Monday, November 28, 2011

The Eerie Trees Of Caddo Lake

Tour River Greys3
Some trees are as much as 400 years old

Caddo Lake could be described as less a lake than a permanent flood. Its formation was caused by the "Great Raft", a 100 mile log jam of the Red River. Exactly how or what caused the log jam has not been proven but the native Caddo Indians claimed it was from an earthquake in 1812. And while there are many areas of it like a traditional lake, much of the 25,400 acres it covers are like Venetian waterways through a forest.

And that's damn cool!

First, let me backtrack. A few years ago I attended a lecture by the Eagles' Don Henley, who grew up in the Caddo area, about preserving Caddo Lake from destructive development and keeping it in its natural state. Henley co-founded the Caddo Lake Institute, a self-described "non-profit scientific and educational organization with the mission of protecting the ecological, cultural and economic integrity of Caddo Lake, its associated wetlands, and surrounding plant and wildlife habitats." Henley was charming and persuasive in his presentment but what got me was the promotional video he showed of the lake, a lake like I'd never seen before!

I made a mental note to make that trip someday but I felt it was probably too far for a day trip and thus would require planning. Instead, I finally got tired of waiting and decided no matter what kind of effort it took, I would make the hike out there and back in a day regardless. Now I'm kicking myself I didn't go earlier.

The dotted line you see down the center is the Texas/Louisiana border. I just barely explored one tiny fraction of the far west Texas' side but I plan on exploring as much as I can over time. So take this as just step one in a longer journey. My first trip was to the State Park, a great place for camping out and fishing or just enjoying the peaceful scenery. It has a hiking trail I hope to traverse and document at some point. And there's also a boat dock for the lucky ones who can set out on the lake at their own leisure.

Family fishing at the State Park

After checking out the State Park, I blindly headed down the road uncertain where I would wind up - and Uncertain is exactly where I ended up! The city of Uncertain (don't know how it got that name) sits right at the lake's edge with a motley assortment of cabins, habitats and signs for lake tours, most of whom are out of operation. I did find one tour operator, the Graceful Ghost, still going strong and I vowed I'd come back.

State Park Road

The woman running the tour office did warn me of one thing though: the drought and record breaking heat of last summer. They had a devastating effect on the lake, even to the point of forcing their large tour boat to change its route because their usual path had become too shallow. Unfortunately, the long term forecast for rain doesn't look much better. Oh why-oh-why did I wait??


So while it may look all blue and watery on the map, from the tour dock of Uncertain it looks like this:

River Path 4

What a bizarre journey through the waterways that would be! But until I could actually go out on the water, I had settle for imagining the weird, wonderful sights of Lake Caddo. Here are a few of the pics from my recon trip:

Park Road2
Park road leading in

Lake Trees
Just oversized waterways until you
can get on the main lake area

Cypress Park
Caddo Lake is set in the largest Cypress forest in the world.
On land they don't seem so haunting.

Countless stubs waiting to stab you like pungee sticks

Cypress Ghosts
In the water, the trees take on a ghostly air

Hanging Close
A close up of the hanging matter

River Path Crop
Canoes were available in this area
if one is so inclined

Ghostly reflections

Dock View3
View from the tour dock. I don't know if the orange
area out there was land or marsh or what

Now if all this has you jonesing to head out on the lake, it did me too! Next weekend I made my way back, taking a powerboat tour I thought might be able to get into the more inaccessible areas damaged by the drought. Listening to my tour guide, the damage was far more severe than I expected. Still, it was a tantalizing taste of the lake forest in my way too short tour.

Tour Canoe
Tour calling card

Tour Boat
Heading out!

Tour River
Into the murk...

Tour Greys Close
The "Greys" closed in on us

Tour Inlet
Like entering another world

Tour Swamp6
Under normal conditions, this entire area would be under water

Tour Bog
Reaching the dark heart

Tour Bog Zoom
Eventually we reach some more open water

Tour Scum
Moody waters

Tour Sky2
The sun never made it all the way through

Tour Houses
The return to civilization. Most of these
abodes are for weekenders.

Tour Swamp5
I had to say goodbye to my ghostly friends,
but do not fear. I shall return!

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1 comment:

Max Silver said...

Wow...what an amazing place. I definitely want to visit, sometime.