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Lake Nacogdoches, located in the Piney Woods region of Texas, is known for excellent fishing, wildlife viewing, boating, and all types of water sports: swimming, sailing, kayaking, water skiing, jet skiing, wake boarding, knee boarding, and tubing. The summer drought of 2011 lowered water levels, uncovering a large piece of a space shuttle. The discovery attracted much outside attention, bringing many sightseers to the normally peaceful reservoir. That's exactly what happened when a hydrogen tank from the doomed 2003 Columbia Space shuttle tragedy emerged with the newly- exposed mud flats at the reservoir. The find was not totally unexpected as much of the debris from the Columbia rained down across East Texas that sad day. Still, it's not the kind of 'catch' most visiting anglers come here hoping to make.
NASA will haul the shuttle debris away to their laboratories, and Lake Nacogdoches will return to a peaceful place to enjoy the water and the sounds of nature. The 2,200-acre reservoir holds a number of private homes along its southern banks, while the northern terminus disappears into the Bayou Loco. The lake was created in 1976 when the Bayou Loco, a tributary of the Angelina River, was dammed. The reservoir provides a water supply and recreational opportunities for the City of Nacogdoches 10 miles to the east. In keeping with the recreational intent, the city maintains two small parks at the lake, which provide a swimming area, picnic tables, boat launch, playground and rest rooms. Westside Park offers a short nature trail. No camping is available at either park, but there is ample camping in the surrounding area as the Piney Woods is a favorite vacation area for Texas and Louisiana residents.
Lake Nac, as it is sometimes called, is becoming well-known as a fishing destination. Most sought-after are largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, sunfish and catfish. The catfish are said to grow huge, although they are not numerous. Largemouth bass tend to be the main target of anglers. Guide service is available locally for the angler determined to catch his limit. The boat ramps are suitable for smaller fishing-type boats and should handle speed boats suitable for water skiing and the like. There is no local marina, so visiting boaters are reminded to bring their own fuel. Residents have private docks and maintain their own facilities for water access. A disk golf course is located very near the lake and is highly popular, even with those new to the sport. Several regular public golf courses in the area will keep the avid golfer contained while the rest of the family relaxes on the water.
Located on the Gulf of Mexico coastal plain, the Piney Woods usually receives far more rain than the rest of the state, with higher ground usually covered with a variety of evergreen and mixed hardwoods. Only 10 miles from the City of Nacogdoches and Stephen F. Austin State University, property around Lake Nacogdoches is highly desirable for both vacation homes and year-round living. New developments and lots are being made available for building, although development will be tightly controlled to protect the lake views and the natural habitat. Cottontails, squirrels, opossum, whitetail deer and the occasional bear or red wolf can be seen near the lake. A wide variety of birds and waterfowl enjoy the usually quiet shorelines, making it an ideal place for canoeing.
Visitors to Lake Nacogdoches will usually find lodgings around the City of Nacogdoches. This interesting town, reputed to be the oldest real town in Texas, has preserved much of its historical character. The town claims to have been governed under a total of nine flags: In addition to the Six Flags of Texas, it also flew under the flags of the Magee-Gutierrez Republic, the Long Republic, and the Fredonia Republic. People from the United States began to settle in Nacogdoches in 1820 and Texas' first English-language newspaper was published there. In 1859, the first oil well in Texas began operation here, although it is nowhere near as famous as Spindletop, drilled in 1901 near Beaumont.
A completely modern small city, Nacogdoches has a number of hotels and motels, and a surprising number of bed-and-breakfasts, vacation cabins and RV campgrounds. The Nacogdoches Visitors' Center is located downtown in the Historic District with its brick streets and several preserved period homes available for touring.
The Stone Fort Museum on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University was never actually a fort and has a long and varied history, including being the site of campus unrest in 1942. Now the museum presents exhibits of local historical periods. Currently offered is the history of 200 years of African-American residents in the Nacogdoches area dating back to Spanish rule. The Sterne-Hoya House Museum and Library is of particular interest to genealogists as the library contains a collection of local reference material for research. And the Millard's Crossing Historic Village is a collection of homes and buildings such as a log school house moved to the site and restored to contain period artifacts and furnishings. Along with its rich history, visitors to Nacogdoches will find arts, cultural events, fine dining, night life and shopping.
Ten miles west of Lake Nacogdoches is the Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site, where history buffs can view evidence of the Caddoan Mound Builders who inhabited the area for 500 years beginning about A.D. 800. The park offers exhibits and an interpretive trail through its reconstructed sites of Caddo dwellings and ceremonial areas, including two temple mounds, a burial mound, and a village area. South of the lake near Lufkin, the 2000-acre Alazan Bayou Wildlife Management Area is a haven for hunters in fall and winter and for birdwatchers year round.
Lake Nacogdoches offers something for everyone. A few private homes are available for weekly rental and usually provide a swim dock and often a small boat. It's the perfect place to beat the heat of a hot Texas summer. At around three hours from Dallas, Houston and Port Arthur, you'll start thinking what an ideal weekend or retirement home site the lake is. So come spend a few days in Nacogdoches and check out everything Lake Nac has to offer. You likely won't find any space shuttle artifacts, but you may well find your heart has been in the Piney Woods all along - you just didn't know it yet!
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