11 youth and 9 adults from the Austin-area Camp Fire Boys and Girls Canoe Program spent two days over the Oct 2003 Columbus Day weekend paddling Caddo Lake in NE Texas. We stayed at Caddo Lake SP, and put in our first day directly from the park. Theres a very beautiful small pond full of the typical towering cypress trees draped with long shreds of Spanish moss, which are fun to paddle around for beginners getting their sea legs. The Mill Pond adjoins Big Cypress Bayou, a relatively unscenic passageway between lake sections; there are several sloughs off the channel, which were fun to explore. That evening we took a moonlight cruise on the Mill Pond, and an unexpected close encounter with an alligator trying to get away from us was the high point of the trip for several kids.
The second day we transported the canoes to the northwest portion of the lake, and put in at Pine Needle Lodge (903.665.2991; $2/canoe; canoes available for rent). We paddled a 3-hour circle route through some very beautiful and isolated areas: down Boat Road C(3-A), then through a cut called Hells Half Acre to Big Cypress Bayou, up Smiths Slough and back around the west side of Horse Island. There were two beaver dam portages, lots of heron and egrets, and enough unusual scenery that all the kids paddled silently for long stretches, just soaking in the unique feel of Caddo Lake. We had a late lunch at the TPWD campsite, a primitive area on Goat Island. When we put in that morning we had run into several small parties packing their camping gear back from the Island; it is a lovely and isolated area and we plan to go back someday to camp there. Although we had hoped to continue up Carter Chute and around Goat Island, several locals advised us the lake was low and we had a good chance of getting lost; dont even think about it. (One man said I got so lost in there my wife put duct tape on that part of my map so I wouldnt try it again.)
With more time, we would have put in at Uncertain (Johnsons Ranch, 903.789.3213) and explored the Four Forks/Turtle Shell area. But there are more bass boats and outfitters roaming that area of the lake. Caddo Lake extends into LA; I dont know anything about that part. To obtain a waterproof map of the entire lake with GPS points and various contact info for outfitters, contact A.I.D. Associates, 1-800-AID-MAPS in Dallas, TX. After three trips, this is the best map Ive ever seen, and recommended by folks in the area.
Caddo Lake has a state park (tent camping, cabins) and lots of private cabins for rent.
Depends where you want to go on the lake. Go to Texas Parks and Wildlife Caddo Lake web site for directions to the state park.