While the rest of the world heads to Austin for SXSW, I decided to leave and head north to experience part of Texas that I’d never seen before – Caddo Lake – the ONLY natural lake in Texas. You see, every other lake in the Lone Star State has been formed through the damming of a river which caused the water to back up and form a reservoir. As soon as I learn Caddo was our only real lake, I had to see it for myself. So I headed to North East Texas. FAR – North East Texas
I started my visit with a trip to Caddo Lake State Park which I learned doesn’t actually sit on the lake but upstream a bit on Big Cypress Bayou flowing down into the lake. I was a little disappointed when I heard this because I didn’t drive all the way up to here not to see the lake. I wanted big sweeping, awe-inspiring views. You know, the ones you get on … well … every single other lake in Texas. I asked the park ranger for the best place to see the actual lake. She cocked her head to the side and looked at me kinda funny. Funny in a “you ain’t never been out here before” kind of way. I was pegged. Turns out that Caddo Lake (at least on the Texas side) should more appropriately be named Caddo Swamp. Here are pictures from the state park.
On the map it may be blue, but it’s no open water. And while Caddo Lake was nothing like I was expecting, it was awe-inspiring nonetheless and beautiful in its own right. In order to make it navigable by boat, Texas has had to cut boat lanes out of the thick swamp growth.
After visiting the state park, I headed just down the road to the small town of Uncertain, TX where I was able to get a little bit more perspective on the lake. From the shore I could tell that Caddo Lake is one eerie and unsettling network of trees, bayous, and gators. Not the kind of place you want to be without a map. I stopped off to talk to some locals who confirmed my belief. “Maps are good” they said, “but the only way to really learn the lake is to be lost and drunk while frog-giggin’ in the middle of the night.” As I looked out in the black swamp thicket, I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying in my life.
I didn’t have much time to explore Uncertain so I said goodbye and headed back down the road. Before I left I picked up a couple brochures at Uncertain’s modern and cutting-edge Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. I’m definitely planning on heading back to Caddo Lake someday. Next time I’ll bring a boat but I think I’ll leave the frog gig at home.