For centuries, the "Big Thicket" - a complex mosaic of pinelands, Cyprus forests, swamps, pseudo-deserts and more - covered a vast swath of southeast Texas. Two hundred years of logging have thinned the trees, but this area is still one of the most biologically diverse places outside the tropics. Village Creek State Park is located in this unique part of the state.
The meandering Village Creek, which cuts through the heart of Village Creek State Park, is one of the only free-flowing Texas waterways. Along its banks, visitors will find plenty of opportunities for fishing, swimming, and other aquatic activities. The dense woods are quiet, shady, and serene. Village Creek State Park also boasts an extensive network of hiking and biking trails and a lovely indoor Nature Center.
If you want to learn more about the rich history and ecology of this area, take advantage of the park's ranger programs such as campfire talks, guided walks, and stargazing programs. Village Creek's scenic RV campground is host to 25 RV-friendly sites, many of which offer electric and water hookups. Once parked here, you'll be within easy walking distance of several trailheads and the creekside Day Use Area.
If you're looking for more adventure, there's plenty nearby. Big Thicket National Preserve, Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Sam Houston National Forest, and Sabine National Forest are all within reasonable driving distance.
Village Creek State Park covers about 1,000 acres just east of Lumberton, TX. To reach the park, most people take the Eastex Freeway (a combination of Highways 69, 96, and 287) north from Beaumont. The Eastex Freeway is mostly straight with little traffic, so even novice RV drivers shouldn’t have any problem with it. Roads to and within the park are paved, well-maintained. and free of any steep sections.
Lumberton is a small town, but it has several small or mid-sized grocery stores and general stores. However, if you want to stock up on RV camping equipment, it’s best to do so in Beaumont, which is about 10 miles to the south of the park.
Spots at Village Creek's main RV campground are mostly back-in, but they're quite large and there's usually plenty of maneuvering space. There’s also a very large parking lot in the Day Use Area. Parking is also available on either side of the RV campground. The road between the campground and Day Use Area is a bit winding, so take it slow.
Don’t let the “Hilltop” name fool you. This campsite is about as flat as a pancake, so it's easy to maneuver and park your rig. It has 25 water and electric hookup sites suitable for trailers and RVs. Pets are welcome to join you on your RV camping adventure at this campground.
Each campsite has room for your rig and also a 10 x 10 tent. Sites are equipped with an outdoor grill, picnic table, and a lantern post. They also feature a private paved pad that is guarded and shaded by the beautiful surrounding trees. Campground amenities include a dump station, restroom/shower area, and large recycling bin. RV and trailers up to 61 feet in length can be accommodated, and several sites are ADA-accessible.
Several trailheads can be accessed via a quick walk up the park's main road. If you'd rather drive, there's a large parking area at the end of the road, right at Village Creek itself. Same-day reservations are allowed, and you have up to five months in advance to book your site.
Primitive sites and RV sites can be taken on a first-come, first-served basis if they're unfilled. If you plan on arriving during the busy summer season, though, booking ahead of time is a good idea!
Organizing a youth group event? Village Creek has a lovely group campground that's set aside from the main RV campground. The area is shaded and sits on dry, well-drained soil, so you shouldn't have to contend with much wetness and muddiness. Facilities are primitive, and the area is just meant for tent camping. There are several picnic tables, lantern poles, and a large fire ring. The group camping area can be reserved for groups of up to 50 campers.
Looking for a more adventurous overnight experience? Village Creek has 16 primitive, tent-only, walk-in campsites. These sites are located right off of the River Birch Trail. Many sites are right on the creekside, while others are set a bit farther back into the sandy woodlands. Sites all have a large gravel pad (which helps with drainage), a picnic table, and a lantern hook. No hookups are available.
Primitive campsites can be reserved. Visitors should note that the primitive camping area is subject to closures when flooding occurs along Village Creek.
Village Creek sports one charming, creekside cabin. Well-shaded and just a short walk from the banks of Village Creek, this rustic-looking abode is furnished with several beds, a living room area, and a kitchenette (with a stove, microwave, fridge, and coffee maker, although no oven), AC, and heat. Visitors must bring their own linens and cooking supplies.
Outside, there are several benches and a picnic table. The cabin also has a spacious screened-in porch - a great place to enjoy quiet summer evenings without harassment by mosquitoes. Village Creek's cabin can sleep up to eight. Reservations are available.
At either end of the busy season (early spring or late fall), Village Creek State Park is the temporary home of many migratory birds species, so be sure to get those binoculars out of the camper. Seasonal visitors include pine warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, wooded warblers, yellow-throated vireos, white-eyed vireos, ruby-crowned kinglets and many more. Permanent winged residents include cardinals, hawks, mockingbirds, wood ducks, egrets, owls, herons, woodpeckers, and about 200 other bird species.
One of the nice things about the hiking and biking trails is that they are almost always heavily shaded. There are about ten trails, mostly in the thick, forested parts of the park. Some highlights include the short and easy Beechwood, Loblolly, and River Birch Trails, which are gentle, short and ideal for families.
The Water Works Trail covers much of the park's tremendous biodiversity in less than two miles. Finally, the Village Creek Trail is rather challenging, but it ends at the sandbar swimming hole. If want to explore the unique, diverse landscape offered by Village Creek State Park, all you have to do is step out of the RV!
Remember that the flora and fauna in Village Creek State Park is a combination of desert plants and swamp plants? The same goes for the park's wildlife. In the cypress-tupelo swampland, look for beaver, otter, frogs, and turtles. On the rises, look for bobcats, white-tailed deer, rabbits, and opossums. In the arid areas, watch for racerunner lizards, roadrunners, and armadillos, as they scamper and forage in the undergrowth.
Oh, and did we mention the alligators? They are cool to view as long as you stay at least 30 feet away from them and keep on your toes. These critters are a lot faster than they look!
Village Creek has a sandy, flat bottom, so it’s excellent for swimming or wading. This state park does not employ any lifeguards, so make sure to keep an eye on kiddos if they go out for a swim. Generally, the creek water is pretty cool until late March or early April, then it warms rapidly and does not cool off very much until the next February. Even when warm, though, the creek can be a wonderful respite from east Texas heat and mugginess.
For a relatively small park, Village Creek boasts some tremendous botanical diversity. Many of the woodlands here are considered to be longleaf pine savannas. These venerable pines are both beautiful and rare - their range, which used to span the entire American Southeast, stands at only 2-3% of its former glory.
Closer to the water, visitors can see water tupelo, river birch, riverflat hawthorn, bald cypress, and yaupon holly trees scattered about the cypress swamps. Further north, the landscape changes a little. As the land slightly rises, there are more pine, oak, beech, and magnolia trees. In more arid spots, desert plants such as prickly pear, yucca, and other flowering cacti thrive.
Bass, catfish, and sunfish usually bite well in the late spring and summer, after the water warms up. Jigs, spinners, and other small lures usually attract lots of fish in these creek waters. Catfish are fighters, so use heavier line. You may also want to consider using live bait. Park Rangers loan equipment upon request, if you forgot to pack yours in your campervan.
With several trails skirting the creek and its main branches, there are plenty of quiet fishing spots available to those willing to do a bit of hiking. Wherever you end up casting, make sure you have a valid Texas fishing license.
(A note to those who are planning on cooking their catch: In 2009, officials detected slightly-elevated mercury levels in some fish. That danger has passed, but anglers may still want to limit their consumption of Village Creek fish. If you have any questions about this, ask park staff.)