Huntsville State Park is a scenic 2000-acre recreational area that adjoins Sam Houston National Forest. The park offers a venue for camping, hiking, biking, and fishing around Lake Raven.
Before European colonization, the park region was inhabited by the Bidai Indians. After disease and Anglo expansion eventually displaced the local residents in the eighteenth century, Spanish settlers established a foothold in what is today known as Walker County.
Later, after Texas won its independence, an intense period of lumbering began. This process stripped many regions in East Texas, but the Huntsville State Park area never experienced clear cutting. In fact, Thomas S. Foster acquired the land in 1911 for his Foster Lumber Company, but he made only periodic efforts to harvest timber from the region.
During the Great Depression, the residents of Walker County decided to purchase the area through the sale of bonds. They then turned the planning and development of the park over to the State Parks Board. Construction began officially in 1937 at the hands of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 1823. President Franklin Roosevelt had commissioned the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of his "New Deal" for the American people. It employed young men between the ages of 17 and 28 to give them productive work to do, but it also offered work to war veterans. Company 1823, largely responsible for the construction of Huntsville State Park as well as several other parks, included many African American veterans of World War I in its ranks.
A flood during 1940 broke the park's dam and threatened to end the project before it was completed. During the early years of the 1940s, Company 1823 began to phase out as many enlisted to aid in WWII. Fortunately, WPA and prison workers were able to continue work on the park and it was eventually opened to the public in May 1956.
Today, Huntsville State Park is home to beautiful camp grounds, a scenic lake, and over 21 miles of hiking trails. Visitors are able to swim, canoe, kayak, hike, fish and camp during their time at the park. Additionally, the park also offers ranger programs, nature centers and more modern overnight accommodations should guests prefer.
Cite this Page:
Kollin Fields, “Huntsville State Park,” East Texas History, accessed June 26, 2017, http://easttexashistory.org/items/show/92.