The nearest town to Caddo Lake State Park—more of a fishing outpost, really—is called Uncertain. When I told my husband this fact before our trip there, he said it summed up his feelings about camping in this East Texas swamp. But after we’d made the four-hour drive north to the park, where we stood overlooking the breathtakingly beautiful water, his uncertainty evaporated.
As we regarded Texas’s only natural lake of any significant size, we couldn’t help but marvel at how far removed—literally and figuratively—it was from the deserts of West Texas where we’d last camped. We felt a sense of awe at how truly wide and glorious our great state is.
Researching Caddo Lake before our trip, I’d become instantly transfixed by the cool-toned pictures of Spanish moss draped over giant bald cedar trees whose branches arched, tunnel-like, over its still waters. Someone told me the lake featured in the opening credits for True Blood, and that hundreds of people have seen Bigfoot—yes, Bigfoot—on its banks. It seemed possible, at least from the photos. Yet on my visit here, I didn’t feel any of that gothic creepiness.
I did immediately understand, however, why the place is famous for its canoeing and fishing. The lake’s cypress trees create maze-like boat lanes that obscure the bulk of the swampy forest, which is so thick you could easily get lost in its shallow waters. To avoid such an occurrence, our first trip out, we kept our canoe near Mill Pond, inside Caddo Lake State Park grounds.
Later, we met up with John Winn, a lifelong resident of the lake, who showed us places beyond the boat lanes. His tiny swamp boat sputtering along, Winn took us deep into the cedar forest, cutting the engine every now and then just to talk. My husband and I drank beers while Winn explained how the plants and animals interact in and around the lake, sharing knowledge gained over decades of hunting and fishing there. As he talked, we watched tiny alligators slide quietly from the banks, gliding silently and stealthily across the water.
On our way back, we passed a private duck blind, a sturdy structure camouflaged in the same greys and greens of the lake and its trees. Eyeing it, Winn told us he used to row a boat out to the blind during his childhood summers and spend the night. We asked him if he still hunted ducks out there between giving nature tours. He shook his head.
“Well,” he told us with a chuckle, “I guess I’m rooting for the ducks now.”