For those you in Southeast Texas that are looking for a little adventure, the Army Corp of Engineers has something you might want to look into. And that is a series of primitive camping spots set up along the Angelina and Neches rivers.
The Corp calls these camping spots “Primitive Campsites” and here is a list from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website. As of July 18, 2010, these is no fee to use these sites, and they have to be reserved. To reserve the site, you just fill out a form, fax mail or hand deliver it to the Town Bluff Project Office (phone number 409-429-3491) and they will give you a permit to use the spot. These primitive camping spots are reserved on a first com first served basis – so do not wait until the last minute to reserve the spot you want.
Primitive Campsite List
1. Bluff 1
2. Bluff 2
3. Hamilton Lake 1
4. Hamilton Lake 2 (Closed Indefinitely)
5. Hamilton Lake 3 (Closed Indefinitely)
6. Angelina 1
7. Angelina 2
8. Angelina 3
9. Angelina 4
10. Moon Lake 1
11. Moon Lake 2
12. Moon Lake 3
13. Warden 1 (Closed)
14. Warden 2 (Closed)
Between June 18, 2010 and July 16, 2010 my kids and I have camped at 3 of the spots – Hamilton Lake 1, Bluff 1 and Angelina 1. Angelina 1, 2 3 and 4 are all located close to each other. So while I was at Angelina 1, I walked over to the others and took a look.
The Angelina River runs south out of Lake Sam Rayburn, merges with the Neches river at the forks of the river and empties into Steinhagen Reservoir. The level of the Angelina River is controlled by how much water is released from Lake Sam Rayburn – which means that flooding is somewhat rare. When water is released from Lake Sam Rayburn, the level of the river rises – but only by a foot or so – and the cool water from the lakes bottom helps cool the river down.
Boat launches are located in the Martin Dies State Park, Walnut run, Hen House Ridge and at Bevilport – which is on Farm to Market Road 2799.
Before we went camping, my son and I took a trip to the river and scouted some of the spots. This was in February of 2010.
Hamilton Lake 1 was the first spot stayed at – the party included my son, my nephew and myself. When arriving at HL1 you have to pay attention, because its easy to pass up. We launched the boat at Bevil Port and headed south along the Angelina river. Heading south, HL1 is on the left – the bad thing, its in the bend of a river that turns to the right. So as your looking to the right (looking for other boats or stumps that might suddenly appear in the curve), there is a good chance that your going to pass HL1 right up. I know because we passed HL1 up and did not realize it until we hit Angelina 1. After realizing that we passed HL1 up, we turned the boat around and headed north. Going north, you still need to pay attention – because the camping spot does not have a wide opening. All you really see is the sign, and a small spot to dock the boat.
Some of the things I liked about Hamilton Lake 1:
- Lots of shade.
- Good perch fishing – the cypress trees provide a natural habitat for all kids of fish.
- Privacy – lots of trees make it difficult for people on the river to scan your camp site.
One thing that I did not like about HL1, is that the trees also blocked out a lot of the wind. It got hot that night, really hot.
HL1 has a nice picnic table and lantern hanger. The hanger looks like its made out of 2 inch pipe, its galvanized and is cemented into the ground. Lets just say that the lantern hanger is sturdy enough to hang a loaded large MOLLE pack from it and its not going to move.
Hunting – if your planning on using the public hunting land, there is a hunting lease that stops about 200 feet from HL1. So there is a nice buffer zone. Something worth noting, Hamilton Lake 1 and Bluff 1 are about 200 – 300 feet apart and are the narrow spot of a peninsula.
Overall, I found camping at Hamilton Lake 1 a pleasant experience.
Bluff 1 was the second spot we stayed at – the party included my son, son-in-law, friend of the family and myself. When arriving at Bluff 1, its going to be easy to find. When launching at Bevil Port, Bluff 1 is going to be the first camping spot you come to. There is a camping spot at a hunting lease just south of Bevil Port, do not stop there. When you see the sign that say “Bluff 1 – camping by reservation only” you know your at the right place. This is on the bend of the river, (like Hamilton Lake 1), but in this case, its at the end of a straight away.
Dock the boat on the left hand side of the camping spot, and its a short uphill walk – maybe 100 feet – to where the picnic table and lantern hanger are setup.
To the right hand side of Bluff one is an old logging road that runs through a deer lease. Tire tracks on the road showed to be recent, so if someone drives up while your camping, do not be surprised.
Some of the things I liked about Bluff 1:
- It has a rope swing – make sure you land past the drop off.
- Nice swimming area.
- Nice open area overlooking the river – provides breeze and photography opportunity.
- Hunting – there is a hunting lease that bumps right up against Bluff 1, so you might have company during hunting season.
Between Hamilton Lake 1 and Bluff 1 – this provides a unique hunting opportunity, as both camping spots are on the choke point of a peninsula. Everything on the peninsula is public hunting land.
Angelina 1 as the third spot we stayed at – the party included my son, my step-son and myself. This camp site is close to the forks of the river – which is where the Angelina and the Neches rivers come together. This spot should be easy to find, as the camp spot is pretty open, and the sign is easy to spot.
There are 2 spots to dock the boat, but one of them is kinda narrow and is in between a couple of cypress trees.
Angelina 1 faces west – so the setting sun is going to heat up the camping spot. In the winter time this may not be a problem, but in the summer its going to get a little hot.
Some of the things I liked about Angelina 1:
- Nice rope swing.
- Good fishing – we caught some catfish and perch.
- Wide open so you can get a good breeze.
- Privacy – Angelina 1 is several miles from the nearest boat launch. During the whole time we were there, only a couple of boats came by.This camp area is a little close to some roads – so you might hear sounds of traffic through the woods. But there is no road access to the camping spot.
Animals – Your probably going to see everything from armadillos to snakes. While camping at Angelina 1, we left some worms on the picnic table. During the middle of the night, several armadillos invaded our camp site in an effort to find those worms. Since armadillos can not climb, they walked around that table trying to figure out where the worms were at. While camping at Hamilton 1, we had a deer walk right up to our camp spot, it started snorting, and then ran off into the woods – this was around 5:00am.
Fishing – If you have some fishing line and a hook, you can catch everything from bass, to perch to catfish to gar. The cypress trees that line the banks of the river offer a natural habitat for sun perch. Just drop a hook and worm around the roots of the cypress trees and you should be pulling up sun perch with no problems.
For catfish, use some worms or stink bait and fish out towards the middle of the river. This past weekend my step-son probably caught 5 or 6 small cats on nothing more then worms and a perch hook. But these catfish were no longer then 6 – 8 inches long – and all of them were thrown back.
While riding the river in the boat, we saw several gar fish ranging in sizes from 2 – 4 feet.
Gators – There are a bunch of gators in the Angelina and Neches rivers – so keep an eye out for them.
Mosquitoes – There are 2 things that needs to be at the top of your list – bug spray and a good quality tent. And not just “any” tent – it needs to be mosquito proof. If your planning on hammock camping – make sure its a jungle hammock type of a fully enclosed bug net.
The plentiful bogs and slews give mosquitoes unlimited areas for breeding – and they take full advantage of them. When the sun starts to go down, its like wave after wave of blood sucking parasites that have no compassion.
I found camping along the Angelina River to be a pleasant experience – expect for the summer heat. But even with the heat, being able to hit the river to cool off is pretty nice.
A couple of things about the Angelina River – it offers almost unlimited photography opportunities and a great chance to catch some fish.
The abundance of cypress trees, alligators, sun rises and sun sets – if you have a camera your bound to get some amazing pictures. One of the best pictures I took was just after sun rise, say about 8:00am – the river had a slight fog over it. Combine that with a cypress tree and a close to the water shot taken from the back of the boat.
The summer heat has set in, and as a result my summer camping has drawn to an end. On the last trip it was so hot, that I did not stop sweating until after midnight. As winter draws near and the temps start to drop a little bit, I can get out to the other camping spots on the Angelina River and get some more reviews posted.