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Caddo Lake in Texas

by ken

Trip Overview

Caddo Lake is a sprawling maze of bayous and sloughs covering 32,000 acres of cypress swamp. The average depth is 8' - 10' with the deep water in the bayou averaging about 27'. An angler's delight, the lake contains 71 species of fish, but best for crappie and large-mouth and white bass. Naturalists can enjoy stately cypress trees, American lotus, lily pads, waterfowl, alligators, turtles, frogs, snakes, raccoons, minks, nutrias, beavers, squirrels, armadillos, and white-tailed deer. It is supposedly the largest natural (not man-made) lake in Texas. In early Texas history, the nearby city of Jefferson (13 miles from lake) was once the economic center of the state, based upon the steamboat traffic from New Orleans up the Mississippi and Red Rivers to Caddo Lake. Jefferson refused to meet the railroad demands to have the railroad come through Jefferson, and then became just a tourist stop with restored 1850 mansions after the water levels declined to the point where river traffic stopped.

Brady and I left Corpus Christi in light drizzle 11:30 am Wednesday November 22 to drive the 460 miles up to Caddo Lake State Park. We stopped only for gas and a great lunch at Brady's favorite historic Hinze's Bar-Bj-Que on Highway 59 in Wharton, TX (3 kinds of meat, 3 side dishes for $6.50). After very slow traffic through Houston, arrived at the Caddo Lake State Park about 9:30 pm to set up our tents at our waterfront campsite (#65). There are two campsites (#64 and #65) right on the water where you can launch and keep your kayaks right by the tent. Just as we finished setting the tents up, it began to pour, and rained steady all night. I was dry that night, but Brady's tent leaked and he had to bail out the tent several times during the night. Thursday (Thanksgiving) we gave thanks that we were able to get our waterfront tent site ($8 per night) upgraded to a covered screened shelter ($16 a night) so we would be dry for the rest of the trip. It poured all day Thursday and Thursday night. Tried to kayak for about an hour Thursday but got chased ashore by a thunderstorm. Spent the day discovering everything that was closed in Jackson and Shreveport. Jackson was the largest port and commercial center in Texas in the 1800's and many of the old mansions have been restored as historical landmarks in this restored historic center. Shreveport didn't seem to offer much but a wide assortment of huge gambling hotels and resorts. Back at camp, had Macaroni & Cheese dinner with fresh squash and carrots for Thanksgiving dinner that night in our shelter. What a relief to be able to cook out of the rain. Another relief was to be able to take a nice hot shower just a two-minute walk from our shelter.

Friday and Saturday were rain free and cloudy to sunny, with temperatures in the 50's during the day, and mid-30's to mid-40's during the nights.

Friday we paddled 14 miles from noon to 4:30 pm. We paddled through the Cypress trees in Mill Pond, down Big Cypress Bayou with all the summer homes on the right bank, State Forest on the left, and then at Hell's Half Acre we picked up trail #3 through Willowson Woodyard, Carter's Lake, and then Carter's Chute along the north side of Goat Island. Stopped at the public campsite on Goat Island, which was taken by the Dallas Canoe Club for the weekend. Retraced our path back to Carater's Lake, then cut across Smith's Slough and back to the State Park. This was one of the most scenic parts of the lake, paddling through narrow little water trails winding through a dense forest of Cypress Trees draped with long strands of Spanish Moss blowing in the wind and the Cypress knobby knees sticking up through the water and green duckweed. Great White and Blue Herons were nesting in the trees, turtles lined up on fallen logs soaking up the warm sunshine. It was rare to see another person, and in the lonely quiet of this swamp it was easy to picture what the beginning of life on earth must have been like thousands of years ago. Friday night drove down to The Pines Lodge, which we had earlier paddled by on Big Cypress Bayou and enjoyed a great fried catfish dinner overlooking the Bayou.

Saturday we drove down to Johnson's Boat Launch on the main lake at Uncertain, TX. There we launched at 9:30 am and paddled 17 miles on trail 2A over to Alligator Bayou, Whangdoodle Pass, then took trail 2D to Cross Bayou, Kitchen's Creek, Hay Rake, Kane Hole, and then picked up trail 3 to Joe Moore's Hole, and then Carter's Chute on the north shore of Goat Island again. Stopped there for lunch, heating up Chicken and Noodles, with Tuna and Jalapeno Salad Dressing tortas. After lunch continued on trail 3 and 3A through Carter's Lake, Smith's Slough, and then trail 4A under Bradley Bridge, Mossy Break, Taylor Island and back to Uncertain TX where we landed at 4:30 pm. The main lake was more populated with fishermen in their bass boats, the narrow trails were isolated and quiet winding through the groves of Cypress trees, moss, and duckweed. Fall colored leaves and bright green duckweed added beautiful color to the gray hanging moss in the trees. Dinner back at the shelter was Chicken and Dumplings.

It was very cold Saturday night (mid 30's) and Sunday morning. We packed and left at 9:30 am Sunday morning to return to Corpus Christi by 5:30 pm Sunday night.

Accommodations:

Caddo Lake State Park has tent and RV sites, shelters, and log cabins. Park offers hot showers as well.

Outfitting:

Paddlers: Kenneth W. Johnson and Brady J. Frederick from Corpus Christi, TX

Kayaks: 16' Fiberglass Dagger Meridian SK and 18' Fiberglass Dagger Sitka.

Pictures of Trip: http://content.communities.msn.com/KayakTrips/PhotoAlbum

Fees:

$4/day park use fee, and $8 nite for tent site.

Directions:

From Houston TX go north 220 miles on TX #59. Just after Marshall, turn right (east) on TX #43 to Karnack, then continue north on #43 and take a right (east) on FM 2198 and watch for entrance to Caddo Lake State Park on your left.

Contact:

Caddo Lake State Park Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/caddo/caddo.htm

Caddo Lake Trip Report Page: http://nac.tamu.edu/x075bb/caddo/caddo.html

Resources:

Boat house at State Park has inexpensive map of Caddo Lake trails, and rents canoes.

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip