During fall, usually late October through the first two weeks of November, is a particularly scenic time at Martin Creek. Visitors can marvel at the colorful foliage displayed by the many varieties of hardwoods, interspersed with loblolly and short-leaf pine trees.
We’re a family of 5 with kids ages 9,9, and 6. Our setup is a 35’ motorhome with 50amp service. We rely on the MH bathroom and shower but will take advantage of park facilities when they are acceptable. We have an inflatable kayak for smaller lakes and we like to fish and geocache. We also take the kids’ bikes along. We typically spend 2 or 3 days max in a park and consider things to do nearby, but most of our time is spent in the park itself.
Our park experiences and reviews are based off the above.
Martin Creek Lake State Park
We spent 1 night (scheduled for 2) at this park in early July ’12. We had reserved a 50amp site and upon arrival we were invited to drive around and pick a site. They had a handful of 50 amp sites available but nothing we liked. I couldn’t believe how many sites they had “caution” taped off! I guess they were cutting down some trees or something. After 4 loops around the camp area we finally picked #61 which was a 30amp site. On to the details:
Camping Sites – I was not impressed at all. As noted, we drove around the lop 4 times and finally deemed one of the sites best of the bad. A couple of the waterfront sites didn’t look bad but were reserved. This park was old and run down and in desperate need of renovations. The roadway was not great and the pads to park on in the campsites were old and very narrow for a big rig. Most had drainage ditches on both sides so you’d better be careful backing in. The sites that could accommodate our size rig were limited. Our site was flat and pretty well shaded, but generally old and run down. Spider webs all over the place and was worried something would jump out when I lifted the breaker box cover to plug in. Our picnic table was covered by a structure but it had webs all over the place and didn’t make you want to sit there. It wasn’t a great first impression to pull in to.
Lake/Swimming Area – the lake is bigger and as such the park is boat access for most staying here. The swimming area was just a big open space completely exposed to the sun all day long. It didn’t look gross or anything, but we steered the kids away from swimming. The water was very warm due to the power plant (more on that later) and were told it was great for fishing. I saw one person catch a 9” catfish while there but didn’t see anything else. We tried fishing one night off the shore and a rainstorm started about 15 minutes later so we packed up completely soaked without even a nibble. We tried again the next morning and had no luck. I didn’t see anyone having luck off the fishing pier either.
Bathrooms/Showers – I didn’t peak in but given the condition of the rest of the park I’d be skeptical.
Misc. – we can’t avoid the big elephant in the room, or in this case, the big power plant across on the other shore. I didn’t see it driving in but as we headed out to the island my son’s words were “we’re not very close to nature dad” when he saw that plain as day. Not a pretty sight at a state park. It puts out a constant hum that sounds like a train passing by……without stopping. So, moving past that, we hiked around the trails on the island for the two geocaches. The first part of the island was well traveled and fine to walk around. The 2nd half was less traveled and not so enjoyable. We didn’t make it to the other trails in the park as I just couldn’t even get motivated enough. It was hot hot hot and the park was a major disappointment. I normally like to find all the geocaches in the parks but didn’t even care here. As noted above it rained heavy our first night there. Woke up to find ants displaced everywhere, including our MH! It was a complete mess and we all looked at each other and decided to end our week long east Texas trip a day early and head home. We didn’t bother to spend our 2nd night in the park. It took a full day of complete cleaning once we got home to eradicate the ants from our MH! Tatum didn’t offer much outside of the park but there was a fairly nice playground area at their sports complex. We ate at the Burger Barn in town as a “night out” treat for the family……save your money. The day use pavilion looked run down and seldom used, a lot like the rest of the park.
Wildlife – we saw a bunny on the island, some sort of hawk or falcon, a dead bass washed up on shore (probably from the power plant), and about 5 vultures eating something out of a day-use trashcan (nice).
Not only would I never return to this park, I’m suggesting you stay away. What a disappointment and a terrible way to end our 9 day trip. I had a conversation with someone that was there for just a day (staying in Tyler) and she said that the park had been really nice at one point. She couldn’t believe the condition it was in now. That’s a shame. Even if the weather had been perfect this review would be the same.
Caddo, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Kickapoo Indians dominated this area until the 1850s, and from the lake’s fishing pier visitors can still see Trammel’s Trace, a Native American trail that became a major immigration route for Anglo settlers traveling from Arkansas into Texas. Facilities include campsites, screened shelters, picnic sites, hiking and mountain-bike trails, boat ramps, and a lighted fishing pier. You can take a guided tour of the lake or rent a boat from the store. Kids will enjoy the “perch-jerk” contest on Labor Day Saturday. Worship services are held in the park every Sunday morning from Memorial Day to Labor Day.