With more than 160,000 acres of dense woodlands just west of Lufkin, the Davy Crockett National Forest is considered one of East Texas’ premier destinations for scenic hikes and drives. It’s also a hotbed for history, with several structures dating back to the early 1900s.
Perhaps most compelling is the Ratcliff Lake recreation area, constructed by the CCC more than 70 years ago. A bathhouse, picnic area and timber pavilion surround a 45-acre lake that once served as a log pond and source of water for the Central Coal and Coke Company (Four C) Sawmill. Operated by Missouri businessman Charles Keith, the lumber company became one of largest in the South, resulting in an adjacent town of 10,000 residents (Ratcliff ) and an active railroad line to Lufkin. By the early 1920s however, the timber supply was depleted and the mill and town virtually disappeared. Visitors can still see the brick and concrete ruins of the large millhouse and dry kilns along an interpretive trail. Ratcliff Lake also serves as the trailhead for the Four C National Recreation Trail, traversing nearly 20 miles amid lofty pines, swampy bogs and hardwood forests. While hiking, keep an eye out for quail, deer, turkey and various waterfowl.
Davy Crockett National Forest