Camping at Cooper Lake (South Sulphur)

Our little family camped at Cooper Lake back in May. Since I am writing about the trip four months later, we’ll look at it like a Throw Back Thursday kind of thing or a test of my memory.

I recently shared about our Turner Falls Camping Trip. The good thing about that trip is that it helped to refine our camping accommodations wish list. Here is our current list of demands:

•We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
•We like having a site with a screened shelter. It’s not 100% necessity. Maybe 95%. It’s helpful to have a place (other than our van) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
•We need electricity and running water.
•We need to camp at a time of year when the temps get in the low 70s at night so that we can sleep.
•We like a campground that has a beachy lake swim area. Really nice if the day-time temps are warm enough for swimming. We gotta have stuff to do, and swimming is a great past time for our guys.
•We need a reasonable amount of personal space. Instead of a free-for-all system, we like being assigned a number and having some room.

This was our first time camping at Cooper Lake. There are two different areas of the park to camp: South Sulphur or Doctor’s Creek. We haven’t visited the Doctor’s Creek side, so South Sulphur is the one I know a little about…based on our 24 hours there. The park did meet our criteria. It is 75 miles from our house. About an hour and a half drive.

Here’s a picture of the boys at our first site attempt. I am not in charge of setting up the tent, but Brian felt there wasn’t much flat space for a good-sized tent. To me, the sheltered spots looked nice and open. The majority of the sheltered sites had a good amount of room to play and set up a tent and had a view of the lake. I like being able to see the water from our spot. It makes my husband a little nervous. We’ve heard way too many heartbreaking stories about kids on the spectrum wandering into water. We are pretty crazy vigilant, but I realize it only takes a second. Typically, when we are putting up the tent, we’ll sit Camden in a chair with the iPad so we can see him and know he’s staying put. The first site allowed you to gradually walk into the water, while the site we ended up at was more of an abrupt drop.
first stop The boys paused for a picture for their mama. Melt my heart. They have such a sweet relationship.Sweet camping pose
Since we realized that the boys enjoy camping and we hope to keep it up, we upgraded our 4-man tent to an 8-man. So much more comfortable! The boys like helping Daddy pitch the tent. The shelter behind Camden (in the picture on the left) is our closet neighbor. Not bad.
Pitching TentThis site had enough room to roam. The boys played with their remote-controlled cars and played soccer and still weren’t in anyone’s way. This is a place where we could’ve brought their bikes and been fine. This shot gives you an idea of our space. The lake is in the background. Our spot had a metal lantern-hook as well. The campground did have firewood available. Brian walked around in the brush pictured here to get little twigs to start our camp fire. He ended up getting some chigger bites, so beware and plan accordingly.
boys at Cooper siteIt was an extremely wet May in Texas and we knew the reports were calling for more rain during the weekend. Indeed, it didn’t take long. We sought refuge in our shelter, played on our devices, and enjoyed the view of the lake.
shelter to the rescueOnce the weather subsided, the guys got the fire going for dinner.
campfire prepWe feasted on steak and baked potatoes for dinner. I so love the view of the lake while I’m stuffing my face.
campfire steak dinnerWe cleaned up after dinner while the boys had a blast playing with the shovel. Didn’t know it was gonna be such a big hit.
shovel playEnjoyed an evening campfire.
boys at campfireLOVE LOVE LOVE that Camden enjoys camping, and that it’s something fun for our entire family!
Mommy Camden Cooper LakeWe spent lots of time throwing rocks into the lake, playing soccer, driving the remote-controlled cars, riding scooters, stuffing our faces, time at cooper lake
The boys enjoyed the fishing pier. We didn’t actually fish, but they loved walking along the pier and seeing what other people had caught. People were catching lots of fish! They were fascinated by the caught fish that were flopping around. Camden didn’t step on it, but did put his foot on it to see what would happen. The fish totally had his attention.
Cooper Lake PierWe walked along some of the trails. Little muddy, but that’s to be expected.
walking trails at CooperThe playground was in great shape. Well taken care of when we visited. There is a bathroom right there (you can see in the top right picture).
Cooper lake playgroundThe sandy beach area, playground, restrooms, volleyball court and covered picnic tables are all in the same vicinity. There were a lot of covered picnic tables.IMG_0391
This was our first time to the park so I have no reference point for what “normal” is, but the water level was definitely high. There were hardly any people in the water. It was a little cool and misting. You can rent a canoe in this same vicinity. You can see the boat ramp in this shot.boat ramp view at Cooper lakeWe found the beachy area to be clean and pleasant. Despite the mild temps, our boys still had fun playing in the water and digging in the sand.
Cooper Lake sandy beach areaWhile we were at the swimming area, my brother called to tell me that my dad wasn’t doing well. He had been put on Hospice three days prior, and my brother said the nurses didn’t anticipate him living more than a few days. Dad had been sick for a few years with lots of close calls, so I tried to think through what to do.
Me, Dad, Kerry the 70sMay sound silly that it was even a question. We had planned to stay three nights, the boys were having a good time, and I anticipated they’d be disappointed to pack it up and head home. Realized we’d have more opportunities to camp but maybe not more opportunities to say goodbye. We told the boys what was going on. Then we set the timer (always a good idea with transitions for Camden) and gave them a little more time before heading back to our site. Brian started breaking down the tent and since the flies were pesky, I had the boys eat their snack in the screened shelter. Here’s a picture that gives you a bit of an idea of size. Many families sleep inside the shelters. We just use it to store our stuff and a place for refuge if needed.
shelter at Cooper LakeDuring a bathroom break, I had Carson stand in the shower area to give you and idea of size and such. Granted, it was a slow time that we were there, but the bathrooms were pretty clean during our visit.
Cooper lake showersCamden followed Brian around as he broke things down, and kept saying “tent” over and over and over with an occasional “no thank you” tossed around for good measure.
Camden and Dad taking down tentCarson “helped” pack the bedding before he fell asleep in the van.
Carson helping break down tentWe made it back home, and then I got back in the van and headed to see my dad about an hour away. I arrived in time to tell him goodbye. And then he stopped breathing. We weren’t super close so those last words and the fact that I have no regrets…well, that was big.

3 thoughts on “Camping at Cooper Lake (South Sulphur)

  1. Beka September 23, 2015 / 11:05 pm

    We recently went to Cooper per your recommendation! We also thought the bathrooms were very clean! Pleasantly surprised! We had mild temps, nighttime was a little humid but not hot nor cold! It was supposed to rain but only a few sprinkles came on our night there! So the trails weren’t muddy! I think September 20th is a great time to camp in Texas! =) I agree… got to have running water and there was plenty of room to set up and run around the screened shelter site! We didn’t catch a single fish and tried 3 separate times. We were convinced that no fish swim at Cooper Lake. =) So sorry you had to leave early but even more sorry for your loss Sweet Friend.

    • Candace September 24, 2015 / 11:17 am

      SO so glad you guys had a great experience!! Too funny about the fish! =) Just in case anyone other than the two of us read this blog (muahahahaha), B did camp Sun and Mon so there was less of a crowd. Smart time to go! Homeschool families use their noggins!

      • Beka September 24, 2015 / 2:03 pm

        You CRACK ME UP! Noggins!

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