Whoever coined the phrase “the great outdoors” was surely standing on one of Tyler State Park’s 985.5 acres, taking in the sweeping scenery of East Texas and thinking of the best possible way to describe the view.
Located just north of Tyler in Smith County, the park is host to approximately 250,000 visitors a year for everything from boating to bird watching, making it the area’s No. 1 tourist attraction.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and opened in 1939, the park will celebrate its 70-year anniversary as a historical and cultural resource in 2009.
So Many Acres!
Tyler State Park boasts a 64-acre lake park superintendent Bill Smart calls “a main draw.”
“It’s known for its clarity, so we have a lot of scuba diving going on,” Smart says. “And we have a very well-designed swimming area that’s heavily used in the spring, summer and early fall.”
Bring your boat or rent one, swim or sun on the side, or “wet a hook” and see if you can outsmart any number of crappie, perch, catfish and bass in the well-stocked waters.
But the most fun at Tyler State Park may be on two wheels.
“We have 12 miles of multiuse trails for pedestrian and mountain bikes,” Smart says. “It’s probably the No. 1 used facility in the park.”
Tyler Bicycle Club president Joe Canal agrees.
“There’s an outer road that goes around the whole thing with feeder roads that go down to places like the swimming area and picnic facilities,” he says. “It’s got some pretty challenging hills with open access to the road and great parking. It’s the place we ride most, and the trail is better than any in the area.”
Activities for Anyone
The park has facilities and features for days – hiking trails, camping accommodations, canoes, paddleboats and kayaks – and attracts a wide range of groups and organizations. One of the more specialized of the bunch is The Dogwood Chapter of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society, a group that shares an interest in cast-iron cookery.
“It’s called a D.O.G. for Dutch Oven Gathering,” Smart says. “They come out once a month, camp, make meals, perform demonstrations and try to recruit new members.”
Park visitors and overnight guests share space with more native inhabitants including deer, raccoons, squirrels, opossums and varied species of birds – and everyone gets along just fine.
“It’s a very well-used park, but even when it’s full it doesn’t feel like you’re with a large crowd of people,” Canal says. “A lot of people, when they think about East Texas, think of the Hill Country where it’s scrub trees and prairies. But East Texas is hilly with a lot of pine forests and very scenic. And Tyler State Park is a really good example of what East Texas has to offer.”
Read more about the outdoors in Tyler, TX.