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Explore a Mysterious Texas Lake: The Best Things To Do at Caddo Lake and Nearby

August 8, 2020

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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.

Lydia sitting in a kayak on the Big Cypress Bayou. There is a large river area behind her with cypress trees along the shore.
Kayaking on the Big Cypress Bayou

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

About Caddo Lake

A view of Mill Pond, where there are large cypress trees with hanging spanish moss. In the distance, there are two people in canoes.
Views of Caddo Lake from Caddo Lake State Park

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.

About Jefferson, TX

The exterior of the Jefferson General Store. There is a vintage blue pick up truck parked outside, red, white and blue awnings and signage saying "ice cream and soda," "t-shirts and shoes" and "jams and jellies"
The Jefferson General Store

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!

Camping at Caddo Lake

An area thick with trees at a Caddo Lake campsite.
The view from out campsite in Caddo Lake State Park

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.

Caddo Lake Cabins and B&B's

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.

Looking out onto the water of Caddo Lake. There are a couple docks along the shore and a white bird standing in the water in the distance.
The waterfront in Uncertain

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!

When to Visit Caddo Lake

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.

Things To Do

Kayak on Caddo Lake
Looking out from a canoe at a pond full of green lily pads.
Mill Pond

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.

Lydia facing away, sitting in her canoe, surrounded by lily pads in the water of Mill Pond.
Mill Pond

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.

A close up view of Mill Pond, which is dense with green lily pads. There are some large trees throughout the water.
Mill Pond

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.

Visit Caddo Lake State Park
Looking out at the dock on Mill Pond. A wide wooden platform extends out over the water.

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.

A colorful sunset reflects onto the water at Caddo Lake. A silhouette of trees is in the shadows.

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.

Visit Uncertain, TX
A mural reading "Uncertain Inns and Flea Market," "Where the hell is Uncertain, Texas???" and "I was here"
A view of Caddo Lake from Uncertain, Texas. The trees and clouds reflect down into the still water and many of the trees look red.
Views from the Uncertain boat launch

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.

A closer view of cypress trees, some with red leaves, hanging with spanish moss.

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.

Looking at a couple docks on the water of Caddo 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.

Visit Jefferson, TX
The corner of some old buildings with a green lawn in front of them. A light up sign reads "Welcome Historic Jefferson"

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.

The Howe Truss Train Trestle Bridge from a short distnace away. It is surrounded by green grass and trees. At ground level below the bridge, there is a paved sidewalk.
The Howe Truss Train Trestle bridge
Check out these other Texas Destinations near Caddo Lake!

A Guide to Lake Tawakoni State Park

Things To Do in the Texas Piney Woods

A Review of the North Texas Getaway House

The Best Romantic Getaways from Dallas, Texas

A Guide to Purtis Creek State Park

The Best Hiking Trails Near Dallas, Texas

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