Camping Confidential: Frank Jackson State Park

Escape the hustle and bustle of city life by spending a weekend at Frank Jackson State Park located in Alabama.

By Candace Henderson
Camp Ambassador

Chances are, you’ve probably never heard of Frank Jackson State Park. It’s a small park in southern Alabama that doesn’t attract much tourist attention. About half of the 2,050-acre park is composed of a quaint 1,000-acre lake. What the park lacks in size it makes up for with an abundance of wildlife and picturesque scenery. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing weekend getaway.

The first time we visited this park was shortly after my husband and I started dating. We reserved a primitive campsite and pitched a tent midsummer. By the time the sun peaked and the temperature reached the mid-90s, we mutually decided that it was time to pack up and find some air conditioning. Anyone who lives in the South knows how fierce the combination of heat and humidity can be during the summer. 

The weather was much more agreeable on our most recent visit. We enjoyed cooking over a campfire in the evenings, and my daughter enjoyed riding her bike around the campground loop. She even encountered a formidable buck on one of her excursions; however, I’m sure that her depiction of the prodigious animal was similar to some of the “one that got away” stories that I told in my youth. 

The small town of Opp, Ala., is on the park’s southernmost border, so if you forget your sunblock, don’t worry; any forgotten necessities can be found just minutes away. Clem’s Tackle Shop is also in close proximity. It’s a great little mom-and-pop tackle store that carries an assortment of gear you probably won’t find at the big-box retailers, and the owners will be sure to put you on what’s popular with the locals.

The lake is host to several local bass tournaments and is stocked regularly with catfish. Just this year, over 5,000 catfish have been stocked in the lake as part of a multiyear stocking program. The efforts to improve the fisheries at this lake have made a noticeable impact, as we caught and released many channel catfish from the shoreline at our waterfront campsite. Largemouth bass and bream are abundant as well.  

The lake at Frank Jackson State Park is great for kayaking. With the ability to launch kayaks directly from most campsites, it only takes minutes to get on the water. The lack of recreational boaters and Jet Skiers make for a very calm day on the water. Memorial Island is just a short paddle from the boat ramp or the campgrounds, and the smaller size makes the entire lake easily navigable by kayak. 

There are three reservable cabins, 32 campsites (most of which are waterfront) and a primitive camping area that is also waterfront. All of the sites have electricity and water, and some have sewer hookups. A few of the RV sites are pull through, which makes it easier for those, like me, who haven’t mastered the skill of backing in a large RV. There are two bathhouses: one on the RV loop and another in the primitive camping area. Both are large and well maintained. The campground also offers Wi-Fi and cable TV hookups, as well as a playground and swimming area.

There are multiple nature trails that run through the park. The most unique (and my favorite) thing about the park is Honeysuckle Trail. The trail starts at the end of a long boardwalk that spans across the lake to Memorial Island. The trail cuts through the middle of the island, then follows the western shoreline back to the trailhead. A medley of birdhouses adorns the trail, and there are many benches to take a break or simply relax and absorb the scenery. Don’t forget to bring your fishing poles with you, as there are many areas that are easily fishable from the shoreline.

If you’re looking for a place away from the hustle of touristy attractions, somewhere the entire family can enjoy, unplug and bask in the tranquility of Mother Nature (and catch some fish while you’re at it), then Frank Jackson State Park is unquestionably a destination that you will appreciate.

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