Toledo Bend is a man-made lake that was a joint venture between Louisiana and Texas. The lake area is 185,000 acres, and it is the largest lake in the South.
The lake does more than generate electricity and hold back flood waters with the dam, it is THE destination for recreation for the area of Louisiana known as Sportsman’s Paradise.
I have been going to “the lake” since I was a little girl, and my Mama and Daddy would take me there on balmy Louisiana days to go for a swim. I brought my children there, and now they bring their children there.
There are fishing tournaments galore, and men (and women, of course) love fishing for the giant bass to mount, or at least some trout or perch for dinner. I think that at least half of the families in our area have a boat, and probably even more have a camper.
I spent the night with my son, Andrew, and my grandson, Jackson, up there a couple of months ago, and Andrew brought us out on his party barge, just as the sun was setting. He stopped the engine for a moment, just so that we could take in the vast beauty of our surroundings. We could see the inlets of both Texas and Louisiana from our little spot in the water, as the trees turned dark, and the sky a golden orange. Andrew said that there was no place on earth that he would rather be at that moment. I had to agree, this was the life.
I have always been a state park type of girl. Seems to me that the states always save the most breathtaking views for themselves, and I am so thankful.
On the Louisiana side of the lake, my main stomping grounds, there are three state parks, two of which are operated by the SRA (Sabine River Authority-a joint LA/TX commission), and one ran by the state of Louisiana. There are also a few run down old private parks that are past their heyday, and there is a ton of new development going on in the area right now.
My favorite has always been South Toledo Bend State Park. It is beautiful, and well maintained, and the campsites are easy to get in and out of. Each camping space has a little wooded area to give you a little privacy, plus a picnic table and grill. You view could be of the lake, or the tall pine-wood forests, but both are amazingly relaxing and beautiful.
I have camped alone (except for my dogs, and the occasional grandkid, of course) almost every time I have gone to the lake in the last 15 years. I don’t know why my husband doesn’t like to go, but it isn’t his thing.mI don’t make him feel obligated, nor do I let his disinterest stop me.
I have always felt 100% safe at South Toledo Bend. They lock the gates around 10 PM, and keep them locked until around 6 AM.
When we had a 32’ Class A motorhome, I was very comfortable driving it there, and setting it up myself. All of the sites were easy to navigate, and several are pull-throughs.
Of course there is no WIFI, TV, phone signal or anything like that out there. You go there for the peace and serenity. I read, paint, sew, and walk around the park, really enjoying being unplugged.
There is a nice park information center and walking trails, too. Booking is now done through a state program, rather than calling them directly, so it is not as easy to get the spot you want, or arrive early. There are a couple of secluded cabins, nothing included, but they have always been booked up when I looked into it. https://louisianastateparks.reserveamerica.com/
STB now has a connected ATV trail for 4-wheelers (quads) and it is a nice, safe trail for families and those who don’t have a need to get stuck in the mud pits down the road. (Sabine ATV Park on the other hand, is wild, crazy, and you can plan on getting stuck.)
The next park up from STB is SRA Park-site 15, AKA Pleasure Point. There were cabins there, when I was younger, and you can see remnants of the dilapidated structures, just past “do not enter” signs hanging across the old roadway.
Pleasure Point is divided into 2 main sections, an upper (monthly-long-term/up to 6 months) camping, and overnight/weekend (up to a month) lower section. There is a boat ramp, of course, and the lower campground has a small beach and playground. (Watch for alligators.) I think there are a couple of rentable screen structures/cabins that can still be rented in the lower area. There are a couple of nice, clean bathhouses, as well.
The lower level is full of families, picnics, bicycles, bonfires and semi-family friendly parties, but there are park caretakers on golf carts, making their rounds to make sure things don’t get too crazy, or go on too late.
The upper level has two seasonal crowds, for the most part. (Of course, there is the occasional little old lady with dogs, like me, who really doesn’t care what everyone else is doing, lol) There are the fishermen, they like to stake their spots just before the fishing gets good, around January. They haul up their campers, boats, fish fryers and crawfish pots, and stake claim through about July. Lots of bon fires and BBQ’s at night, and everybody kinda knows everybody, as the same crowds come in, year after year. My BFF Kaye, and her husband were part of this crowd, and I have been the little old lady in this season, but I much prefer the summer.
Then there is the summer bunch. More young people, young families, skiiing, fishing, cookouts and parties, but with a few more young children running around. Again most know each other, if not in the beginning, by the end of the season, and the crowd doesn’t change a whole lot from year to year. This is when my son, Andrew, and his friends used to go. Me, too, because I like being outside when it is warm. (Most of them are buying their own camps now, rather than going to the park. They want to be able to utilize their boats year round.)
I love the peacefulness of Pleasure Point, and much more enjoy the community of the monthly area, and have never been interested in loading the camper up (we now have a 5th wheel-and Arick (hubby) hauls it wherever I want to go, then picks it back up when I am done.) and going to all of that work for just a few days. I like to set up camp and stay a while! (You have to book pretty far in advance, too, because they book up fast. There is a 2-3 month waiting list for the monthly rentals.)
My daughter, Candi, and her husband and children often go to the lower level, and we are about to have our second family Easter get together out there in a couple of weeks. They cook out, fish, and the kids swim, and try to catch minnows and such, and it is great family time away from the responsibilities of home. It is such a peaceful area for hunting Easter eggs, and having a big family meal, too.
Pleasure Point is not quite as updated as STB, but the grounds are kept clean, there is security, lots of room to move around, and many opportunities to socialize. The gates here, too, are locked from 10 PM to 6 AM. (Monthly guests have a gate code.) For more info: http://srala-toledo.com/page.aspx?menuId=8
The next option, another SRA property, is Cypress Bend State Park. In it’s day, it was the fancy-schmancy place for the rich people who didn’t want to “camp”. It was (and to an extent, still is) the local place for a destination wedding. (Think Steel Magnolias) http://www.cypressbend.com
Even the main road gets wider as you get closer to Cypress Bend. Bicycle lanes are added to the highway. (I must admit, these are the only bicycle lanes that I have ever seen in the state of Louisiana. The only others I have ever seen were in Austin, TX and Seattle, WA- so maybe they are not fancy to everybody, but around here, they are hoity-toity.)
Cypress Bend has a big ole fancy entrance, freshly paved roads, and impeccable landscaping. (Oh, and the only WIFI within an hour’s distance around). There is a spa and a golf course, as well as perfect views of the lake, of course.
Cypress Bend is an older resort, now operated by Best Western, and while the property is far from new, it is clean and well kept. There are banquet facilities and catering available, as well. If I had to give a descriptive of Cypress Bend, I guess I would say Dirty Dancing. Without the dancing, and no Patrick Swayze character, of course.
If I was considering a girl trip to the lake for just a weekend, Cypress Bend would be my destination.
My other daughter, Mandi, and her husband get together with her father’s family and cousins and spend the weekend a few times a year. Sometimes they stay at a relative’s camp, sometimes they rent a house, (or two-depending on how many cousins are going). They love having a kitchen, and private bedrooms for everyone, and having a yard to themselves.
I have already decided (upon Mandi’s recommendation) where my next trip to the lake will be, and that is my own (rental) cabin. I am staying all week, inviting my besties (Kaye, Theresa and Sherry) to scrapbook with me for a few days, taking a couple of days to myself to paint (or sleep!) and then having the grandkids over to hang out and play board games for a day or two. (Jackson is a whiz at Jinga, and Jesslyn loves Monopoly.)
My recommendation for getting a nice, clean, new cabin would be to choose Toledo Bend Cabins. The owners are good people, the view is spectacular, and there is even foosball for the kids. (and a kitchen nicer than mine at home!) They have online booking, and a Facebook page.(facebook.com/toledobendcabins)
I highly recommend spending some time at Toledo Bend Lake any time you are in the West Central Louisiana area. You will meet some fine folks, enjoy our beautiful area of the state, and are bound to eat some good food! -Terri