It’s a big lake with two big State Parks and big opportunities for outdoor fun
Even in their wildest imaginations, when Texas Governor Price Daniel and Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis dipped shovels into the sandy bottom at the Toledo Bend ground breaking ceremony in 1961, they couldn’t have pictured what the massive lake would be like one day.
There was already water creeping up in the lake then, waters which would in a few years swell to 185,000 acres. Tons of fish have been caught. Hundreds of thousands of hours of fun have been had. And the party is still going on.
Two good places to enjoy this magnificent man-made treasure on the Louisiana – Texas border are at the North Toledo Bend State Park near Zwolle and the South Toledo Bend State Park near Anacoco.
Toledo Bend is the largest man-made body of water in the South, and the fifth largest in surface acres in the United States. From the dam site, the reservoir extends 65 miles upriver to Logansport. It’s got wide open water, stumpy flats, quiet, shallow coves and everything in between for any kind of fishing and boating activity.
Camping in the piney woods along the shores is about as peaceful a place as you can find. Fishing here is world renowned, not only for recreational anglers, but for professionals who gather from around the country and fish in big-money tournaments here almost all year long.
North Toledo Bend
North Toledo Bend State Park covers 900 acres and is located west of the town of Zwolle, Louisiana at the end of La. Hwy. 3229.
A boat launch with a double ramp, a large parking lot, boat rentals, and a fish cleaning station, provides access to the reservoir. Fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, picnicking, and relaxing — all of these activities and more are yours to enjoy at North Toledo Bend State Park.
Campers love the quiet, woodsy camping area. There are camping sites, cabins and more than 60 RV pads in the park. Available day-use facilities include a meeting room which can be reserved for group functions, a full size swimming pool with restrooms for the summer season, and a laundry with all the conveniences for a long or short stay in the park. Nearby are entrances to two hiking/biking trails — a 1.5-mile loop and a more demanding 4-mile loop.
Beauty and privacy
Mixed pine and hardwood forest covers most of the park. It is widely recognized as one of the best state park designs in the system because of the beauty and privacy offered in the RV area.
But it is the fishing that brings most folks to Toledo Bend and the state park. One person who knows the lake from one end to the other is lake resident Jerry Thompson of Living the Dream Guide Service.
“Toledo Bend is one of a kind for bass and crappie fishing,” he said. “We have people from all over the country come here and fish. The lake has just about anything anyone wants as far as fishing. The north end is more shallower water and some flatter areas. The river channel and the deep creeks are there, but the coves and flats offer some of the best fishing.”
Thompson said fishing is good all year long here, you just have to vary where you go and what you fish with. He also said catfishing is good over the entire lake.
South Toledo Bend
The South Toledo Bend State Park is located off La. Hwy. 191 south of the town of Negreet, about 30 miles north of Leesville. Located on the big open portion of the lake, it has several small bluffs that extend over and into the reservoir offering a scenic, waterfront view. While the reservoir is nationally recognized as a destination for bass fishing tournaments, visitors to the park can also enjoy other outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, cycling, birding, camping and enjoying the many forms of wildlife in the area.
One important notice for those who plan to visit here. The South Toledo Bend park has been closed since the first of the year for much-needed maintenance and road repair. It will reopen sometime in late May, 2022, according to park officials. Make sure and get the latest updates before planning your trip here.
Camping is a favorite activity here as well. One interesting camping experience here is “glamping.” That is a combination of “glamorous” and “camping” — sleeping in a big tent, but one with a real bed, heater, fan and all kind of amenities. There are several “glamping” sites in the park as well as cabins, regular campsites and more than 50 RV sites, many with views right on the water.
Eagles and more
The area is a common nesting ground for bald eagles. Fish like largemouth bass, catfish, bream and crappie (white perch) are also popular here as well. Fishermen can set out onto the reservoir at the two-lane boat ramp area and come home with a freshly-caught dinner.
Again, we turn to Thompson for some expert fishing advice.
“The fishing actually picks up early in the year a bit sooner on the south end because if the weather does change, the fish have quicker access to get back to deeper water,” he said. “The fishing is just as good here as it is on the north end. It’s just different. You just have to concentrate more on deep water areas like points and dropoffs. We used to have a lot of grass, but the lake is going through a cycle right now where there isn’t much. They are working on getting that back.”
The park is also popular with those who enjoy riding on off-highway vehicles. An exceptional OHV trail is available for visitors at an additional fee.
Two parks is always better than one and if there’s any place in the state that could use them, it’s the massive Toledo Bend. The two parks are actually 30 miles away from each other as the crow files (much further by road) and, while they are similar in their facilities and habitat, there are also differences. Check them out and see which one would be best for you to visit.
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