Located just east of Lufkin , the 153,179-acre Angelina National Forest is one of the most popular East Texas  forests for fishing and boating excursions. Angelina completely encapsulates most of the massive Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a 114,500-acre lake on the Angelina River formed when the Sam Rayburn Dam was constructed in the early 1960s.
The forest itself is like most of its East Texas brethren, with gently rolling landscapes covered mostly with shortleaf and loblolly pine, hardwoods, and a swath of longleaf pine in the southern portion. When it was acquired by the federal government in 1935, Angelina was in pretty bad shape—most of the property had been forested and left without adequate protection. The Texas Forest Service’s fire prevention efforts resulted in much of the land “seeding in” naturally, a practice that continues to this day.
Though Angelina is focused primarily on water-based activities, there are several hiking trails available, including access to the historic Aldridge Sawmill, where huge concrete structures remain as reminders of the region’s timber-industry heritage. To get there, take the 5.5-mile Sawmill Hiking Trail, which follows an old tramway used in the early 1900s to haul logs to the sawmills.
The park’s two main recreation areas, Caney Creek and Sandy Creek, offer camping, boating, and fishing on or near the shores of Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Camping and fishing are also popular at Bouton Lake Recreation Area and Boykin Springs Recreation Area, including historic structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps offering camping, swimming, fishing, and canoeing.
The Sam Rayburn Reservoir is a popular destination for anglers, who return regularly for the lake’s abundant largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish. Recreational boating is also a major activity, with water skiers, sailboats, and personal watercraft dotting the water’s surface.
Visitors also flock to Angelina to view the hundreds of wildlife species, including deer, wild turkey, woodcock, quail, and the year-round resident population of wood ducks. During the winter, bald eagles occupy the area surrounding the reservoir, and the forest is also home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, a small black and white bird that visitors often make (largely unsuccessful) quests to locate.
To learn more about campsite availability and fees, lake access points, and trail maps, contact the Angelina National Forest park office (111 Walnut Ridge Rd. in Zavalla, 936/897-1068, www.fs.fed.us/r8/texas/recreation/angelina/angelina_gen_info , 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.).