Background & History
Hamm Creek Park was constructed as a part of the recreation plan for Whitney Lake in the 1950s.   In the 1980s Carlswell Air Force Base used it as a recreational area for military personnel.  The park was officially closed in 1990.

Concerned citizens led by Mr. George Wood began the pursuit of reopening the Park in 2003.  With the support of City Councils, Chambers of Commerce, Johnson County Judge and Commissioners, State Representatives, Congressmen, and Senators, the United States Army Corp of Engineers began to develop the Park with funding from Congress.

Phase I construction began with roads, boat ramp parking, and dredging of Hamm Creek up to the boat ramp and courtesy dock. Johnson County assumed maintenance and operation of the Park and a ribbon cutting was held in April 2007.  Near the completion of Phase II construction, the Park was opened to the public and a ribbon cutting was held May 2008.  With Phase III, we have the most recent additions of a new boat ramp, a helipad, and two playground areas.

Driving west on FM 916 from Rio Vista, the landscape begins to change from flat plains to hidden valleys and hills.  The famous Chisholm Trail runs through this area.  Of the thirteen historic cattle drive Trail Markers, three can be found on the way to Hamm Creek Park: #1-Smith Ranch, #2-Sandusky Place and #3-Bennett's Ranch.

Interesting rock formations and cliffs such as Indian Head Cliff,  Bluff Mills, Robinson Bluff, Klondike Ranch, and Bee Mountain can be seen along the Brazos river bank.  These mountainous cliffs range from 594 feet to over 700 feet tall.  This gorgeous wilderness area adjacent to the Park provided the perfect location for filming of the movie Indian Paint in 1964-65, starring Johnny Crawford (Mark McCain from the Rifleman) and Jay Silverheels (Tonto from the Lone Ranger). 

Based on the novel by Glenn Balch, the movie was written and directed by Norman Foster. Great detail was paid to authenticity, with more than 80% of the actors and extras of Native American descent.  It won several awards from parents groups.  Lee Garza, one of the local people who appeared in the movie, enjoys coming to the Park regularly to fish . Pictures courtesy of Lee Garza. 





Just west of the Park entrance, FM 916 becomes County Road 1108 at the Klondike Ranch.  This beautiful cliff road above the Brazos River intersects with FM 1434 and the view continues toward Cleburne State Park.

Whitney Lake is located on the main stem of the Brazos River, several miles south of Hamm Creek Park.  The next available launch on the Brazos is at Kimball Bend Park in Hill County, about 6 miles on water edge from Hamm Creek.

 
Fishing & Wildlife

Fishing at Hamm Creek Park varies with the seasons and the flow of the Brazos River.  Smallmouth and largemouth bass, sand bass, channel catfish, flatheads, sunfish, gar, and crappie are just some of the fish in this part of the river.  Due to local rainfall and dam releases from the lakes north of us, you may want to contact the Park office regarding water levels.

The Park area has several varieties of oak trees, Ashe junipers, some American sycamore, Texas ash and cedar elms.  Texas bluebonnets, goldenrod, low shrubs and vines, Virginia creeper, and other vegetation provide shelter to armadillo, fox, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, squirrels, opossum and raccoons.  Boar hogs have been seen in the creekbed and occasionally a bobcat may be spotted.  Recently a visitor shared his experience of calling some wild turkey he had seen. They flew towards him and he saw one of the males had an albino beard about three inches long -- a very rare site.

The beautiful cliffs and rocky terrain along the Brazos River are home to  several kinds of snakes.  Although snakes usually avoid human contact, be aware of rattlesnakes, coral snakes, cottonmouths and copperheads.

Cardinals, geese, purple martins, blue jays and hummingbirds are just a few of our feathered friends in the Park area.  One of the endangered species in this region is the Golden-cheeked Warbler.  Only a few have been seen over the years in the Park area.   It is a small songbird about five inches long.  The male has a black back, throat and cap, and yellow cheeks with a black stripe through the eye.  Females are similar but less colorful.  The woody vegetation, especially the Ashe juniper are their typical nesting habitat.

 
Creek & River History
How Ham Creek May Have Gotten Its Name
A number of stories focus on how Ham Creek may have gotten its name.  There was a story written in April 1891 in the Cleburne newspaper giving an account of a report from Rio Vista that went something like this.

Just after the fall of the Alamo a party of Boarder men traversing the old government road which crossed the creek camped near the place.  One of the company of men, Ham Bean from San Antonio, while seated on a rock above the creek, fell asleep and toppled into a fishing hole in the creek.  Ham would have probably drowned but his fellow boarder men were there to save him.  From that incident they started calling the fishing hole Ham's Hole.  Anyway, that is how old-timer Babe Williams tells the story and how the creek began to be called Ham's Creek.  The question has repeatedly been asked about how it derived its name.  Comparatively few of the oldest settlers can even give an idea of how it got its name, but the history of it goes back to the early 1840s.

Brazos River
The Park runs along the Brazos River.  It is believed that Conquistador Luis de Moscoso de Alvarado named  the Brazos River which means "River of the Arms of God" in the year 1542.  It has long been a part of Texas history.  The Brazos River is 923 miles long, flows through 26 Texas counties, is fed by 28 tributaries, each more than 30 miles long.  During the early Texas days, the Brazos was both a blessing and a curse to settlers.  It provided valuable water and food, but during rainy seasns its swelling banks caused damaging floods.  It was also difficult for pioneers to cross with their belongings making it necessary for settlements like Waco and others to build bridges or use barges to help Texans cross.

Earliest Inhabitants
The earliest inhabitants around and in the park and Goatneck area were Indians.  There are signs of their camp sites near Ham Creek  and of small houses or cabins along several of the small spring fed creeks that run into the Brazos River.  It is speculated the area is where the Spaniards or Mexicans lived when Texas was a part of Mexico.  In the diary kept by J.A. Cook, who was born in 1896, is a story about Hiram Wilbank who had an experience with some unfriendly Tonkawa Indians.  It seems that the Indians, in an attempt to scare off the Wilbank family, shot one of Wilbank's horses and killed and ate his cows.  Two neighbors joined Wilbank and had a powwow with the Indians and the Indians agreed to leave the area.

The Caddo Indians settled along the Brazos River in and around the park area.  The term Caddo denoted only one of at least twenty-five distinct but closely affiliated groups centered around the Red River in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.  The term derives from the French abbreviation of Kadohadacho, a word meaning "real chief" or "real Caddo" in the Kadohadacho dialect.  The Handbook of Texas, put out by the University of Texas, said that most of the Kadohadachos remained in the Caddo Lake area of Louisiana until about 1842.  With the cession of Caddoan lands in Louisiana in 1835 and increased Texas settlement, other Kadohadacho moved to the Brazos River in north central Texas.  By the early 1840s, all Caddo groups had moved to the Brazos River area to remove themselves from Anglo-American repressive measures and colonization efforts.  They remained there until they were placed on the Brazos Indian Reservation in 1855, and then in 1859 the Caddos (about 1,050 people) were removed to the Washita River in Indian Territory (now western Oklahoma).

After the War Between the States and from around 1836 to 1877, a few settlers began to settle in the area.  The area called Goatneck began to be settled by farmers during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

At one time there were a few families living along Ham Creek, such as the Kyle, Bullard, Cavender and Bush families.  Herbert Blackstock wrote about some of these families and drew, by hand, a rugged map of the area.  Mr. Blackstock was very familiar with the Goatneck area which at that time ran up to the west side of Ham Creek.  In his stories he told about killings, moonshine stills and Indians along the creek.  The area was rough, tough, and dangerous in the late 1800s-early 1900s.

On the west side of Ham Creek, north of FM 916, is the Kyle and Bullard family cemetery.  There are grave markers showing that some Texas Rangers are buried there.

The above information is courtesy of Mr. George Woods and Mr. Jack Carlton.  Mr. Woods, a resident of Fisherman's Paradise, assumed the task of trying to reopen and develop the Park on March 23, 2003, and Mr. Jack Carlton is a premier Historian of Johnson County.

 
 

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