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Sheldon Lake is conveniently located just 16 miles east of Houston in northeastern Harris County. This 1,230-acre reservoir covers about 800 acres of open water and 400 acres of marsh and swamplands. Although the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department manages Sheldon Lake as a waterfowl refuge and public fishing site, the reservoir has served many purposes since its creation during World War II.
Sheldon Reservoir was created in 1943 by the federal government when it dammed Carpenter's Bayou in the San Jacinto River Basin to provide fresh water for shipbuilding and shipping activities on the Houston Ship Channel in support of the war effort. After the war, the City of Houston took over management of Sheldon Lake and used it to provide drinking water for the city. With the construction of the Lake Houston Dam on the nearby west fork of the Trinity River in 1952, the reservoir was sold to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to use as a waterfowl sanctuary. The Sheldon Wildlife Management Area opened to the public in 1955 and was designated a state park in 1984. Sheldon Reservoir has survived Houston's urbanization over the past 50 years. The Sheldon Wildlife Management Area is the last remaining freshwater marsh habitat and refuge within the greater Houston area.
Sheldon Lake is a sport fisherman's dream. Free catch-and-release family fishing is allowed on Saturdays, and poles are even provided. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks the reservoir with many species including catfish, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, and sunfish. Boats with motors under 10 horsepower are allowed on the lake from March 1 to November 1; motorboats are prohibited November 1 to March 1 due to wintering waterfowl. However, bank fishing and pier fishing are available year-round. The catfish and crappie fishing are particularly good at the north end of the lake.
Sheldon Lake's protected status also allows waterfowl and other bird species to flourish in and around the lake. The non-profit group, Friends of Lake Sheldon (FOSL), hosts "Walks with Nature" every third Saturday from May through September. As of 2006, more than 250 distinct species made it onto the group's bird checklist and can be sighted in the state park. Sheldon Reservoir is also home to one of Texas' largest inland waterbird colony; more than 2,000 heron, egret, roseate spoonbill, anhinga, cormorant, and ibis nests are counted each Memorial Day as part of the Texas Colonial Waterbird Census. Sheldon Lake has also become increasingly popular for winter bird watching as more than 90 species can be found wintering in the park, including such popular species as Canvasback and Ross's Goose, Fish Crow, Ash-throated and Vermillion Flycatchers, Le Conte's and Grasshopper Sparrows, and American Bittern.
The Environmental Learning Center at Lake Sheldon State Park was completed in 2005 and offers many educational programs on the bird and fish species of the lake and much more. Some of the ELC's more interesting offerings include classes on alternative energy, green building, and composting. It also includes a half-mile trail, which passes 28 constructed pond areas housing local species including alligators and birds. The ELC also offers hunter education classes. Canoe trails are currently under development.
Although camping is not allowed in Sheldon Lake State Park, there are many nearby hotels with available accommodations. You can also camp at nearby Lake Houston Park. Future plans for the park include cabins and camping areas, although as of yet funds have not been raised for those developments.
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