Caddo Lake a Destination for Travelers
Don't Pass Up a Chance to Visit Caddo Lake
A visit to Caddo Lake is the can't-miss activity in the Jefferson, Texas, area.
As the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's website says, "because the vegetation is so lush, much of the lake is really a maze of sloughs, bayous and ponds." It's a swampy area rife with flora and fauna, the type of natural setting that most people would associate more with Louisiana than Texas.
Caddo Lake encompasses 26,810 acres of cypress swamp. It was formed naturally when a huge logjam backed up the Red River into the Cypress Bayou watershed in the late 18th Century. When the logjam was dynamited open, the waters receded. But in the early 20th Century, the lake was replenished with the building of a dam for flood control.
The average depth of the lake is only about 9 feet, and in many spots the water is only 1-2 feet, or less, in depth. Large areas of open water are uncommon over many parts of the lake, with channels and hundreds of miles of boat roads cutting through the cypress trees and past small islands.
The lake is known for its bass and crappie fishing. Nature-lovers will find stately (or spooky, if you're seeing them at night) moss-draped cypress trees and lily pads. Among the animal species are alligator, turtles, frogs and other reptiles (yes, including snakes!), raccoon and mink, beaver (their huts are easy to spot), armadillo and deer, and even bobcat.
How can you get a glimpse of Caddo Lake? Caddo Lake State Park is a good place for a day visit or for camping outing, and we'll tell you a little more about the park in a minute.
But if you really want an adventure, we highly recommend you give our friend John Winn, at Caddo Outback, a call.
Winn is an outdoorsman who grew up on the lake, exploring its waters and the back country surrounding it all through his childhood. Winn knows Caddo Lake's waters better than just about anyone else. He formed Caddo Outback to help others get to know the lake through back-country tours.
John's tours take his customers off the boat roads into unmarked parts of the lake. Don't be alarmed if, at some point in the tour, he aks, "Does anyone remember how to get back?" He's just kidding.
Winn is great storyteller and his knowledge of Caddo Lake's history and ecosystem are unmatched.
One of the great things about Winn's tours are their personal nature. It's just John and a couple of customers in the boat. You're not with 14 other people. John's tours are designed for two customers at time (although his main boat can hold four customers).
Winn's basic tour lasts around 90 minutes, but customers can ask for as much customizing as desired. Longer tours for photographers; tours with stops on islands for on-land exploration; instructional photo tours; fishing tours; even night tours are available.
The night tour is the best way to see - and hear - wildlife and, of course, the stars.
You can learn much more about Caddo Outback by visiting John's website, linked above.
If you want to check out the lake but you're not feeling quite as adventurous, then Caddo Lake State Park is a good option. It's a relatively small park, but does include some hiking trails (albeit short, and most of them are not alongside the lake). There are a couple piers for fishing, picnic tables at the water's edge, and quite a few pull-in camping spaces.
Also available are historic cabins built in the 1930s by the CCC. The park is usually quite busy in the summer months, but winters find the park mostly deserted.
The Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area offers primitive camping and equestrian and hiking trails in backcountry areas. But hunting is also allowed, so any visitors during hunting season should take the proper precautions.
The towns of Karnack - childhood home of Lady Bird Johnson - and Uncertain are very near the lake; the state park entrance is about 15 miles southeast of Jefferson and about 15 miles northeast of Marshall.
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