway 199 is probably the way to go. Between the 1930s and 1950s, the Fort Worth portion of the Jacksboro Highway was known for its many nightclubs where people enjoyed legal and quasi-legal activities. Supposedly, the first-ever Texas Hold ‘Em games formed here, with characters like “Amarillo Slim” Preston gathered around the tables.
Today, Highway 199 is a predominantly two-lane asphalt road. However, it’s very straight and has very wide shoulders. So, it’s easy to drive and visibility is good. The only sharp curves are just west of Springtown. Jacksboro not a huge town, but weary RV travellers can buy gas and groceries here.
There is lots of large vehicle parking inside Fort Richardson State Park. The parking areas include the fort, lake, sheltered picnic area, and major trail heads.
On the other side of Lost Creek, there are 18 water and electrical RV hookup sites. These more accessible sites are closer to the main park road. They are mostly back-in sites, although there are a few pull-throughs as well. A large, multi-trail parking area is in the middle of this campground. RV campers can use the restroom and shower facilities at the nearby West Camping Loop. In addition to trail access, the East Campground has an outdoor volleyball court.
These 19 mostly pull-through sites are on the west side of Lost Creek. All these RV sites have electrical and water hookups. There are four additional full hookups sites available as well. Plus, they are all shady, spacious, level, and quiet. Each site has its own picnic table and grill-covered fire ring. So, you can enjoy outdoor meals or good old-fashioned campfires. Campground amenities include a restroom and shower area, RV dump station, and hiking trail access.
Twice every weekday, rangers provide walking tours of Fort Richardson and the surrounding areas. These extensive tours are very informative. They usually take about two hours. RV campers also enjoy special events throughout the year, including military reenactments, live historical recreations, a barbecue cook-off and a trout fishing tournament.
The quarter-mile Kicking Bird Loop Trail is the park’s major birding area. In case you’re wondering, this trail was named after a Kiowa chief and not Graham Greene’s memorable character in Dances with Wolves. There are lots of colorful songbirds here, particularly in the spring and fall migratory seasons. Larger birds, like Great Blue Herons, are usually in the sky as well. The summer is pretty busy too, as there are lots of native birds in the area trees. The North Unit’s Oak Ridge Trail is also a pretty good place to take your RV and see birds and wildlife. With so much to see don't forget to pack your binoculars in your camper or trailer.
You knew we had to include this one. Immediately after the Civil War, Fort Richardson was basically the anchor for a series of Army installations which facilitated immigration to North Texas. Most RV campers begin their tour of this reconstructed facility at the Interpretive Center. Then, they go to the Nature Center on the parade grounds. The restored or recreated buildings include enlisted barracks, officer barracks, bakery, guard house, commissary, and hospital.
The nine-mile Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway connects the main unit and the north unit. The moderate trail is a bit long, but it is mostly flat. It goes by the fort and some other interesting historical landmarks, such as an old railroad depot that operated from 1898 until the 1970s. For something completely different, try the half-mile Lost Creek Nature Trail. It runs in a straight line parallel to Lost Creek, or the Lost Creekbed, depending on when you visit. The easy trail is stroller and wheelchair-friendly. Honorable mention goes to the 1.46-mile Prickly Pear Trail, which is a good place to leave your rig and explore the Northwest Texas prairie. Any of these routes are great choices when you want to stretch your legs out of the campervan for a while.
Quarry Lake does not have a designated swimming area. So, if you want to take a dip, literally the entire lake is yours. Much of the shore is relatively sandy. The northern portion has both sand and shade trees. Most of the swimmers are on this part of the lake, since most of the fishermen are on the opposite side. The lake is not too deep, has a gently sloping bottom, and virtually no undercurrents. There is a swimming area at the park’s North Unit, which is on the shores of Lake Jacksboro. This swimming beach is next to a RV and trailer parking area and a restroom and changing area.
You do not need a license to fish from the shores of Quarry Lake or Lost Creek. In fact, you do not need fishing equipment or money either. Free loaners are available at the park headquarters. The headquarters building is conveniently located on the Quarry Lake shore next to a large RV parking area. There’s also a store here, which sells firewood, ice, and souvenirs. This lake is heavily-stocked with trout, and a five-a-day limit usually applies. Most people say the best fishing spot is near the park road. Other anglers go past Fort Richardson to Lost Creek. A pool under the bridge almost always has water. The rest of Lost Creek is dry sometimes, but when there is water, there are usually fish.