The Bird & Butterfly Inn

The Bird & Butterfly Inn

The Bird & Butterfly Inn

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Into the Woods: A Comprehensive Guide to the Angelina National Forest

Surrounding nearly all of Lake Sam Rayburn is the Angelina National Forest. Managed by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, all national forests in Texas were established in 1933 by an act of the Texas Legislature, and the Angelina is one of four national forests in Texas. However, the Angelina is unique in a number of ways, including the amount of water it borders; none of the other national forests have similar water access, nor the number of camping locations developed by the Forest Service. At over150,000 acres and spanning three counties, the Angelina National Forest offers much to see and do.

Boykin Creek in the Angelina National Forest - Wikipedia

A singlular woman

“Angelina” was an Indian maiden, likely a member of the Caddo nation, who is known to have served as a both a translator and a guide for European explorers. Documents indicate that in the 1690s, she traveled to San Juan Bautista Mission (in Guerrero, Coahuila) for study, later returning to her people. She has been described as having a bright intellect, being a learned woman who spoke a number of Indian languages as well as Spanish.

Her translation work largely centers on a French-Canadian guide, hunter, and explorer named Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It’s documented that in 1716, she interpreted for Domingo Ramon and St. Denis, who led an expedition to establish missions and a presidio in East Texas. It’s also noted that in 1718-1719, she translated for the expedition that founded the San Antonio de Valero Mission (most recognizable by its more common name, The Alamo), as well as the city of San Antonio. The last written record of her life appears in1721 and the date and circumstances of her death remain unknown. She is the only woman in Texas history to have a Texas river, a county, and national forest named after her.

Lots of campsites

The Angelina National Forest has five parks with campgrounds, and these can be found at Bouton Lake, Boykin Springs, Caney Creek, Harvey Creek, and Sandy Creek. With boa tramps as well as hiking trails and camping and picnicking areas, it’s understandable why camping so popular here.

The Boykin Springs Recreation Area boasts a 9-acre lake, ideal for canoeing. Of course you can also hike the trails, fish and picnic there, and there are overnight accommodations, whether you’re roughing it in a tent, or if the RV with amenities is more your travel style. The Sandy Creek location offers great views of the lake, has accommodations for both tent and RV camping, and offers bathroom and (cold) shower facilities.

For the true explorer, consider the Turkey Hill Wilderness. “Wildernesses are Congressionally designated places where the Forest Service attempts to keep the imprint of humans substantially unnoticed.” The Turkey Hill Wilderness is the furthest from the national forest camping. Boykin Springs also offers a Wilderness area, and exploring these two is said to be like a trip into the past, experiencing Texas as it was back in the 1820s,and maybe even as far back as the early 1700s.

View of little red mushrooms in the Angelina National Forest

Trails galore

The website AllTrails recommends five “top” trails in the Angelina National Forest:

#1 - Sawmill Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.3 miles

This Sawmill Trail takes visitors to check out the old sawmill buildings. After you cross the small bridge at the parking lot, you will take a left across a field to cross the creek again. When you come up from the creek you will walk through a campsite. After a short while on the road, you will go through a second campsite to connect to the main part of the trail. Overall, this is a really great family-friendly hike.

#2 - Ebenezer Campground to Beach

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.4 miles

This route leads from the equine campground and travels to a beautiful beach. The trail is mostly shaded and located in a quiet forest where wildlife can be seen in many areas. This kid-friendly trail is a great way to explore scenic Ebenezer Park. The hike is down a gravel road and then turns off a popular beach trail on Sam Rayburn Reservoir Lake.

#3 - Stephen F. Austin Interpretive Trail

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.5 miles

There are multiple trails in the Stephen F. Austin Interpretive Trail area if you wish to extend your hike. Two trails spanning several miles take visitors into some of the most dynamic, and scenic areas of the Angelina National Forest. There have been around 150species of birds, and 80 species of butterflies counted in the area.

#4 - Ebenezer Park Loop 2

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.6 miles

This trail travels through a beautiful pine forest on a relatively easy and flat path. There is a diverse amount of plant and animal life that can be found in the area. The path is wide and accommodates hiking and horseback riding. There are several other connecting trails in the area for those who want to extend their route.

#5 - Beaver Pond

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.3 miles

For long periods of the way, the path follows an old tram railway route which was used to log in the early 1900s. There is also a wetlands area where there are many flycatcher pitcher plants to observe. After you cross the highway, the trail is poorly marked and having a downloaded map is helpful to navigate.

Fish and game

With +114,000 acres of water, there are plenty of fish to be found on Lake Sam Rayburn. Whether your fish of choice is catfish, bass, crappie, gar, bowfin, bluegill, or the delicious white bass, there’s probably a fish or two with your name on it. If going it alone isn’t quite for you, consider one of the many fishing guides who are familiar with the lake and can help take you to “the good spots” and help assure you don’t come home empty handed.

With literally hundreds of species in the forest, hunters will find that the principal game is deer, although turkey, quail, dove, and even squirrel can be found. All game hunting and fishing should, of course, always be in accordance with state game laws.

And if just watching the birds is more your speed, the habitat created by Sam Rayburn Reservoir offers the opportunity for wildlife populations to exist and grow. It also offers food and resting grounds for many species of migratory bird sand butterflies as they proceed south toward the Gulf Coast, and is the inspiration for our own name, The Bird &Butterfly Inn. Wood ducks can be found year-round, and the Angelina National Forest provides habitat for the threatened bald eagle and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. You are also very likely to spot cormorants, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, egrets, kestrels, Carolina chickadees, and tufted titmice. And close your eyes and listen for the particularly identifiable chirps, calls and songs of Carolina wrens, pileated woodpeckers, wood thrushes, Chuck-will’s-widows and one of our favorites at The Bird &Butterfly Inn, the belted kingfisher.

A perfect getaway

Whether you want to camp, glamp, hike, fish, hunt, or birdwatch, the Angelina National Forest has something for you. And if you need cushier accommodations after a long day in the wilderness, stay with us at The Bird & Butterfly Inn and get the best of both worlds.

Yellow butterfly cutout


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view of the entrance of the 1901 Cabin
Hats and pictures on the wall of the 1901 cabin
Pullman room bathroom with two sinks, lots of antique mirrors and a make up table
1901 Cabin - decoration details