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One of the best-kept secret destinations in the Prairies and Lakes Region of Texas is Lake Limestone. The reservoir was created in 1978 when the Brazos River Authority built the Sterling C. Robinson Dam across the Navasota River. Originally built to provide drinking water, cooling water for downstream power generation plants and irrigation supply, the resulting Lake Limestone has become a favored recreational lake to thousands of visitors. Housing development has been allowed along the lakeshore in several areas with docks by permit, making Lake Limestone one of the hottest real estate areas in Limestone, Leon and Robertson Counties. The many miles of irregular shoreline encompass bays, arms and many coves against a wooded backdrop, offering cool and refreshing water recreation to all who arrive at the lake. Although only a couple of hours south of Dallas-Fort Worth and less than three hours from Houston or Austin, Lake Limestone's location between I-35 and I-45 is a bit off the beaten track and often overlooked by casual boaters. Many obviously don't know what they're missing.
When full to capacity, Lake Limestone covers 13,680 acres and reaches a depth of 43 feet at the dam. Because the water is withdrawn as needed, lake levels usually vary between one and three feet. However, years of prolonged drought lower water levels below normal levels, leaving residents' docks with little water. During normal rainfall years, the shorelines in residential areas sport many docks and boathouses offering shelter for the many species of fish found in the lake, making them a favorite angling area.
As is to be expected of Texas reservoirs, Lake Limestone supports a large population of smallmouth bass and three different species of huge catfish, including flathead catfish, channel catfish and blue catfish. Spring brings anglers eager to try for white bass and crappie. Several public boat launch ramps around the lake offer plenty of water access, although the one nearest the dam is sometimes closed when water levels are low. The lake holds plenty of underwater structure to attract fish, and the incoming streams provide the shallow spawning ground that several species require. Although Texas Fish and Game stocked the reservoir for the first 20 years, the fish stocks are now self-sustaining. A limited amount of shoreline fishing is accommodated in the public park areas along the shore, but most anglers prefer to fish by boat.
Lake Limestone is available for all types of watersports, including water skiing, jet-skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, pontooning, canoeing and kayaking. Swimming is allowed in three of the four parks along the shore, but there are no lifeguards. The Brazos River Authority owns the four parks, but three of them are managed by either Limestone County or Leon County. The park nearest the BRA office at the dam is managed by BRA. The BRA site offers boat ramps, a courtesy dock, picnic area, rest rooms and parking area. No drinking water is available and overnight camping is not allowed. The other three parks provide primitive camping, picnic areas, boat ramps and fishing areas but no drinking water. The shady campsites are well-used, and varying limits for number of continuous camping days are in place on all three.
Those wishing more elaborate camping facilities can take advantage of two private campground and marina facilities located at Lake Limestone. Camping at these facilities provides electricity, water and RV waste dump facilities, along with camp stores, bait and tackle supplies, pay launch facilities and even air-conditioned camping cabins and bunk houses. One of the marinas sells boat gas at the water. These are not full-service marinas for larger boats, but they offer all of the necessary conveniences for fishermen and day boaters. The BRA expects all visitors to follow their safety regulations and posted speed limits. A lake patrol assures compliance with floatation device use and safety equipment. Permits for waterfowl hunting on the lake are distributed by lottery during hunting season. All State fishing and hunting regulations are also in effect, and licenses for fishing may be obtained at the marina stores.
Several small towns are located within a few miles of Lake Limestone. The nearby small City of Groesbeck, located less than ten miles from the north end of the reservoir, is usually considered the unofficial hometown for the lake. Groesbeck offers several restaurants, hotels and shopping along with most services. Several festivals and celebrations produced through the year always provide a day's diversion from lake-based activities. Two historical sites border the outskirts of Groesbeck, including the Confederate Reunion Grounds, dating back to 1889. The Reunion Grounds were used until 1946 as the location for reunions of the families of former Confederate soldiers and contain a number of relics of the Civil War and buildings of interest to historians, including an 1893 dance pavilion. Battle re-enactments are held here regularly as are other community events. Walking trails and a boat launch on the Navasota River add to the appeal.
Just a few miles north of Groesbeck and Lake Limestone, the restored Old Fort Parker holds a vital piece of Texas history dating to the 1830s. It was on this site that early pioneer settlers followed Elder Parker from Illinois, settled along the river and built the fort with its stockade walls for protection from hostile Native Americans. An attack left Elder Parker and several others dead, with five captives carried off, including nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker. Adopted into a Native American family, the young girl eventually married and gave birth to Quanah Parker, last great warrior chief of the Comanche. The fort was eventually rebuilt and now offers several acres of replica buildings. Lodgings are available in two former WWII POW barracks that have been moved to the site and modernized to accommodate visitors.
Next to Old Fort Parker, the Fort Parker State Park offers a great swimming lake, fishing, camping and walking trails. The area is considered a fine place for bird-watching and nature observation. The Limestone Bluff Paddling Trails offer over five miles of quiet waterway along the Navasota River between the Confederate Reunion Grounds and Fort Parker State Park. The waterway winds between limestone bluffs and hardwood bottomlands, offering the opportunity to see whitetail deer, beaver, waterfowl and other native wildlife. Opportunities to enjoy nature in a quiet and unhurried setting abound around Lake Limestone and its environs. Several forms of lodgings are available in the area and range from modern cottages and resort-style rooms to the occasional private rental of a lakeside home. Real estate is available, often buildable lots. Lake Limestone is truly a relatively undiscovered gem in the heart of Texas, offering all types of water recreation to those lucky enough to find it.
*Statistics listed are those for years of normal rainfall and reflect the lake's usual levels.
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