Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lakepoint State Park (Blog Hike #562)

Trail: Nature Trail
Hike Location: Lakepoint State Park
Geographic Location: north of Eufaula, AL
Length: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: January 2016
Overview: A loop hike mostly along the shore of Lake Eufaula.

Directions to the trailhead: From Eufaula, take US 431 north 7.1 miles to the park entrance on the right.  Turn right to enter the park, stop at the marina to pick up a trail map, and then drive to the campground entrance, which is reached by passing back over US 431 on an overpass.  Park in either of the two blacktop parking lots beside the camp store at the campground entrance.

The hike: Located in rural southeast Alabama, Lakepoint State Park occupies 1220 acres on the Cowikee Creek inlet of Lake Eufaula (or Walter F. George Reservoir as this body of water is called by the neighboring State of Georgia).  With its centerpiece 101 room lodge, 29 cabins, 10 cottages, and a 192-site lakeside campground, the park is best known as a base camp for people engaging in fishing or boating activities on the lake.  The park’s location adjacent to Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge makes bird watching another popular activity here.
            There are no extended hiking opportunities at Lakepoint State Park or in the adjacent wildlife refuge, but piecing together some of the short trails around the state park’s campground forms the loop described here.  Because this route weaves in and out of the campground, it is probably best to think of this hike as a campground hike.  Nevertheless the many views of Lake Eufaula make this hike rewarding whether you are camping here or not.
Road side trailhead
            No trails depart from your parking lot at the camp store, so this hike starts with a walk along the campground road.  Two paved roads head into the campground, one going straight and the other going left as you drive in.  Choose the one going straight to begin walking the campground loop road counterclockwise.  After 0.3 miles of road walking, you reach the trailhead on the right, which is marked with a green road sign and a wooden stile.  Walk through the stile to begin the off-road portion of this hike.
            Almost immediately the trail forks.  The right option makes a short loop back to the campground road, so you should choose the left option.  The wide grass/dirt trail heads northwest through loblolly pine forest with a seasonally wet area on your right.  Some boundary signs tell you that the land to the right belongs to Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge.  This initial segment of trail is my favorite part of this hike because the campground is nowhere in sight.
Hiking toward the lake
            Just shy of 0.5 miles, you get your first view of wide and deep Cowiker Creek/Lake Eufaula.  A large wooded island sitting less than 20 feet in front of you prevents you from seeing the creek’s full expanse, but it does not prevent you from seeing birds.  The bird tally on my visit included egrets, herons, and Canada geese.
            The trail curves left and begins heading downstream parallel to the creek/lake, which is intermittently visible to the right.  The lowest sections of trail can get rather muddy when water tables are high, so wear appropriate footwear if it has rained recently.  Ignore spur trails that exit left to the Alabama Loop of the campground, and then skirt the edge of the Barbour campground loop.
Skirting the edge of the campground
            Just shy of 1 mile, the trail comes out at the Clark Loop of the campground.  To continue this hike you need to angle left and walk along the paved campground road, soon passing the campground boat launch.  Where the paved road curves left to continue its loop, look for the trail that heads back into the woods, staying parallel with the lake.
            After another short stint in the woods, you come out at the campground’s swimming beach.  Unfortunately, this beach had seen its better days on my visit: it looked like a spot of bare dirt at the edge of the lake.  Some benches near the swimming area make nice places to sit and observe the lake.
Lake Eufaula
            The trail heads back into the woods after tracing the edge of the swimming area.  Almost immediately you reach an odd pyramid-shaped picnic pavilion.  To maximize your time near the lake, take the trail leaving to the right of the pavilion.  The trail traces the perimeter of a narrow wooded peninsula to start heading upstream beside a small inlet.  More picnic pavilions appear across the inlet.
            At 1.8 miles, you reach the edge of the main campground area, a vast network of pads and roads that opens up to your left.  The trail skirts the main campground area as the lake on the right turns into a creek.  Just past 2 miles, the trail seems to end at an intersection with one of the campground roads.  To continue, turn right to cross a small creek on the campground road bridge, and then look for the trail on the right immediately after crossing the bridge.  Walk through another wooden stile to begin the final leg of this hike. 
The trail leaves the main campground area for good and begins following the creek upstream.  Ignore a trail that exits left; it leads to the campground dump station and trash bin.  A short distance later you come out at a final stile located beside the campground entrance road.  The camp store and your car lie just down the road to the left.

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