In northeast Texas, among the Texas Piney Woods, sits Lake O’ the Pines, which is a reservoir that was created by the Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of the Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on the Big Cypress Bayou. Located just about 80 miles upstream from the Red River, the reservoir was created as a key element of a flood control in the Red River Basin below the Denison Dam in Oklahoma as part of the Flood Control Act of 1946.
Lake O’ the Pines: A Little History
As the construction went on, recreation, water supply and wildlife conservation were added as purposes for the reservoir. Construction began in 1955 and it was completed in December 1959. Originally known as Ferrell’s Bridge Reservoir, Lake O’ the Pines sits on Big Cypress Bayou, which is also known as Big Cypress Creek, and is chiefly in Marion County, Texas, although parts of the lake occupy small sections of Upshur and Morris Counties, as well. The dam is located approximately 8.5 miles (13.7 km) west of Jefferson.
The concrete and earthfill Ferrell’s Bridge Dam is 10,600 feet long. The conservation storage capacity of Lake O’ the Pines is 250,000-acre feet and it covers about 17,.000 acres in surface area. The bayou is 140 miles long and has a total drainage area of 850 square miles. The lake provides water supply storage for the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District, which has served the cities of Jefferson, Ore City, Lone Star, Avinger, Hughes Springs and Daingerfield for years and recently added and Longview. Lake O’ the Pines includes about 18,700 acres of water and 9,000 acres of land under its purview.
An East Texas Destination for Anglers and Others
Many refer to Lake O’ The Pines as the most gorgeous lake in East Texas, if not the entire state, or even the region. Its acreage is surrounded by beautiful pine trees that seem to reach to the sky and stand sentry over the lake. For those who want to get away from the city and enjoy the country and wilderness, Lake O’ The Pines may be the best choice they can make. Besides the daytime views of the beautiful pine forests surrounding the lake, the view of the stars through the pines are called breathtaking by many. Lake O’ The Pines is considered the ultimate getaway in East Texas.
As with all Texas lakes, of course, the main draw is the water, and Lake O’ The Pines has plenty of marinas, to make it easy to get on the water and have the time of your life. Some of the nicest parks and campgrounds in all of Texas are located at Lake O’ The Pines, as well. And, according to many who have spent plenty of time there, the best way to visit it is via boat. The three marinas on the lake are as follows:
- Big Cypress Marina is a high-quality marina located on the south end of Lake O’ The Pines. It is located in an almost perfect area of the lake, tucked back into a quiet cove. This marina, which serves as home to the Longview Yacht Club, features plenty of RV lots, including some with water and electrical hook-ups and campgrounds that offer wonderful views of the lake. There are plenty of places to store your boat, if you have one.
- Johnson Creek Marina is located on the east side of Lake O’ The Pines, just off Highway 729, near the Johnson Creek bridge. The main claim of fame for this marina are its floating cabins, which are available for rent, starting at $100 per night. These cabins feature a full kitchen and bath, air conditioning, a TV, plus a coffee machine, a microwave and even plates and cooking utensils. Each cabin comes with a porch and deck furniture, so visitors can take in one of those beautiful Lake O’ The Pines sunsets. Johnson Creek Marina also features boat rentals of all kinds, including pontoon boats. They even have one pontoon with an upper deck picnic area. This marina also has RV camping available, but, in something of a twist, they also rent RVs already there, as well. All RV spaces are on a hill overlooking the lake and the marina. All of that is in addition to a fuel dock, as well as a store that is fully stocked with beer, sodas, snacks, fishing supplies, ice and emergency marine supplies.
- Marley’s Bullfrog Marina is located on the east side of Lake O’ The Pines, just 15 miles north of Jefferson, Texas. Besides having the most notable name on the lake, many consider this the nicest marina is on the lake. The marina features covered boat slips, RV camping, and there is a very nice marina store right on the water. The marina also features many furnished cabins for rent, all with spectacular views of the marina and lake, as well as satellite TV, a coffee maker, full size refrigerator, s four burner electric cooktop, a microwave, a convection oven, and all the kitchenware anyone would need. These cabins which hold up to four people, also come with a deck with a BBQ. While there are no boat rentals at Marley’s Bullfrog Marina, there are plenty of places to store your boat and there is a boat ramp large enough to launch virtually any boat.
- It’s not a marina, but this list would not be complete without making note of Overlook Boat Ramp. This is one of the nicest ramps on Lake O’ The Pines, with a two-lane ramp and a huge double parking lot. The Overlook boat ramp also features some spectacular views of the lake and there is a great fishing pier there, as well.
As one can guess, Lake O’ the Pines features some of the best fishing in East Texas. The most common fish species in the lake include largemouth bass, white bass and spotted bass, along with blue, channel and flathead catfish, as well as chain pickerel, sunfish and crappie. This is where sport fishermen go to prepare for the tournaments they enter.
Something for the Whole Family
While the fishing is superb, there are many other recreational opportunities available to those who love the outdoors. For those who love the water, of course there is plenty of room to run a boat, or to paddle board, kayak, canoe, sail, or even swim. However, off the water, there are lots of trails for hikers and bicyclers. There is also a lot of camping available and wildlife lovers and birdwatchers find the lake and the surrounding area to be the greatest, especially when they see the bald eagles, who populate the area during the winter.
Lake ‘O’ The Pines also features a number of local attractions for those who perhaps don’t love as much outdoor activity. The surrounding area includes plenty antique shopping, a lot of dining options, and plenty of lodging, including locally owned motels, chic cottages, quaint cabins and lots of lakefront vacation rentals. Among some of the events that happen right around the lake include the Mardi Gras Upriver, the Annual Historic Pilgrimage, and the Christmas Candlelight Tour of Jefferson, Texas, as well as Stagecoach Days, the Fire Ant Festival and the audacious Christmas light displays in Marshall, Texas. Every spring, the Texas Wildflower Trail goes through some of the area roads.
Many who spend a lot of time at Lake ‘O’ The Pines cite the friendly locals, the temperate climate, and the overall relaxing feel of the area as reasons why the lake is a lot more than just a place to have fun.