Before about 1970, this part of the Texas North Central Plains was basically, well, the North Central Plains. But then along came Lake Arrowhead, and that changed everything. The reservoir provides pretty much all the drinking water for Wichita Falls, and offers recreational opportunities for thousands of visitors every year.
Lake Arrowhead is huge. It covers some 16,000 acres and has over 100 miles of shoreline. Much of it is completely unspoiled. In fact, Lake Arrowhead State Park is one of eight park areas around this vast lake, and Lake Arrowhead State Park has the most recreational opportunities. These opportunities include boating, fishing, an indoor nature center, hiking, and even a disc golf course.
If you plan to visit Lake Arrowhead State Park, an RV is definitely the way to go. This park has over 65 RV sites, and many of them are almost literally right on the water. The RV campground is very close to the fishing piers, swimming area, trailheads, boat launch, and pretty much everything else there is to do at Lake Arrowhead State Park.
Lake Arrowhead State Park is not far from Highway 287, which is the main drag between Fort Worth and Wichita Falls. Highway 287 is a mostly straight four-lane divided highway with excellent visibility and almost no hills. If you come north from Fort Worth, you’ll go through Decatur, Bowie, and several other picturesque towns. If you come south from Wichita Falls, you’ll barely get out of town before you need to exit.
Lake Arrowhead is a get-away-from-it-all spot that’s a bit isolated. RVers can take the direct route or the scenic route. From Jolly, go south on FM 2393. This road goes almost directly to the park. Or, visitors can take FM 2847, which is just south of Henrietta. This road winds around lots of farmland until it reaches Lake Arrowhead. There, it hugs the shoreline for a bit until it curves into Lake Arrowhead State Park.
When you get to the park, there’s a huge parking area near the main boat launch and swimming area. Additional parking is available near the disc golf course and Prairie Dog Town.
48 RV and tent campsites are arrayed on eight different little loops. Each spot has plenty of shade and plenty of space. A park road separates the campground from the lake and lake facilities, so the campground is rather quiet as well. A large restroom/shower area is in the center of the campground, and a large RV dump station is a short walk from that area. Each campsite includes a sheltered picnic table, 50 amp electrical hookup, and water line. If you are looking for a nice place to spend a week or a weekend, you could do a lot worse than this campground.
For those who want to be closer to the action, they offer this 19-site campground along a stretch of shoreline from Prairie Dog Town to the spillway. Several sites, most notably #59, have really nice views of the lake. The swimming, fishing, and boating areas are all within easy walking distance. Each site has a water hookup and a picnic table, making it ideal for kicking back and relaxing.
The four-site equestrian campground is away from the lake near the disc golf course. It’s a bit more remote than the other RV sites, and also a bit more spacious. Additionally, each site has a strong 50 amp electrical hookup, in addition to a water hookup, picnic table, and fire ring. The campfire thing gives these sites a real Old West feel, especially since each campsite has a horse tie rail like the ones Roy Rogers used. There’s also a corral and a sheltered horse stall.
All three prongs of the Texas Trio (bass, crappie, and catfish) bite very well at Lake Arrowhead State Park. Springtime crappie fishing is especially busy, particularly in the southern part of the lake. Stay in the shallow areas or fish from the oil derricks. The catfish are huge. Fish up to 40 pounds are not uncommon; the lake record is 75 pounds. Some anglers have teenagers who aren’t that big. If bass are your thing, concentrate on shallow water near submerged vegetation, bridges or the dam, especially during the summer. No license is required if you fish from shore. If you forgot to add fishing gear to your rig, loaners are available at park headquarters. There are two large fishing piers and two fish cleaning areas.
The swimming areas is off-limits to all watercraft and the water right around the boat launch is a no-wake area. Other than that, let ‘er rip. Lake Arrowhead is pretty close to a Great Lake-size body of water. This park is remote enough so that it is never terribly crowded, even on Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, and other summer weekends or holidays. If unpowered boats, like canoes or kayaks, are your thing, there’s plenty of room for them as well. Stay close to the shoreline, and you should have the run of the lake. The spillway is a nice place to paddle. The water is extra-calm and the oil derricks are rather cool.
The swimming area has a very nice beach which includes multiple sheltered picnic areas and a children’s play area. Or, you can go across the small bay to a more isolated shore that’s basically a combination of sand and rocks. The water gets a bit deeper and a bit faster on that side of the swimming area, so brave souls may try the small cliffs. Be very careful, however, as there is no lifeguard on duty. But as mentioned, the swimming area is a no-boat zone. Stay inside the boat launch and swim with a buddy, and you should be fine.
These little critters are reasonably tame and irresistibly cute. If you come at the right time, mostly in the early fall, you may also see lots of prairie dog pups. These little critters are even cuter than the grown-ups. Watch your step as you walk. They call this area prairie dog town for a reason. Their holes are all over the place, even near the walking paths and restrooms. Guided ranger tours are available. Please don’t feed them (the prairie dogs, not the park rangers).
The northern part of the park near the spillway is a little higher than the lakeside portions, making it a good place to see birds. In the fall and winter, look for geese, ducks, Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, doves, roadrunners, and snipe. No, really, there actually are snipes (Wilson’s Snipes) at Lake Arrowhead State Park. And you don’t even have to cry out “woo-loo-loo” or bring your snipe bag and stick. Further inland, there are a number of woodpeckers, owls, hawks, mockingbirds, wrens, bluebirds, and other types of flying animals.
There are three hiking trails in the park’s interior. The four-mile Onion Creek Trail is an easy, hiking/biking/horseback trail. It covers some changing landscapes and is a good place to view wildflowers in the early spring. The half-mile Mesquite Ridge Trail is a bit more difficult, probably because it includes a ridge and Mesquite trees. The half-mile Dragonfly Trail is a wheelchair and stroller-friendly trail which includes lots of information about local landscape and wildlife. The disc golf course is located just off this trail.