It’s important to note that the park is broken up into two units, Birch Creek on the north side and Nails Creek on the south side of the lake. The two units have different addresses, which is important if you’re using your GPS to get there.
This was not a park I knew a lot about before visiting. It wasn’t on a bucket list, just geographically on our way home from Pedernales Falls State Park (when we do long camping trips we often try to hit two parks). The lake (truly a 11,160-acre reservoir) was originally constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers to help control flooding in the Yegua Creek watershed. In 1962 they began construction on the Somerville Dam, and by 1968 lake Somerville was dedicated.
Now it’s a popular recreational spot for camping, fishing and boating. In my research there’s also been some interest in oil drilling and fracking in and around the lake, though I didn’t find anything suggesting that any of the interest actually panned out.
I booked this park pretty last minute and didn’t really know much about it. We ended up on the east side of the Yaupon Camping Area, just because they were the only sites left when I booked. The park rangers let me know these are some of the most coveted spots because it’s where the bald eagles hang out. And sure enough, we saw two of them.
The sites were on the smaller side. Most had coverings over the picnic tables (all except our two sites, weirdly enough). We could see the lake through the brush. Even though the sites are small, they are pretty secluded from neighboring sites via trees and brush. The brush meant LOADS of animal sightings and interesting things to observe. Issa even found large clam (?) shell suspended in the brush, probably dropped by a larger bird of prey.
I really enjoyed staying at this end of the lake as there were so many trails here and we had access to the beach. It’s worth noting that there is no overflow parking so if you have more than two vehicles you just have to find a way to squeeze them in. Rangers were pretty forgiving about this.
You can book campsites online through Texas State Parks System, just click here.
Flora and Fauna
If you are into bird watching, this is the place. I have never seen so many Red Cardinals in one place in my life. We also saw Carolina Rens, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, and of course the Bald Eagles I mentioned earlier. We saw quite a few other birds, which I’m still trying to identify.
Being there in March meant we saw a lot of courting routines and lots of nest building. One bird built a nest in one of our camp chairs in a matter of hours. Another built one in our canoe. There’s actually a birds of Lake Somerville PDF checklist you can download.
Raccoons are plentiful and brave as we learned. Lots of fish at the water and of course deer too. We’re told there are river otter and bobcats, but we didn’t see any.
I hear the flora is gorgeous. With the Texas Freeze everything was a bit delayed this year so it all looked quite wintery still. There are fields of wildflowers and what looked like fields of wild blackberries (though they may be dewberries).
Lake Somerville is a HUGE lake. It’s fed by three separate creeks. Like I mentioned it was exceptionally windy while we were there. We tried to put in the canoe but realized the wind and water far overpowered us so we didn’t get any farther than the launch. I’m not sure if this is normal, but they do rent canoes and kayaks so I assume the lake is more hospitable to paddlers at other times.
This is definitely a lake you can bring your motorized boat to. There are two boat launches and a fishing pier. There were several boaters on the water, even with the waves.
Headquarters / Park Store
The headquarters and park store are one in the same at Lake Somerville Birch Creek Unit. They have a good selection of souvenirs and staple items like toothbrushes and bug spray. They do not sell wood or ice but they do have a map of places in the area that do. The closest is a rural corner store just outside the park gates.
Did I mention it was windy? I don’t think I mentioned it was windy. Oh, hey, it was windy. Temperature wise, it was great weather during the day (mid 70s) and got cool at night (40s-50s). Again this is early March, so I suspect seasonally it’s much different.
We had service here. At times it was a tad spotty but we had at least one bar at all times.
BONUS Beach Day!
We did not at all expect to have a beach day on our camping trip to Lake Somerville! After discovering the beach access on the Beauty Berry Trail (see hiking below), we packed a wagon with tarps and towels and whatever containers we could find for making sandcastles.
The kids played like a typical beach day in Galveston. We relaxed and listened to the waves crashing and the kids laughing. Layla had a grand time chasing sticks in the water and keeping a tight eye on any birds that might fly by.
We had the ENTIRE beach to ourselves. I’m unsure how crowded it will be in prime season or if with higher water levels there might be no beach at all. But at the very tail end of “off season” it was pure magic. Beachcombing adventures left us with pieces of petrified wood, what we think was jasper among others.
Truth be told, there is a lot of hiking to be had here that we just did not get around to. This is a popular Equestrian park so loads of trails, most are horse accessible. Lake Somerville Trailway which will take you from one unit of the park to the other, is over 13 miles. This is a large park and we didn’t even get close to hiking all the trails.
Bluestem Bend Trail (1.04 Miles)
Personally I did not hike this trail but my mom, Issa, Issa’s friend and my dad did. Here’s what my mom had to say about it:
We hiked the Bluestem Bend Trail up to Eagle Point. On our adventure, we spotted coyote scat, and the bones of a raccoon, along with one snake, ready to pounce- but unidentified. The brush here is relatively high, but the trail is a cleared pathway 3 to 4 people wide. The picnic table at the top of Eagles Point would have been a great place to have lunch.
As two kiddos 8 years old did this trail, it’s kid friendly, but watch for snakes.
Hiking poles, drinking water, sunscreen. As always, leave no trace.
Eagle Point Trail (0.14 Miles)
This is a VERY easy trail that takes you right to the lake. Worth it just to go to the water. If you’re looking for Bald Eagles, look towards the dead trees, that’s their favorite place to hang out.
This is the friendliest kid friendly trail.
You can totally just go for a walk on this trail. As always, leave no trace.
Beauty Berry Trail (0.78 Miles)
This is a FUN, quick trail on a mountain bike. It was on this trail we realized there was a mowed trail to the very empty beach. One could easily close their eyes, and with the waves crashing, you would think you were at the Gulf of Mexico. You can hear the waves from your campsite.
Totally kid friendly, I mean, it leads to a beach!
You can totally just go for a walk on this trail. As always, leave no trace.
Final Thoughts About Lake Somerville State Park – Birch Creek Unit
We will be back. I’m always curious what our state parks look like in different seasons. I’d also love to explore the Nails Creek Unit and Flag Pond, which we completely missed. There is not a convenient connection between the units unless you have a horse or maybe mountain bike for the Lake Somerville Trailway which is the only trail connecting them. Though, I suppose you could access the other unit by boat as well. Truthfully, while it is one park, I feel as if we have a whole other park to explore.
If you enjoy large bodies of water, fishing, bird watching and the occasional surprise beach day, this is a park for you. Learn more about Lake Somerville State Park – Birch Creek Unit on their website.