Free Camping at Toledo Bend Reservoir, Center, TX

Sabine River Authority of Texas

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Where to Find Boondocking Along Toledo Bend Reservoir

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Most of the free camping areas along the shoreline of Toledo Bend Reservoir lies on the Texas side, all within a 30 to 60 minute drive from Center, TX. There’s only one free camping area on the Louisiana side, and it’s located at the south end, near the dam.

Free Campgrounds on Toledo Bend Reservoir

All of these campgrounds were either personally camped by us, or recommended by our camping associates. Most of these are operated by Sabine River Authority of Texas, some in conjunction with Sabine National Forest…

Bubba Cowser Recreation Area(19.9 miles to Center, TX) – Operated by Sabine River Authority of Texas, this free, recreation area is largely a boat ramp and some parking for trucks and trailers. However, there are a couple of picnic tables here with trash cans, and there are no signs stating that camping is prohibited. Our experience with Bubba Cowser Recreation Area is that it’s actually a nice place to camp. You just don’t want to be here on the weekend when boaters and fishermen come in. Then it starts to feel like a parking lot instead of a campsite. See map and location of Bubba Cowser Recreation Area.

Swede Johnson Recreation Area(20.7 miles to Center, TX) – Operated by Sabine River Authority of Texas under a contract with Texas Department of Wildlife and Parks, this campground has covered picnic tables, trash cans, cooking grills, boat ramp, and fishing deck. Although it’s one of the smaller campgrounds in the River Authority’s collection, it’s still very much popular. Weekends see packed parking lots and campsites, proving that fishing and boating is the most popular form of outdoor recreation in this area of the country. See map and location of Swede Johnson Recreation Area.

Haley’s Ferry Recreation Area(23.6 miles to Center, TX) – This is a small boat ramp and recreation area along Forest Road 100, on the north side of Bayou Siepe. It’s administered co-jointly with Sabine National Forest and Sabine River Authority of Texas, however rules for the national forest apply here. Aside from the boat ramp, there is a vault toilet, but nothing else. There is a $2.00 day use fee here, but it’s our understanding that this does not apply to campers, only to vehicles parked in the parking lot. See map and location of Haley’s Ferry Recreation Area.

Forest Road 147(25.6 miles to Center, TX) – While Forest Road 147 is a part of Sabine National Forest, it’s also operated in conjunction with Sabine River Authority of Texas. This is a forest road where dispersed camping frequently occurs, though technically, according to Sabine National Forest’s motor vehicle use map, this forest road is not on the list of roads permitted for dispersed camping. Yet, it remains a popular area for tent camping, car camping, and RVs. There are no trash cans, so pack out your garbage. Remember to bring plenty of mosquito repellent too. See map and location of Forest Road 147.

Indian Mounds Campground(53.9 miles to Center, TX) – This is a developed campground currently offered for free. It is technically on land owned by Sabine National Forest, but all surface management is handled by Sabine River Authority of Texas under a joint-use agreement. Previously, this campground required a fee, but in 2022 it was converted for free for an indefinite period. This campground features several primitive campsites suitable for tent camping, along with a few sites that can accommodate small RVs or trailers. See map and location of Indian Mounds Campground.

Sam Forse Collins Recreation Area(81.3 miles to Center, TX) – This free campground and picnic area is operated by Sabine River Authority of Texas. It offers numerous picnic tables, cooking grills, a restroom facility, hot showers, and playground for kids. There’s a swimming beach here, and plenty of trash cans. A convenience store is only a mile away. One of the nicer campgrounds and picnic areas along Toledo Bend Reservoir, this recreation area is located at the very southern end of the reservoir, just west of the dam. See map and location of Sam Forse Collins Recreation Area.

Tailrace Channel Recreation Area(83.0 miles to Center, TX) – This small recreation serves primarily as a boat ramp and fishing area, however the Sabine River Authority of Texas says that primitive camping is allowed here, but only for self-contained visitors, which we understand to mean vehicles with their own black and gray tanks. The only amenities here are trash cans. Largely an unknown recreation and camping area, Tailrace Channel is limited in its capacity to accommodate large RVs due to its lack of turn-around areas. See map and location of Tailrace Channel Recreation Area.

Spillway Channel Recreation Area(84.2 miles to Center, TX) – This small recreation area is primarily a boat ramp, but is also an official campground according to the Sabine River Authority of Texas. Even though it’s officially in Louisiana, it is co-jointly operated in conjunction with Sabine River Authority of Louisiana. Camping is restricted to self-contained visitors, which we understand to mean vehicles with black tanks and gray tanks. Popular in the summer weather due to its river rapids, Spillway Channel Recreation Area is frequented by families with kids floating down the river on inner-tubes. See map and location of Spillway Channel Recreation Area.

Associated Documents

Park Rules and Regulations, Sabine River Authority of Louisiana
Motor Vehicle Use Map, Sabine National Forest, Illustrates dispersed camping restrictions & OHV restrictions, (eff: January 1, 2022)
Sabine National Forest Order 08-13-00-20-104, Occupancy rules, camping limits, quiet hours, parking restrictions, and more, (eff: September 22, 2023, term: December 31, 2024)

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