Skip To Main Content

NOMAD Portable Grill & Smoker

Visiting Choke Canyon State Park:

Video: Choke Canyon State Park

Nestled in the South Texas Plains, otherwise known as the South Texas Brush Country, you'll find a state park filled with active wildlife and a plethora of birds. You'll also find a state park with sports courts and boat ramps. And you'll find it all at Choke Canyon State Park.

As another one of the newer parks in the Texas State Park system, we had not heard much about Choke Canyon State Park before our visit. It's not talked about nearly as much as some of the bigger parks like Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Garner State Park or Tyler State Park. But while it may not be one of the largest state parks in Texas, there is a lot to like about Choke Canyon State Park!

Our Campsite at Choke Canyon State Park

Our Campsite at Choke Canyon State Park

You'll find Choke Canyon State Park between the towns of Three Rivers and Tilden, a few miles off of US Highway 281 / Interstate 37, halfway between Corpus Christi and San Antonio. Other Texas State Parks nearby include Goliad State Park and Lake Corpus Christi State Park.

Our Experience at Choke Canyon State Park

Our campsite at Choke Canyon State Park, site 106, had 30/50 amp electricity and water. That is standard for all of the campsites in this section of the park. The parking sites are paved and have picnic tables with shade structures and fire pits. While we didn't have a water view, we really enjoyed our campsite. It was easy to back into because we didn't have another campsite or trees directly across from us. We also had thick brush between our campsite and the next one over. And the birds visited our campsite on their way to and from the bird sanctuary.

Tom and Star at a Scenic Overlook

At One Of The Scenic Overlooks

Bunny at Choke Canyon State Park


We walked or rode our bikes around the campground every day. We would be comfortable choosing almost any campsite here. They are all well-maintained with trimmed trees and good parking pads. We didn't see any campsites that appeared to be extremely unlevel.

The dump station was in good shape, clean and large enough for a second RV to be lined up waiting for someone to finish and not have to worry about being in the road. It may be the first dump station we've ever seen that actually had a trailhead.

All of the roads getting into the park were in great shape during our visit. So was the US Highway that runs between Three Rivers and Tilden that you take to get to Choke Canyon State Park. We had absolutely no trouble getting to or around in the park.

Green Jay at Choke Canyon State Park

Green Jay

Javelina at Choke Canyon State Park


Our Favorite Thing About Choke Canyon State Park

For us, Choke Canyon State Park is all about the birding and the wildlife. While sitting in our campsite we saw Green Jays, Red Wing Blackbirds, Cardinals and Woodpeckers. Javelinas and bunnies came to see us also. We saw more active wildlife in this park than almost any other that we've been to so far.

We love that the bird sanctuary is located within the camping area. We walked over to see which birds might be hanging out several times throughout our weeklong stay.

This park was quiet even when all of the campsites were full. And the sites are nicely spread out. The park staff is super friendly and responsive. Choke Canyon seems to have a good-sized staff of rangers and volunteers who are very active in the park.

And we love that recreational equipment was available for use free of charge.

The Old Calliham High School Gym

The Old Calliham High School Gym

Ball Moss

Ball Moss

The History of Choke Canyon State Park:

Archaeologists have found evidence of the Paleo Indians crossing the Frio River in this area while hunting big game such as mammoths and bison more than 10,000 years ago. These hunters would have used tools like an atlatl to help them throw a spear for a longer distance. When that big game became extinct, these hunters were replaced by hunter-gatherers.

Studies in this area, conducted prior to the creation of the Choke Canyon Reservoir, found substantial evidence of multiple campsites of nomadic hunter-gatherer groups who passed through here during the Archaic period (6,000 BC to 500 AD). These groups would have moved around the area in search of food from plants and animals. This part of Texas would have been less brushy than it is today with more trees and grass.

Later in history, the Coahuiltecans occupied much of South Texas. They are believed to have traveled up to 80 miles between food sources. The Coahuiltecans were recruited by Spanish missionaries beginning in the 17th century to work in agriculture. However, their lack of immunity to diseases lowered their numbers dramatically.


How You Doing?


Can I Help You With Something?

McMullen and Live Oak counties were formed by the Texas Legislature during the mid-1800s. The first settlement, Yarbrough Bend, was established in this area in 1858. It later relocated slightly and became the town of Tilden which lies 13 miles to the west of Choke Canyon State Park. The town of Three Rivers was founded 10 miles east of the park in 1913. Three Rivers gets its name from the nearby convergence of three rivers: the Nueces, Atascosa and Frio Rivers.

The town of Calliham TX (the town address associated with the main part of Choke Canyon State Park) was named for the Calliham Oil Field. The community began as Guffeyola, named for Hiram McGuffey who owned the General Store. In 1918, oil was discovered on the property and in 1923 the town was renamed Calliham in honor of property owner and rancher Joseph Calliham. The oil and gas boom that followed built the town quickly to include four restaurants, three hotels, grocery stores, a school, post office, pool hall, drug store and bakery. But the boom was short-lived. Calliham's population peaked at 400 in the 1930s and the high school closed in 1948. By 1978 less than 25 families remained. The town was moved in to its present location, just outside of the entrance to the state park, and construction of the Choke Canyon Reservoir began.

Seeking an additional water supply for the City of Corpus Christi, the United States Bureau of Reclamation began researching the area for a potential reservoir project in the 1970s. The Nueces River Project opened an office in Three Rivers in 1976. Construction began on the Choke Canyon Dam, located 4 miles west of Three Rivers, in 1978. The Bureau of Reclamation, City of Corpus Christi and the Nueces River Authority all participated in the project. The Choke Canyon Dam is an earthfill embankment that stretches 18,500 feet long and 116 feet tall. The dam was completed in 1982.



Group Pavilion

Group Pavilion

As the Choke Canyon Reservoir filled with water, the original townsite of Calliham was submerged. The high school gym and one of the park ranger homes inside Choke Canyon State Park are original structures to Calliham's boom days. Today Choke Canyon Reservoir spans a surface area of approximately 26,000 acres. It's maximum depth is 95 feet, but the water level fluctuates a lot. It was completely full for the first time in 1987.

In 1981, the State of Texas signed a 50-year agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, City of Corpus Christi and Nueces River Authority and Choke Canyon State Park was born. The Calliham Unit (the park's primary and only overnight unit) opened to the public in 1987 just over a year after it's day use sister, the South Shore Unit. Choke Canyon State Park also has a North Shore Unit which is not open to the public except for occasional managed hunts.

Is Choke Canyon Really A Canyon?

We asked a lot of locals this question. Here's the explanation that made the most sense to us...

Prior to construction of the Choke Canyon Dam, the Nueces, Atascosa and Frio Rivers converged in the area where the dam now sits and were "choked" as they moved through a valley that resembled a small canyon with steep rolling hills. Hence the name, Choke Canyon. It's less obvious now since that valley sits under water.

Choke Canyon State Park Nature Center

Choke Canyon State Park Nature Center

Hiking at Choke Canyon State Park


Things to Do at Choke Canyon State Park:

Birding: Choke Canyon's location makes it a recognized destination for bird watchers. This is one of the northernmost parks for seeing a variety of birds who migrate to the park from Mexico. Absolutely, bring your binoculars and your camera.

This park features a bird sanctuary across from the bathhouse in the main campground. The park rangers feed the birds in the sanctuary every morning. So a trip over there in the morning can be a great way to see several different birds as they come for breakfast. The sanctuary has an information page about what the birds eat. If you would like to help out, you can donate something from the list at the nature center or the park headquarters. We donated some oranges while we were there.

The park headquarters has a booklet of all of the birds you might see at Choke Canyon State Park. During our stay we saw green jays, red wing black birds, cardinals, crested caracaras and more.

Wildlife Viewing: Just as we saw a lot of beautiful birds at Choke Canyon State Park, we also saw A LOT of very active wildlife. Every day we saw javelinas, deer and Rio Grande turkeys. We also saw several armadillos, squirrels and a bunny. And we saw most of these directly from our campsite! Alligators, possums, raccoons and coyote also live in the park.

Boating: Boating is popular in the Choke Canyon Reservoir. A large and steep boat ramp is located in the park's day use recreation area. Additional boat ramps can be found in Choke Canyon State Park's South Shore Unit, a day-use only park located between the main park and the town of Three Rivers TX.

Fishing: Fishing is available in several areas of the park, either in the Choke Canyon Reservoir or 75 Acre Lake. You do not need a fishing license to fish from a pier or from the shore within the boundaries of a Texas State Park. You do need a fishing license to fish from a boat of any kind in Choke Canyon Reservoir. 75 Acre Lake is located completely within state park grounds, so you do not need a fishing license to fish from a kayak in that lake.

Fish cleaning stations are located at 75 Acre Lake and in the boat ramp area near the Choke Canyon Reservoir. The park is currently working to reopen a convenience store next to the boat ramp which will likely carry some fishing supplies.

Fish in these waters include largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, blue catfish, white bass, flathead catfish, alligator gar and channel catfish.

Kayaking: Kayakers and paddlers with their own equipment can kayak in Choke Canyon Reservoir or 75 Acre Lake. If you do not have a kayak, you can borrow one from the park headquarters to use in 75 Acre Lake for 1.5 hours. Yes, we said "borrow". There is no fee associated with this amenity! During our visit, Choke Canyon State Park had 2 tandem kayaks available for use by park visitors. Register for a kayak and pick up all necessary gear at the park headquarters.

Ranger Programs: Check with the park headquarters for a list of scheduled Ranger Programs. Ranger programs at this park include archery classes, fishing classes, Native Texas history, and crafts.

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal?



Hiking: While there are only a few hiking trails in Choke Canyon State Park, and none of the trails are long, they were in good shape and easy to hike. The park does not currently have a trail map on their website, but the rangers have created a color-coded trail map. It is available in the park headquarters.

Biking: We loved riding our electric bikes at Choke Canyon State Park. We did not ride them on the trails, but the roads were in good shape and not very busy. We enjoyed riding our bikes from our campsite to every other section of the park.

All trails at Choke Canyon State Park are open to bicycles.

Scenic Overlooks: Take a stroll out onto one of the scenic overlooks that stretches out into the Choke Canyon Reservoir (take the path past the building near the boat ramp) or 75 Acre Lake for a panoramic view.

Geocaching: There are a couple of geocaches in the park. Texas Parks and Wildlife has a great resource for learning all about geocaching in the state parks.

Swimming: There is a swimming area in the day use area at 75 Acre Lake. There are no lifeguards on duty.

Bird Sanctuary at Choke Canyon State Park

Bird Sanctuary

Swim Area at Choke Canyon State Park

Swimming Area

Other Amenities at Choke Canyon State Park:

All of the amenities listed below are located in the recreation area of the park on the way to the boat ramps and next to the dining hall.

Nature Center: Though it's not a large nature center, Choke Canyon's nature center is a great place to visit to learn more about the park, its wildlife and history. Feel free to ask questions and spend time exploring.

Tennis Court: A very unique feature for a Texas State Park! Choke Canyon joined the Texas State Park system in the 1980s. At that point, the trend was toward active, athletic parks. These days, most Texas State Parks focus more on the natural environment and wildlife habitats. Most of Choke Canyon State Park is a wildlife and birding haven. But it's nice to find these unique sport courts still in great shape in the park. Tennis racquets and balls can be borrowed at no cost.

Basketball Court: Basketballs and dodgeballs are available near the court. Again, this court was in great shape during our visit. Picnic tables and benches are nearby.

Baseball / Softball Field: Located in the field behind the other sports courts, you'll find the park's baseball /softball field complete with dugouts! Bring the family and enjoy a little competition.

Soccer Field: While not a full-sized soccer field, the soccer field was nicely maintained during our visit and had small goals on each end.

Archery Range: The park's old swimming pool has been filled in and now serves as the archery range. Park Rangers offer beginner archery classes for all ages. The range is behind a locked fence and not available outside of these ranger programs.

Recreation Hall / Dining Hall: One of many group gathering places that can be rented for day use. This park has more group gathering structures than any other park we've visited so far. You can even rent the historic Calliham high school gym!

Basketball Court

Basketball Court

Tennis Court

Tennis Court

Choke Canyon State Park Details:

Open Year Round? Yes

Busy Season: Spring, Summer Fall

Reservations Available: 6 Months Prior to Camping Date

Check-In Time: 2:00 pm

Check-Out Time: 12:00 pm

Park Gate: Yes

Gate Open Hours: 6am - 10pm

RV Campsite Lengths: 45-50 feet

Total RV/Tent Sites: 40

Total Tent Only Sites: 7

Total Screened Shelter Sites: 0

Total Cabin Sites: 20

Tufted Titmouse at Choke Canyon State Park

Tufted Titmouse

Redwing Blackbird at Choke Canyon State Park

Redwing Blackbird

Contact Choke Canyon State Park:

Park Address: 358 Recreation Road 8, Calliham TX 78007

Park Phone: 361.786.3868

Reservations Phone: 512.389.8900

Reserve a Campsite at Choke Canyon State Park Online

Visit the Choke Canyon State Park Website

Connect with Choke Canyon State Park on Facebook and Instagram

Campsite 120

Campsite 120

Walk In Tent Camping

Walk In Tent Camping

RV and Tent Camping at Choke Canyon State Park:

RV and Tent Camping Area

Total Sites: 40

Site Numbers: 100-139

30/50 Amp Electricity

Electric and Water Hookups

Back-In Sites

Site Lengths: 45-50'*

Campsites include a picnic table under a shade structure, and fire ring/grill. Sites are paved. Some sites are shaded, others are more sunny. A bathhouse with showers is located in the camping loop.

Most of these campsites are well-spaced with plenty of room between sites. Some have water views. The park's bird sanctuary is located across from this camping area's bathhouse.

Tent Only Area

Total Sites: 7

Site Numbers: 200-206

No Electricity

Water Hookups in the Campground

Walk-In Sites

Parking is about 50 yards away from campsites.

Campsites include a picnic table under a shade structure and fire ring/grill. There is a restroom with toilets and sinks across from this camping area. This restroom has no showers. Showers are located in the bathhouses in the cabin loop and in the main camping loop.

This tent camping area is located across from the 75 Acre Lake Day Use Area. A kayak put-in area, swimming area, pier and fish cleaning station are an easy walk from the tents.

Trash dumpsters are located throughout the camping area. Overflow parking is located near the restrooms/bathhouses.

The dump station is located on the main park road at the Bird Trail trailhead.

* Regarding campsite lengths: While the stated parking length of these campsites may be 45-50', they do have concrete parking barriers before the end of the parking pad, so we'd rate the true length as a bit shorter than stated for at least some of the sites. Check with the park headquarters for tips on sites that might be better suited for longer rigs.

Choke Canyon State Park Cabin

Cabin On The Reservoir

Picnic Area

Picnic Area

Cabins at Choke Canyon State Park:


Total Sites: 20

Site Numbers: 1-20

Air Conditioned

Water and Electricity

No Kitchen or Bathroom

Parking at Cabin

These cabins are also called air conditioned shelters. Inside you will find interior lights, an air conditioning unit, 20-amp electricity and three single beds. Outside each cabin has a picnic table, water spigot, and fire ring with grill.

Tents are allowed outside. No RVs of any kind are allowed in the cabin area. Pets are not allowed inside the cabins. A restroom with showers is located in the cabin loop.

Cabins at Choke Canyon State Park require a two-night minimum rental on weekends.

Visiting Choke Canyon State Park For a Day:

Day Use Areas

Day use visitors to Choke Canyon State Park can enjoy boating, fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming, and the nature center. You can also use the tennis court, basketball court, baseball/softball field, or soccer field. There are picnic areas overlooking Choke Canyon Reservoir and 75 Acre Lake. Check to see if the park is hosting ranger programs during your visit.

Day Passes can be reserved up to one month in advance. Day Pass Reservation information for Choke Canyon State Park is available through Reserve America.

For answers to frequently asked questions about Texas State Park Day Pass Reservations, visit Texas Parks and Wildlife's Save the Day Pass FAQs page.

Loaner Kayaks

Loaner Kayaks

75 Acre Lake

75 Acre Lake

Choke Canyon State Park Information:

Year Opened: 1987

Discount Passes Accepted: Texas State Parks Pass

Friends Group: We are not aware of an active Friends Group at Choke Canyon State Park.

CCC Park? No

Park Store? Not really. A few souvenirs are available behind the counter in the park headquarters.

Pet Policy: Pets are allowed throughout the park and on the trails, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Pets are not allowed in buildings.

Lodging Options at Choke Canyon State Park: RV Camping, Tent Camping, Cabins, Youth Group Camping

Choke Canyon State Park Reviews: Campendium, Campground Reviews, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Reviews

Amenities: nature center, hiking, biking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, fishing, swimming, boating, kayaking, camping, geocaching, picnicking, archery, basketball, tennis, baseball, soccer

White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer

American Coot

American Coot

Operated By: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Region: South Texas

County: McMullen County

Nearest Towns: Three Rivers TX (10 miles), Tilden TX (13 miles), Oakville TX (17 miles), George West TX (19 miles), Whitsett TX (24 miles)

View the Choke Canyon State Park Map

Choke Canyon Reservoir Fishing Information

Check the Current Water Level of Choke Canyon Reservoir

Weather at Choke Canyon State Park, Calliham TX

Tags: Texas State Parks, South Texas, State Parks

Choke Canyon Reservoir Boat Ramps

Choke Canyon Reservoir Boat Ramps

Fish Cleaning Station

Fish Cleaning Station

Where is Choke Canyon State Park?

Where is Choke Canyon State Park?

Approx. Distance to Choke Canyon State Park:

Corpus Christi: 80 miles

San Antonio: 85 miles

Austin: 160 miles

Houston: 230 miles

Waco: 250 miles

Beaumont: 310 miles

Dallas: 350 miles

Fort Worth: 350 miles

Lubbock: 470 miles

Texarkana: 500 miles

Amarillo: 600 miles

El Paso: 635 miles

Choke Canyon State Park Fees

Camping Fees: $12 - $22 / night

Cabins: $50 / night

Day Use Fees (Ages 13+): $5 / day

Live Oak Restaurant

Live Oak Restaurant

Sowells BBQ

Sowell's BBQ

Where To Find Ice, Firewood, Groceries and Fuel Near Choke Canyon State Park

Choke Canyon State Park does not offer firewood or ice sales inside the park. Firewood, ice, groceries and fuel (gas and diesel) is all available in nearby Three Rivers TX (approximately 11 miles from the park entrance).

Three Rivers also has a post office and restaurants. During our stay we enjoyed meals at:

  • Sowell's BBQ, 114 W Thornton Street, Three Rivers TX
  • Live Oak Restaurant and Sports Grill, 305 South Harborth Avenue, Three Rivers TX

Choke Canyon State Park, Calliham TX |

If You Like Choke Canyon State Park, You Might Also Like:

Lake Corpus Christi State Park

Goliad State Park

Yegua Creek Park

Rocky Creek Park

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Martin Creek Lake State Park

Cooper Lake State Park - South Sulphur

Garner State Park

Our Other Texas Campground Reviews

Discover South Texas

Subscribe To Our Newsletter to stay connected and receive an email with our latest posts and updates!

Safe Travels and Happy Camping!

Please Note: These details are accurate to to the best of our knowledge. We try our best to provide accurate information, but we are human and sometimes details change. Please check with the park directly to confirm current information.