Review: Fort Richardson State Park
Fort Richardson State Park is located in the quaint town of Jacksboro, Texas. In addition to the normal state park activities, it is a historical center that features an old West fort that was operational from 1867 until 1878 and served as an outpost for federal troops following the Civil War.
Activities at Fort Richardson
Activities include the normal state park activities like fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking, birding, biking and horseback riding. There is a 10-mile hiking path system throughout the park. The office provides hiking maps, which we recommend since we got lost on our family hike. Thankfully, we had gone far enough to satisfy us and simply backtracked to our camp.
Fort Richardson State Park is separated into two areas: one is a smaller area less than a mile outside of Jacksboro on US 281, the main drag through the town. The second is off of Hwy 59 on the northeast side of town on Lake Jacksboro. The first area is the location of the RV camping sites as well as some of the hiking paths and fishing spots. The second area is where the swimming is.
Activities at Fort Richardson State Park include fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking, birding, biking and horseback riding.
Although Fort Richardson State Park boasts a swimming beach area on the north part, be aware that the word “beach” is a lose application of the word. It amounts to a pavilion, picnic tables and a rock and pebble-ridden patch of scrub that measures about 100 feet. You hobble your way into the water until you reach the squishy mud bottom. That’s not to say it isn’t nice, but if you’re partial to a pool or uber clear water, you’ll be disappointed. Once we got over the rocks and general ouchiness of the entry, we had a great time. The first day we went, the beach was deserted. The second day, the Fourth of July, had only a smattering of people. There was still plenty of room for our family to swim and play a mean game of Marco Polo. It had rained the night before, so we were super aware of the cloudiness of the water the second day, too. We have one child who is in the process of becoming a confident swimmer. We couldn’t see below about four inches underwater, so we kept close to the shore.
Education at Fort Richardson
The park offers a two-hour educational walking tour, but even if you choose not to take the tour, historical buildings are located in the smaller section of the park (off US 281). We happened upon the historical flour mill during our hike. For those looking to study history on topics like post-Civil War, Texas, the American West or 19th century American-Native American relations, Fort Richardson State Park makes a great stop. It also excites the minds of children obsessed with military or cowboys.
Facilities at Fort Richardson
Fort Richardson is a state park. Enough said. There is no swimming pool or fancy anything. However, we found most of the facilities to be relatively clean and well cared for with the exception of the toilets in the boy’s bathhouse (See kids’ review below). Each bathroom had one shower that was full pressure and hot. I did experience a momentary stop during my shower when someone flushed the toilet, but this was only for a few seconds, and while the pressure paused, the temperature never changed. I was also impressed that the shower contained a bench and a second, lower shower head for handicap visitors. Moms with small children would probably find the set up helpful, too.
Sites at Fort Richardson
Each site comes with a picnic table and fire pit. There are only four RV sites that contain full hookups, all back-in sites. These can be hard to get. However, there are 11 bunkhouse sites that contain full hookups (water, power and sewage), and we noticed that several RVs use them for their full service. The bunkhouses themselves are nothing more than small sheds with a window or two and bunkbeds.
There are another 37 RV sites that have water and electric. This is the type of site we chose. On our first visit, we chose site 5, a back-in site, and for our second we chose site 6, a pull-through. Both were secluded; we could barely see or hear our neighbors. Site 6 has a large oak tree with low-hanging braches that our children enjoyed climbing. Sites 5-8 are right across from the bath house, perfect for taking showers. Since the sites don’t have sewage hookups, we were happy to have it close. Also near the bath house is the dump station, which was easy to access and readily available.
Fees at Fort Richardson
Prices for camping are in the $20-30 range, depending on the type of site. If you’re planning on staying multiple nights, it may be worthwhile to invest in a Texas State Park Pass. The pass gives your family unlimited entrance into all the Texas state parks as well as four half-price tickets on camping. We were able to stay five nights for $77 at an RV site that had electric and water. That included our daily entrance fees ($7 per adult and free for kids) and five nights of camping ($22 per night), with one of the nights being half price. In our one, five-day trip, we paid for the entire pass.
Wildlife at Fort Richardson
The park has a variety of local creatures. During our hike, we came across tracks that looked like a large cat, perhaps a bobcat, but nothing that gave us any alarm. My youngest and I followed a roadrunner for several minutes right by our site. The roadrunner returned every day and by the end, he was watching us as much as we were watching him. Rabbits regularly come out at dusk, something our dog watched with rapt attention. A pair of cardinals serenaded us each morning, even landing on our picnic table and in the tree by our site. On our drive into the park late one afternoon, we happened upon an armadillo foraging for bugs. None of us had ever seen one alive before, so we stopped the car and watched as it meandered its way across the road into the brush on the opposite side. A herd of deer, including a doe and a fawn, passed in front of our truck on our way out of the park.
Safety at Fort Richardson
Everyone we have met was very helpful and kind. No one made us uncomfortable; however, we were aware that there are no gates at the entrance. People come and go at will. Like most parents, we kept an eye on our kids and accompanied them to the bath house for showers.
Shopping Near Fort Richardson
Jacksboro is very small. Lowes Market is the only grocery store. It offers everything you need for your trip. We also went to Fred’s, which a nice five-and-dime store. It had some groceries (no produce), cleaners and general what-nots. We could have purchased everything from lightbulbs to kitchen towels to t-shirts there. The nearest Walmart is in Graham (27 miles away) or Decatur (37 miles away), so make sure you pack all you need before you get there. There’s also a clean laundromat in Jacksboro one block off the square, behind the police station.
Fun Landmark in Fort Richardson
If you do want to dine out for lunch or dinner, consider Herd’s Burgers. From the outside, this is a hole-in-the-wall|. However, the burgers are delicious, and it’s a registered historical landmark. The checker at Lowes recommended it to us. The walls are covered with news stories about the restaurant, which has been in business since 1916. The most frustrating thing about it is the dirt parking lot. At lunch the small lot is full of trucks and cars that are parked haphazardly. There are no clear parking lines. Since it had rained, we had to dodge huge mud puddles. The burgers, however, were some of the best we’d ever had, and we returned on our way out of town just to have a parting meal.
Through the Eyes of Kids
Since this is a family adventure, we asked our kids what they thought of Fort Richardson State Park. They all agreed that, while the hiking maps were hard to decipher, the hiking trail was a true highlight. They loved climbing the boulders that dotted the trail and picking up bamboo sticks along the trail that made perfect swords. They also loved seeing all the animals, more than we’ve seen at other state parks. Each night and morning, our whole family marveled at the spider webs. These large webs seemed to appear out of thin air and disappear just as quickly.
RV site 6 had the perfect tree for climbing. It was high enough to be thrilling for an 8- and 10-year-old but low enough that mom didn’t pass out from anxiety. Site 6 also offered the perfect site to place a hammock—two small trees about 10 feet apart. The one drawback for the boys was the bathhouse. Both found the hand soap dispenser too high and difficult to access.
The boy’s bathroom also had slow flushing toilets, one of which overflowed causing the whole place to smell. Our daughter had to get used to the shower curtain as it was hard to close it all the way. We discovered that we could stuff the edge of the curtain behind the handicap bench to keep it closed, so problem solved.
We’ve visited several of the state parks around the DFW area, and they are all well worth the visit. Because Fort Richardson State Park is more remote (about 45 mins. northwest of Fort Worth), we found it less visited and easier for making last-minute reservations. If you’re looking for a fun outing—camping weekend, hiking adventure or a homeschool field trip destination, Fort Richardson State Park is well worth the trip.