Lake Hawkins is located in a rural and thickly-forested county roughly 100 miles east of the DFW metroplex, making it a perfect getaway with some of the clearest water in East Texas and a white-sand beach that some have called the best freshwater beach in Texas.
Lake Hawkins was one of four small lakes created in Wood County in 1961-62 with earthen dams for flood-control purposes by the Sabine River Authority.1 Lake Hawkins is on the Little Sandy Creek which feeds into the Sabine River.2 The lake has a surface area of 776 acres and is fed by several springs which keep it noticeably clearer than most other East Texas lakes and at a relatively stable level even in the worst droughts.
Lake Hawkins Park was built in 1990 in cooperation with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on property owned by Wood County with federal taxes collected under the Sport Fish Restoration Act.3 The park covers about 55 acres, half-wooded, and includes roughly 1800 feet of shoreline on Lake Hawkins, about 700 feet of which is a beautiful white-sand beach.
Lake Hawkins residents are just as likely to be in shorts for Thanksgiving and Christmas as we are in coats. We occasionally get a frost in October that is enough to turn the trees brilliant colors. But we’re more likely to get a rogue one in late March that causes all the budding and blooming trees to go back into dormancy for another couple weeks.
We are just north enough that we can dip below freezing several times during winter. But we are still south enough that schools shut down over a dusting of snow. It’s not so much the snow as it is the humidity, which is the worst thing about both our summers and winters. When it snows, the temperature is usually barely freezing, so the precipitation can’t make up its mind whether to be rain, sleet or snow. This makes for terribly slippery road conditions. A real snow (an inch or two) only occurs every couple of years or so. Once every decade we may get six inches when the kids can actually get the rare experience of building a snowman.
Only a few nights in our lifetimes have we experienced temperatures in the lower teens. More likely is the occasional dip into the upper teens. But even exposed water pipes make it through okay as long as your faucets are left dripping overnight. It’s been very rare for us to see a bit of freezing on the very fringe of the lake. But if you are hardy enough to swim in Lakes Michigan or Superior during the heat of summer, chances are that you’ll be comfortable swimming in Lake Hawkins all year round! You’ll have the lake all to yourself because most warm-blooded locals won’t get in again until Memorial Day.
We pretty much straddle that line between “Deep South” and “Texas Heartland,” so you can choose your cultural experience depending on the direction you drive…
- an hour east to Jefferson or Caddo Lake for some serious Deep South culture;
- an hour southwest to First Monday Trade Days in Canton is an absolute must for some Texas Heartland vibes;
- two hours west puts you at the Fort Worth Stockyards for a Southern Great Plains experience.
See many more local adventure ideas.
Below is another interesting map based on the book American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. According to this author’s perspective, Lake Hawkins sits on the border of Greater Appalachia and the Deep South.
The book reasons that the founders of Greater Appalachia came from are-ravaged Ireland, England and the Scottish lowlands, bringing a culture forged by near-constant danger and upheaval. They value individual liberty and are suspicious of aristocrats and social engineers. The Deep South developed from a West Indies-style caste system, with democracy for a privileged few and slavery for many. They continue to fight against expanded federal powers, taxes on wealth, and environmental, labor and consumer regulations. More details here.
Likewise, Lake Hawkins straddles the Pineywoods ecological region and the Prairies & Lakes Region. We have an abundance of pine trees. When describing the area to non-Texans, it’s usually easiest to explain that we have more in common with the Florida Everglades than we do with the desert habitat West Texas that is typically visualized from Westerns. In fact, we even have alligators.
Here’s a timelapse of photosynthesis throughout the year that further illustrates how our part of Texas has more in common with the Everglades than with the environment shown in cowboy movies.