Cooper Lake State Park offers many amenities

John Parsons, Co-Editor in Chief


Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operates Cooper Lake State Park, located near Commerce, Cooper and Sulphur Springs, which offers a wide variety of amenities for people who want to get away and recharge their batteries according to Tony Smith, assistant complex superintendent.

The park has 3,026 acres and is divided into two units. This is unique to most state parks but there are a few others. The Doctors Creek unit measures 715.5 acres and is located on the north side of the lake near Cooper while the South Sulphur unit encompasses 2,310.5 acres and is on the south side of the lake near Sulphur Springs.

Doctors Creek offers campsites, screen shelters, cottages, fishing, boat ramp, fishing pier, fish cleaning stations, kayaks for rent, recreational areas, hike and bike trails and a group camping area. This unit is quieter, being the smaller of the two.

South Sulphur has campsites, cabins, screen shelters, fishing, boat ramp, fishing pier, fish cleaning stations, kayaks for rent, recreational areas, hiking trails and an equestrian trail. This unit has camp sites on the lake and a larger day use area.

Stargazing is possible at both units as the lighting has been updated to be night sky friendly. There is a $2 activity fee for people wanting to photograph or view the sights.

The park hopes to offer activities again this summer. An interpreter is in the process of being hired for the summer and park management wants to create a permanent position in the future, according to Smith.

The park has benefited by the careful use of prescribed burns. Approximately 800 acres were burned August 2020 while another 100 acres were burned this April. The department coordinates these burns with TPWD fire program personnel, Texas forestry service staff plus state park personnel trained to assist. This activity opens habitat for more fire-resistant species and encourages grass growth. Burns are planned well in advance with safety and visitors taken into consideration. The process allows for natural regrowth to occur. The goal is to restore the land to its condition before farming changed it 150 years ago.

“The 19,300-acre Cooper Lake is a young lake. The Cooper Lake Project was authorized in 1955, and construction began in 1986. Construction finished and water collection began in the fall of 1991. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the lake to help control flooding on the South Sulphur River, to supply water for towns in the area, and for outdoor recreation such as fishing and boating,” according to the TPWD website.

The department leased the land from the Army in 1991 and built the park, which opened in 1996. Doctors Creek opened first with South Sulphur opening three months later. The lake opened for boat use in November 1992.

Visitors might see gray fox, bobcat, opossum, beaver, raccoon, white-tailed deer, nine-banded armadillo and eastern cottontail. Anglers may catch blue and channel catfish, bluegill, Florida largemouth bass, crappie and hybrid striped bass. Trees include post oak, winged elm, bois d’arc, Texas honey locust, mesquite, eastern red cedar, toothache tree, eastern persimmon, Mexican wild plum and hickory.

The South Sulphur unit has a 3/4-acre special events pond with catfish, bass, crappie and bluegill. It gets stocked with trout during winter.

The park benefits by having park hosts who are volunteers who assist with staffing the offices and provide repairs and maintenance to camping loops and trails 24 hours each week. Doctors Creek can have up to three hosts while South Sulphur can have up to six. They are provided a campsite with sewer hookup. People interested in becoming a park host should complete the online application or contact Smith by phone or e-mail.

The park hosts public hunts in December and youth hunts in January.

Smith encourages visitors to make reservations to camp as sites will fill up two to three weeks in advance. Reservations can be made online or by calling the department’s call center.

“The park is convenient for surrounding communities, including Paris, Cooper, Greenville, Sulphur Springs and Commerce, as well as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Texarkana,” according to the website.

More information about Cooper Lake State Park is available at