Introducing Caddo Lake & Around
Picture craggy, partly submerged bald cypress trees covered with low-hanging moss swaying in the breeze. Imagine floating quietly past 3ft-tall herons and egrets on labyrinthine waterways. Envision the occasional alligator eyes gliding by... You've got the scene: evocative, intoxicating, and OK, we admit it, a little eerie. Texas' largest freshwater lake snakes off into narrow bayous and tributaries that cover more than 26,000 acres that are well worth exploring by boat. If you can, get up early to watch as the steam rises off the bayous.
Caddo Lake State Park is a good place to start your adventure. Take an interpretive hike through the cypress forest on the lake’s western edge. Or, in summer, rent a canoe from the on-site concession, Old Port Caddo. They also offer hour-long pontoon boat tours, reservations required. The park itself has some great little cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the riverside tent sites are pretty sweet. Don't forget bug spray.
The lake's de facto headquarters is the community of Uncertain, which is a funky (some might say junky) meandering area of fishing shacks, tour companies, cabins, groceries and a few casual restaurants and small cafes. For even more information log onto www.caddolake.info. Note that at writing, most online GPS maps are WRONG for this area, including those on iPhones and from Bing!
Local authorities call affable local-boy John Winn when someone gets lost on the lake. You should, too; his private, one-hour to full-day Caddo Outback Backwater Tours take you by 18ft swamp boat to places other outfitters can't reach. Ask about nighttime tours. You'll be transported back to Jefferson's heyday aboard the steam-powered paddle steamer, the Graceful Ghost, which offers 90-minute lake tours during summer months.
When you're ready for a repast, you have two main choices for waterfront fried catfish and other swamp seafood: rustic Big Pines Lodge & Watering Hole, a 60-year Caddo Lake classic that was rebuilt after a 2009 fire, or go a little upscale at River Bend Restaurant, which has a glass-enclosed patio.
Hodge Podge Cottages is true to its name, offering everything from a mobile home to a regular house to a dry-docked houseboat for overnight rental next to the river. Free canoe use included.