The weekend I spent at Martin Creek Lake was cool and windy and sunny–not a cloud in the sky! Absolutely perfect for running around outside and a bit challenging for the budding nature photographer (especially in the woods).
This park has a couple of tent and RV camping loops, about twenty shelters, a small island with primitive camping sites, two regular cabins and two fancy cabins decked out with bathrooms and screened-in porches. There are a couple of boat ramps and a fish-cleaning station. There’s not much of a gift shop (I’m real into fridge magnets but had to make my own out of a bumper sticker) but there’s a nifty wood vending machine, where you swipe your card and a locker pops open and gives you about 8 sticks for $12. (I also saw a donation area with a bunch of rounds waiting to be split up.)
The staff were friendly and helpful (I even ran into a former Tyler park host that I used to work with, and I know he’s good people!) The bathrooms were especially nice and very clean. Actually the whole park was pretty darn clean, except for the island which had trash cans plundered by local raccoons.
The Trails at Martin Creek Lake Park
The main attraction for me at any state park is the trails; at Martin Creek I walked three trails, none more than 1.5 miles long, and they were decent enough to stroll along but not especially exciting (read: challenging.) There was a lot of standing water left over from rain the day before, but other than dodging puddles they were a comfortable walk.
- Old Henderson Road Loop trail had some very gradual elevation changes. It’s mostly tucked back into the woods but does border the lake a bit for some pretty views.
- The Island trails are well-worn and connect all the camp sites. There are a few places where they emerge onto the lake shore, and some grassy spots where you get out of the woods for a while and into the sun.
- Harmony Hill Loop trail was my favorite, mostly because it goes through an old pine plantation where the trees are all lined up in neat rows for a cool geometric effect, to which I wasn’t really able to do justice with my camera. It also leaves the woods for a while to border a field lined with cute little birdhouses and was overall very pleasant.
- There is, apparently, another trail called the Lake Front Spur that didn’t show up on my map, and I see now that while it also doesn’t show up TPWD website’s map, it does appear on the one you can access through the TPWD app. I’m guessing it’s a new trail, as there was a sign up near the park entrance saying they were working on renovations, and maybe the app maps are more up-to-date (something to keep in mind!)
For me the park overall was walk-able, but others may find it easier or more convenient to hop in the car or on a bike to get from the camping loops to the day use areas and or headquarters.
The Power Plant at Martin Creek Lake State Park
So I’ve covered the facilities, the trails, the park rangers–what else, what else…oh, that’s right. The power plant.
It was the very first thing I noticed when I pulled into my site–very imposing in the way its bulk dominated the view (and so many of the lake photos I took), with its three proud smoke stacks belching out clouds of white steam. When I arrived a train was leaving the plant and I remember thinking it was pretty noisy, but at least it was going somewhere else. But after the train left the noise stayed–the plant itself roars like a freakin’ jet engine. I couldn’t find a place in the park where I couldn’t hear it.
During the day I tuned out the constant sound pretty easily, but at night it was harder. The roar itself was steady enough to turn into background noise, but occasionally it was accompanied by a loud blast of air, or the screech of metal, or what I’m pretty sure was a little late-night jack-hammering. The train also came back regularly throughout the night–every time I managed to doze off the conductor would laugh and give a rousing blast of his horn.
I took gauze out of my first-aid kid and stuffed it in my ears, but this was the kind of sound that requires professional-grade ear protection.
I took a nap when I got back home.
I give the lovely, hilariously loud Martin Creek Lake State Park four stars–with an upgrade to five if you bring your own earplugs.