If you’re new to the East Texas region or just visiting our area, the Edwin Cox Texas Fresh Water Fisheries and Conservation Center at Lake Athens needs to be one of your first and most important stops!
Our friends Warren and Robbin Oakley stopped by for some fishing fun at The Cedar Creek Lakehouse in late March and we talked about how impressive the fishery center is. While she was here, Robbin encouraged us to make it a priority and go check it out!
We did and she was so right; I’ve been back twice because there’s much to see and do.
TEXAS FRESHWATER FISHERY & CONSERVATION CENTER
Admittedly, a lot of people refer to the center as a fish hatchery but that name just doesn’t come close to doing justice to what the fine folks at the Texas Parks and Wildlife have accomplished over the years with this amazing and beautiful attraction. And, that It’s next to Lake Athens with everything you could want or need for boating, skiing, hiking, camping and virtually all forms of outdoor recreation, this makes a stop at the center a double play in my book.
But first, let’s start with the fish. Immediately, when you enter the Fish Center, you’re presented with all manner of local Texas fish species and other life forms enjoying a natural habitat that you can observe, just like at your local city aquarium. Huge Catfish, all forms of Bass, Crappie and other less known species are plentiful. You’ll probably see a few Alligators hanging around catching some sun. But unlike your local aquarium, you immediately begin to notice how much of the space is in its natural, outdoor form thanks the wonderful planning and professional staff managing the entire facility. It’s great that Texas Park staff are knowledgeable and quick to answer questions about the aquatic life at the Fishery Center. There’s much to see and learn, so do plan to make at least a half-day of it, if not longer.
Speaking of fish; do you know how to fish? Have you ever wanted to give it a try? Can you actually catch fish at the Texas Fishery Center? What about the fishing gear, tackle and bait? No Problem. The Center is loaded with spacious outdoor fishing on two stocked ponds and there’s an indoor training center where you can learn all the best techniques and preparations for catching fish during your stay. And, best of all, you can bring some of the fish you caught home with you if you like! (For some good fresh water fish recipe ideas, check out my April 18th blog, Five Great Entrees to Make with the East Texas Fish You Just Caught .) All equipment, even the bait is included with your paid admission into the facility.
And, what about a big family gathering? There’s a covered pavilion with BBQ grills and seating for large groups.
Besides fish and fishing, the Texas Fishery and Conservation Center has a marvelous paved walking trail that takes visitors on a scenic trip through some of Texas most beautiful and natural aquatic and other vegetation growth, water fowl and wildlife.
This week’s hiking trail treated us to large, beautiful still-water lily ponds and Lotus blossoms with birds and turtles, Texas wild flowers, flowing streams, shaded forest areas and great places to sit quietly and observe Mother nature at her best.
While much of the trail has great look-out spots and comfortable sitting areas, do plan to bring a bottle of water along so you can stay hydrated on your short walk. A comfortable walking and resting pace should have you able to complete the round trip in a little under an hour.
As I mentioned earlier, The Texas Fishery and Conservation Center are next to Lake Athens. Lake Athens, formerly known as Flat Creek Reservoir, is on Flat Creek in the Neches River basin eight miles east of the city of Athens in Henderson County. The lake is owned and operated by the Athens Municipal Water Authority for municipal water supply, flood regulation, and recreation. The drainage area of Flat Creek above the dam is twenty-one square miles.
Fishing on Lake Athens is great year-round. Predominant fish species on the lake include Largemouth Bass, White Bass, Crappie and Redear Sunfish. In addition to fishing, Lake Athens is great for boating, jet skiing and camping.
The lake is served by the Lake Athens Marina and RV Park where you can get pretty much everything you need without having to make a shopping trip into town. The Marina has a General Store & Bait Shop on site for all of your bait & tackle needs along with fishing supplies, soft drinks, snacks, ice, and boat fuel. There are kayak and paddleboard rentals available for guests to go out and experience the beauty of the lake and its surroundings.
THE EAST TEXAS ARBORETUM & BOTANICAL SOCIETY
If you’re looking for an away-from-the-lake excursion, the East Texas Arboretum is a short, five-minute drive away.
One hundred acres of wooded beauty, trees, flowers and wildlife await your discovery at the East Texas Arboretum. The forest appears to come alive as you meander along two miles of woodland trails, camouflaged frogs, insects and even deer often scurry away as you pass. Make your way along winding, spring-fed streams connected by a 115 foot suspension bridge.
Experience life in early Henderson County at the historic Wofford House Museum. Built in 1850, the home was relocated to the Arboretum several years ago. It now stands as a reminder of early pioneer days complete with period furnishings, memorabilia and a seasonal garden.
The Arboretum is available to host reunions, meetings, retreats, weedings, receptions and picnics. Just imagine how beautiful a bride can be when framed in the arbors of spring and summer!
1601 Patterson Rd. Athens, TX 75751 (Hwy 175 inside Loop 7)
TARA VINEYARD AND WINERY
Interested in touring a real, working winery while you’re in the Lake Athens area? About 12 minutes’ drive west of Lake Athens, you’ll find the Tara Vineyard and Winery.
Tara Vineyard & Winery, the oldest winery in Henderson County, is owned and operated by the Pierce family, Susan and Patrick. Nestled in among the vineyard and winery building is the TARA INN housed in the historic Murchison home, constructed in the 1880′s and relocated from downtown Athens.
The TARA INN overlooks acres of vibrant vineyards, this turn of the century house consists of four large guest rooms, a special spa bathroom with a large Jacuzzi tub, a huge wrap around porch, and terraces surrounding the entire second story.
Whether looking for a quiet place to sit and read or a room to hang out with family and friends, you’ll find the perfect spot to relax at this spacious house. It’s open by reservation for overnight guests and is perfect for wedding receptions, conferences or other social get-togethers.
The Winery building itself, where Tara’s Award-winning wines are produced, plays host to wine tastings, fresh & healthy light dishes and an abundance of music and good conversation. Weekends bring in many customers for dinner parties and many special get-togethers.
8603 CR 3914 Athens, Texas 75752