HUNTSVILLE STATE PARK
Huntsville State Park is a 2083.2-acre recreational area, six miles southwest of Huntsville, in Walker County. It was acquired by deeds from private owners in 1937 and was opened in 1938.
This park lies in the pineywoods of the Sam Houston National Forest, near the western edge of the Southern Pine Belt. These woodlands, dominated by loblolly and shortleaf pines typical of the East Texas Pine Belt, provide attractive camping and picnic areas and surround scenic Lake Raven, a 210-acre impoundment. Lake Raven, fed by three major creeks, offers fishing for crappie, perch, catfish, and bass.
Hiking trails have been constructed so that wildlife and birds can be observed in a natural setting. White-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, armadillo, migratory waterfowl, and fox squirrel are just a few of the creatures that may be discovered in their natural environment. Occasionally, alligators may be observed in the lake.
In the early 1930's, it was suggested at a meeting of the Huntsville-Walker County Chamber of Commerce that a large public recreation place, in one of the several magnificently timbered areas about Huntsville, be built. The Chamber of Commerce approached the Texas State Parks Board with this proposal. The Board told them that the community would have to donate the land. Twenty thousand dollars in bonds would have to be sold by Walker County to pay for the land needed. In early 1936, the voters of Walker County voted better than four to one in favor of the bond issue.
A site was selected, plans were drawn up by local engineers and planners, and submitted to the federal park board and the state board for approval. Under the guidance of such experts as Milton J. McColm, the present site was selected because its topography offered a site for a dam that would create a lake for boating, fishing, and swimming. On the site, Big Chiquapin and Little Chiquapin Creeks merged and flowed on to join Prairie Branch. At a spot below the junction, a dam was constructed.
In October, 1937, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Co. 1823 (C/V) was brought in to begin construction at Huntsville State Park. This company was also responsible for construction at Palmetto State Park, Longhorn Cavern State Park, Kerrville-Schreiner State Park, and Abilene State Park. The major structure built by the CCC at Huntsville was the dam creating Lake Raven.
A natural disaster occurred early in the park's history. Twelve inches of rain fell within two days flooding the area and on Sunday, November 24, 1940, the dam spillway collapsed. Estimates to repair the damage ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars with nothing approaching the needed amount seemingly possible.
The park was idle for almost ten years, until a new agency was called on for help. Director A. D. Folweiler suggested a plan to use money from the sale of timber to fund the rebuilding of the dam spillway and complete the park. A bill to authorize this was drafted. Senator Neveille Colson offered it in S.B. 486 during the regular session of the 51st Texas Legislature. The bill was passed and signed, authorizing the Texas State Parks Board to cut not to exceed $250,000 worth of timber in the park to be used for rebuilding.
Experienced foresters painted broad yellow bands on trees selected for harvest. Trees were so well selected that park visitors would find it difficult to tell where they stood. None, for example, were taken from nearly 200 acres along the entrance road and use area.
Engineering studies later determined that if the bed of Lake Raven was paved with clay for a predetermined distance behind the dam to stop seepage, a properly baffled spillway would succeed. The contract for the job went to low bidder Trinity Construction Company. The dam was rebuilt and accepted in April 1956 by the State Board of Control.
In anticipation of use, the Highway Department hard topped the roads and prisoners from Huntsville State Prison cleared underbrush from the lake shore. The opportunity existed to build a fishing lake as it should be built properly from the start.
The Texas Game and Fish Commission accepted the challenge to do just that. Aquatic Biologist Kenneth C. Jurgens surveyed the site, directed what should be removed and what should remain. Gar and other rough fish in the small channel were killed and buried. The lake was then stocked with black bass, bream, and crappie and a fertilization program was initiated to insure that they thrived.
The Huntsville-Walker County Chamber of Commerce dedicated and opened Huntsville State Park to the public on Friday, May 18, 1956.