Hidden secrets abound...
As one tours the Hidden Lake RV Ranch and Safari, they will not only find a "hidden" 20-acre lake, stocked with bass, crappie and catfish, some as large as 12 pounds, or wild fowl sailing gracefully over the tops of the waters, but they will also see "hidden" antelope and deer with magnificent racks grazing nearby or bounding across the land.
If one is camping, these docile safari animals might decide to take a nap on the camper's welcome mat or come up and nibble carrots from the camper's hand.
The large shade trees, rock outcropping, and grass-covered ravine behind the campsites and cabin offer a beautiful place to picnic and stroll. The deer feeder in the ravine allows observance of the 64 animals at any given time snacking at leisure.
Hot Shot is "daddy" to orphaned baby Sika deer
The RV ranch is a well-kept secret, situated in Jack County, off U.S. Highway 281, north of Jacksboro and about 65 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
The 95 acres is home to many safari species, including 15 mountain sheep and goats, four African Oryx, six Black Buck antelope, and nine Sika deer, pronounced "shika" which is a Japanese word for deer. The oryx and sika deer are native to most of East Asia.
The owner, Larry Rodgers, clarifies, "Those are the number of animals I bought, but several have birthed, so there might be more than the 64 counted earlier in the year."
There are also numerous other Jack County native deer on the ranch, along with miniature pigs, horses and donkeys and most amusing, a blue heeler named Hotshot, who has adopted a baby sika deer in the Rodgers' backyard.
Rodgers and his wife Vickie have been married 36 years. He is originally from Blackfoot, Idaho, but came to work in Texas and met Vickie, who is from Irving. They have four grown children and seven grandchildren, all of whom live in Springtown. Besides formerly living in Springtown, the Rodgers also lived in Trophy Club for a time.
The Rodgers began their dream when they bought the acreage five years ago, starting the RV ranch a year later.
Then last January, they decided to add the safari.
Larry began building the 8-foot game fence around the 95 acres, a grueling task that was completed in 108 degree temps last July. Since then, he invested about $45,000 buying the animals.
"This ranch and the tours are not like most safari tours you might take in the United States," Larry explained.
"It won't be three hours in the vehicle without leaving or animals crowding your windows for treats. Some of the animals will come up and eat carrots from your hand, but most of the animals will be grazing on the land or napping. You will see them in their natural habitat. It is a photographer's paradise. We have not been able to find a RV camp just like it anywhere in the United States," explained Rodgers.
The one-hour tour might be taken in a Gator, another word for an all-terrain, souped up golf cart, and you might enjoy a little "muddin'" on the trail, if you're lucky, as this reporter was.
The tours are very enjoyable, with the personable and knowledgeable Rodgers identifying and explaining the animals. Stopping to feed the deer carrots from your hand in the natural terrain of Texas mesquite and cactus, was a bonus.
There is no hunting allowed, of course, and Rodgers has been careful not to add safari animals such as elephants and giraffes because he wants it to be a ranch where the animals roam free, even into the RV campsites.
Vickie's favorite contributions to the ranch include a playground for the kids, an occupied outhouse and a baby rattler cage that you must check out.
There are many campsites, a cabin and a laundry room for the camper's convenience. Some of the campsites are occupied by permanent residents working in the area.
The Rodgers are vested in the community and believe that Jacksboro has had an "awakening" recently. Their brochures include area information and special features. Vickie sometimes helps the Pink Ladies clean up around Jacksboro and they are excited about the growth in Jack County.
You may contact the ranch for more information at (940) 567-6900 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also check out their website at www.hiddenlakervranch.com. Their address is listed as 3100 Lowrance Rd, Jacksboro, Texas, 76458. There is a fee for the tours.
What the Rogers enjoy most about their ranch is meeting people and making life-long friendships. Vickie says, "It's fun to keep in touch on Facebook with some of our campers." Won't you be one of them?