Caddo Lake State Park has been set apart as a Wetlands of International Importance. Is it any wonder that a multitude of bird species can be found here!
Here are just the "Key" birds: Wood Duck, Wild Turkey, Greater Roadrunner, Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Fish Crow and the Brown-headed Nuthatch are present at all times of the year.
Summer brings Anhinga, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Mississippi Kite, King Rail, Purple Gallinule, Church-will's-willow, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, American Redstart, Louisiana Waterthrush, Indigo and Painted Buntings, Dickcissel, and many types of Warblers, such as: Hooded, Kentucky, Swainson's, Prothonotary, Prairie and Yellow-throated.
Winter visitors are Bald Eagle, American Woodcock, Winter and Sedge Wrens, Eastern and Spotted Towhees, LeConte's and Fox Sparrows and Rusty Blackbird.
For a serene view of Big Cypress Bayou, a guided tour can be scheduled with Old Port Caddo Rentals and Tours, which is located within Caddo Lake State Park.
A pontoon boat will be your transport as you glide past tall Cyprus trees draped in Spanish moss to explore the waterways of the Bayou.
Guided tours can be booked on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays for 11 am and 1 pm; Saturday, Sunday and Holidays at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. If these times are inconvenient, often reservations (which are recommended) can be made for another time.
FYI: Old Port Caddo was once a steamboat port
These canoes lined up neatly at shore's edge caught our eye as we drove through Caddo Lake State Park.
They're available for rent, so you can do more than just enjoy the two trails. A canoe would allow you to be privy to the park's inner beauty from a whole different perspective.
Old Port Caddo Rentals and Tours gives visitors an opportunity to take to the water (pic 2)! Canoe rental starts at $10.00 an hour. If you're staying overnight at the park, the price is $35.00. A half day (4 hours) will cost you $22.50; a full day (8 hours) is $30.00. Please note: state tax will be added.
Canoes and kayaks are a popular way to explore the lake and maze of bayous. The water level is kept under control by dams and reservoirs.
The lake is fairly shallow in some places at 8-10 feet, but goes to a depth of about 20 feet at the bayou. The park brochure sets the number of fish species at seventy one. Largemouth bass, white bass and crappies are plentiful here!
Caddo Lake is designated "A Wetland of International Importance" and is a habitat for numerous waterfowl.
FYI: The fishing pier is lit until 10 pm
The temperature this February afternoon was in the 70's, the sun was shining and we couldn't have ordered a more perfect day to visit Caddo Lake State Park.
The park has two trails to try out--we chose Caddo Forest Trail, which is only about 3/4 mile in length and an easy hike offering a shaded walk through the forest, traversing over wood bridges, some terraced descents and gentle uphill climb (pics 2 & 3). A second trail is 1 1/2 miles in length and travels through more rugged terrain.
Birdsong, the stirring of dry leaves and crackling of our footsteps was all we heard throughout our walk.
This was the extent of the wildlife we encountered...one friendly little squirrel, who didn't seem to mind posing for my camera.
However, other creatures,such as, alligators, turtles, frogs, snakes, numerous waterfowl and other birds, raccoons, armadillos, feral hogs, white-tailed deer, minks, nutrias* and beavers call Caddo Lake State Park their home.
FYI: *Nutrias are large rodents that resemble beavers, can weigh up to twenty pounds and grow to 24 inches long.
A Beavers Lodge - Research discovered an abundance of beaver activity related to the cypress as well as a lack of cypress regeneration because of them. This was one of a few beaver lodges we saw. Researchers believer that beaver populations are reaching historically high proportions in the area.
Don Henley's (of the Eagles Band) grew up on Caddo Lake and threw his support behind the Nature Conservancy's action to preserve the Lake. He has been deeply engaged as founder of the Caddo Lake Institute for wetlands protection. In the Ramsar Treaty, which was signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, the international organization has recognized 13 regions in the United States, of which Caddo Lake was number 13.
This house served as a bar and liquor store for Harrison County which was 'dry'. On the other side of the river channel where it sat was Marion County which was 'wet'. As an easy convenience and to save a long travel by land to get to it, the house was built on stilts to allow for boats to travel across the channel to buy liquor.
The upper 1/3 of the lake is a 10,000 acre pristine cypress swamp crisscrossed by a maze of boat roads. It was the site of the first Powerboat Mail route. New boaters should carry a map of the lake and a compass to avoid getting lost among the densely wooded, confusing channels. Better yet, hire a guide, or tour the lake on one of several tour boats available in the area.
The first off-shore oil drilling happened in Caddo Lake by the Gulf Oil Company although the mushy swamp made moving the heavy equipment for drilling impossible. The US Army Corps of Engineers were persuaded by the oil men to construct an earthen weir at Mooringsport, La. The Corps was the same agency which had hired Captain Henry Shreve to remove the log jam back in 1873.
I believe in the warmer months you can listen for Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Acadian and Great Crested Flycatchers, Wood Thrushes, White-eyed, Red-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos, and at least 13 species of warblers. At almost any time of year, one can hear Fish Crows, Red-shouldered Hawks, Barred Owls, Pileated Woodpeckers, nuthatches and more.
The 32,000 acre Caddo Lake is Texas' only naturally-formed lake. It straddles the boundary between Texas and Louisiana and has as many as five configurations. It has also been called Sodo Lake and Fairy (Ferry) Lake.
Between 1845 and 1875 more than 200 steamboats travelled between Shreveport, Louisiana, and Jefferson, Texas marking up more than 2,500 documented trips. Their route took them through Caddo Lake where they made stops at Mooringsport Landing, Swanson's Landing, Montery Landing, and others. The main exports at the time were Cotton and Beef exports.
There has been a recorded 189 species of trees and shrubs, 42 woody vines, 75 grasses, 216 kinds of birds, 47 mammals and 90 fish and reptiles. Of those, 44 are threatened, endangered or rare. The process of confirming and adding to this data is ongoing.