Payne Lake in the Oakmulgee Division of the Talledega National Forest offers several opportunities for recreation not far from Tuscaloosa and the cost is low. It is less than 30 miles from town and easy to find. Travel south on Highway 69 to Moundville and turn left at the town’s only traffic light onto County Road 50. Follow the signs. However, the next to last turn which is onto Highway 25 is not marked well, so turn right. The last turn is in about a mile onto the Payne Lake entrance road and well marked.

Day use and camping, either rustic, improved tent, or RV(7 sites), is offered. The entrance road divides into east side and west side but does not circle the lake entirely. For day use, the current fee is $3 per vehicle and an honor system is used. A list of types of uses and fees is posted at the gate house. Envelopes are at the kiosk for payment and a large yellow pipe with a slit cut into the side receives the completed registration and money. Information about the use of the park and regulations is posted. Park users are strongly encouraged to be mindful of nature and to be conscientious and courteous users of all the facilities.

The entrance road splits and turning to the right (east) a visitor wound find a very attractive picnic/day use area. Some features are a covered shed with tables and benches, several grills near tables in the open part, and a picturesque view of Payne Lake. Across the road is a restroom facility.

If one were to continue, fishing spots would be noticed and a boat launch is also nearby. The road divides and leads either to the marked off swimming area or by numerous rustic camping spots. In one area the road circles a restroom and has many rustic camp spots near one another suitable for group camping such as Boy Scouts do.

Not turning off the entrance road (west side of lake), one could find other features of the park. Shortly,  a small pond is found to the left and a covered picnic facility a short distance up a rather steep hill. Fortunately, there are steps constructed of local stone leading to the shed. As the road continues, it winds along the contour of the lake and leads to the RV and improved camp sites where only those camped at those sites may enter. At the end of the entrance road is a marked and improved nature trail for those who enjoy hiking in a watery environment. An area is marked off for parking and a kiosk shows a map of the trail that leads through a swamp ecosystem and then onto higher ground. A board walk is provided over the watery areas. Some paths lead in a circle and others give short cuts. Any hiker is advised to watch where he/she steps!

Payne Lake offers a facility only a short distance away along a scenic country drive. Costs are very moderate. There is never a large crowd at the park. It is safe and maintained by a host (park employee) who collects trash and does other tasks to keep the park clean and running. National Forest Rangers patrol to maintain order and enforce payment of fees. Large and plentiful trees offer ample shade for campers and day use visitors. Picnic tables and grills are plentiful.

Explore Alabama and visit Payne Lake  in the Oakmulgee Division of the Talledega National Forest. It provides for a peaceful and aesthetically adventure in a natural environment and a chance to enjoy a very positive aspect of our state.

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