Explore a Mysterious Texas Lake: The Best Things To Do at Caddo Lake and Nearby
August 8, 2020
The mysteriously beautiful Caddo Lake is on the border of Louisiana and Texas, and feels like nowhere else I have been in Texas. Only a three hour drive from Dallas, Caddo Lake makes for a perfect weekend getaway or day trip.
Please make it a priority to Leave No Trace when exploring the outdoors. This includes leaving nothing behind, respecting wildlife, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting those around you, planning ahead and traveling on durable surfaces. For more details, read about the seven principles at lnt.org.
Caddo Lake itself is really the focal point of visiting this part of East Texas. You should definitely visit the Caddo Lake State Park while you’re there, but you can also access the lake at other points, like from the tiny town of Uncertain, TX.
Caddo Lake is said to be one the only lakes in Texas to form naturally. A dam was added when water levels began to fall in 1912, but the lake has still maintained its natural characteristics and diverse assortment of birds and fish.
The lake creates a feeling of eeriness as clumps of spanish moss hang from 400 year cypress trees, and is one of the most uniquely beautiful pieces of nature that I’ve found in Texas.
Jefferson, TX was a major port city in the mid-1800s, serving as a prominent port of entry to the Republic of Texas and later the state of Texas. The town lost some of its prominence as railroads became more prevalent and has a population of about 2,500 today.
There are many historic sights to visit in the city, including multiple haunted hotels, a trestle bridge and a railcar belonging to a railroad developer.
Apparently bigfoot has been spotted around Caddo Lake, there are bigfoot statues all over the town of Jefferson!
We camped in Caddo Lake State Park and it was wonderful to be so close to the lake. We snagged one of the few campsites that directly border Mill Pond. The campground was nicely secluded and offered beautiful views of the pond.
If you don’t like camping, I recommend staying in Jefferson or Uncertain. Jefferson is known to have cute bed and breakfasts. Check out the Carriage House B&B or the Excelsior House Hotel for haunted Victorian Style rooms. In Uncertain, you can stay in a cabin or guesthouse on the water at places like the Caddo Lake Cabins or Spatterdock.
While camping next to Caddo Lake was hot and buggy, it was incredible to be so close to the water and hear toads ribbit around us. We had a few toads join us right at the campsite!
To be perfectly honest, visiting in August was not ideal. It was extremely hot, humid and buggy. I recommend visiting in the spring or fall to experience a little bit less heat.
When visiting Caddo Lake, you must get on the water! You can rent kayaks or canoes, or go on a guided boat tour. I recommend both experiences if possible, since you will be able to see different parts of the lake with each. We opted to rent kayaks because of Covid.
We rented kayaks from Riverbend Outfitters to be launched on the Big Cypress Bayou. They offered a completely contactless drop off. They simply laid out our kayaks on the shore at Backwater Jack’s RV and Campsite, complete with maps and labeled with our names for when we arrived.
My partner is 6’ 4” so they gave us large sit-on-top kayaks designed for fishing to accommodate his height. The kayaks were nice and stable, but quite large for touring around the lake. As a kayaking beginner, I think it would have been easier for me in a smaller kayak, but I persevered anyway!
Even with a map, we couldn’t tell how many miles the trip would be to paddle from Backwater Jack’s launch to Caddo Lake State Park’s Mill Pond. The journey turned out to be almost 5 miles one way and took us around 5 hours.
We docked at the state park and ate our packed lunch before exploring the gorgeous Mill Pond from the water. If you don’t want to spend a whole day kayaking, I definitely recommend finding a way to only paddle around Mill Pond. Kayak and canoe rentals from the state park are currently closed because of Covid, but outside rental places are able to drop off kayaks there.
It was incredible to paddle among Cypress Trees draped in Spanish Moss, vibrant green lily pads and beautiful wildlife. I left with blisters from the paddle, but it was completely worth it.
Whether or not you are renting kayaks, I highly recommend visiting the state park to see Mill Pond from the fishing dock. Mill Pond is absolutely beautiful and has a beautiful concentration of Cypress Trees and wildlife. We stood on the dock and watched turtles swim their way under and around lily pads, as families tried their hand at fishing around us.
We also watched the sunset from the dock, which made for a beautiful reflection of colors on the swampy water. The state park is small but still offers hiking, camping and fishing. If you’re short on time, it’s worth visiting just to check out the dock, especially if you have a Texas State Park pass!
If you camp in Caddo Lake State Park, I recommend site 065 for a beautiful view of Mill Pond that is close to the bathroom, but not too close.
Uncertain is a tiny town right on Caddo Lake with a population of less than 100 people. It is the place you'll likely go to do a Caddo Lake Boat Tour. A tour is the perfect way to see the lake. The guides know the ins and outs and will teach you so much about the area and wildlife. See a list of tours operating from Uncertain here.
If you don't have time for a tour, I recommend just walking on the boat launch in Uncertain for amazing views of the lake. The colors of the trees were more reddish orange then they were from Mill Pond, and you could really feel a sense of the vastness of the lake.
I could have spent hours sitting on the dock in Uncertain, admiring beautiful birds and Cypress trees on the lake. This place is truly magical.
Jefferson is a much larger town than Uncertain and has a lot to do. While larger than Uncertain, it still has a lot of small town charm and has beautiful buildings full of charm.
You can go on a ghost tour, go antique shopping or eat at a variety of restaurants. A couple of notable places include the Jefferson General Store for a variety of food and gifts; the Museum of Measurement and Time for an interesting collection of timepieces and salt and pepper shakers; and Kitt’s Kornbread Sandwich and Pie Bar for all things cornbread.
Also check out the Turn Basin Trail for great views of the historic Howe Truss Train Trestle bridge, which also has a LED lightshow every night.
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