Memorial Day weekend, the JJ family spent a relaxing 48 hours at Caddo Lake. Situated about 200 miles southeast of Dallas, close to the Louisiana border, Caddo Lake is named for the Native settler tribe who fished, farmed, hunted, and traded there.
The Great Raft blocked the Red River, an expansive 100-mile-long logjam created by years of riverbank erosion and toppled trees. The blocked river and rising water levels eventually made new lakes and river tributaries. One such Great Raft Lake is our Caddo Lake, one of the few natural lakes in the state. The wetlands at Caddo Lake have been designated wetlands of international importance.
The Great Raft logjam was eventually cleared in the 1830s using snag boats, and the Red River became a transportation and economical highway, allowing many small port towns in Texas and Louisiana to mushroom and grow. In the 1900s, oil was found under Caddo Lake, which was dammed to raise water levels and allow drilling equipment to be installed.
We chose the Spatterdock guest houses in Uncertain, Texas, for our stay. Owned and operated by Dottie Carter, these guest houses could accommodate various family sizes. But for me, the bigger draw was the whimsical displays and artwork of the owner. The guest houses were also in a great location, less than ten minutes from the Caddo Lake State Park and the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Our drive to Uncertain was uneventful. The rest of the drive was comfortable except for Friday evening traffic when leaving the Dallas area. Now that he has a license, Sonny JJ was the designated driver for the trip, and he did a fantastic job chauffeuring us. It was a milestone; our kids now drive us places on road trips. It seems to me time has sprouted wings and flown away!
Dottie’s email had asked us to call and make alternate arrangements if we were unable to get in by 2 pm. Since we had a late start, we left a message asking for details on check-in, etc. But the cell reception on the way could have been better, and we couldn’t contact her. However, she awaited on her porch and asked us to walk into our guesthouse. The door was open, and the house was ready to be used.
I will post about the guesthouse we stayed in separately. In the first hour, as the skies darkened and night settled in, we explored the big home and the upper floor’s open deck. Surrounding by extremely tall cypress trees, the air felt so fresh and pure that it made me delight in taking huge lungfuls! The backyard with its frog-themed garden beckoned, but the light quickly faded, so we postponed it to the following day.
The house came with a full-size kitchen, and we made a quick dinner of sandwiches and fruits that we had carried.The following morning, Mr. JJ and I walked past Dottie’s home, Wildfern, to the pier behind it; we stopped to explore the garden en route. The pier access, called Lost Dog Walk, is very unique.
Surrounded by more cypress trees and the wispy Spanish moss that blankets a lot of these trees, we stood on the dock as the morning sun rose over the tranquil waters. Two jetboats sped by, creating layers of waves in the otherwise placid waters and running the silence of the morning. We caught lilies opening up next to the dock.
Bald cypress trees can sometimes live for 1000 years or more. So-called because they shed their leaves early in the fall, the base of the trees flare outwards and provide stability in the soggy soil. They are surrounded by knobby knees that rise in the water and nourish the plant by supplying oxygen to the roots. Spanish Moss is not a moss; it’s an epiphyte, a plant that grows on others but isn’t parasitic. It obtains its nourishment from the air around it.
Walking back, we climbed the tree house that Dottie had built and sat there, taking in a bird’s eye view (so to speak) from up top. We stopped to enjoy an artfully decorated glass canoe hoisted up among the trees, ensuring we paid close attention to all directions around us. After checking out the bunkhouse along the way, we visited our backyard to enjoy the frog-themed Frog Town garden. Right next to it was a recreation area with a table tennis table and a large table with chairs. We enjoyed a couple of games of table tennis before heading back.
We had carried breakfast with us and enjoyed that.
Soon, we set off for the day’s first trip, a visit to the Caddo Lake State Park. Built around Caddo Lake, the Park is small and was not crowded (at least not by Dallas standards) for a long weekend. We saw people carrying in their canoes and kayaks to have fun on the Lake.We chose to hike the loops around the Park: four small loops totaling about three miles; most were rated moderate but didn’t feel that hard.
I enjoyed reading the display boards along the path, pointing out the bald cypress, loblolly pines, great canes, etc. Did you know that loblolly pines are the most widely grown pine trees in the Southeastern US? They are among the earliest to develop after a hurricane or fire and may achieve as much as 50 feet in 20 years! Their seeds provide food for small animals and birds. Display boards are a great wealth of information!
We stopped briefly at the timber and stone shelter along the trail. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps Company 857 in 1934-35, the structure stands intact, a monument to the beauty around us and a testament to the CCC program that brought employment to so many under FDR.
We headed back to the guesthouse past noon, stopping at the Caddo Outpost on the way. While they offer breakfast, lunch, and desserts, we bought basic groceries for pasta and sandwiches. Our neighbor at the adjacent guesthouse had enjoyed dinner at the Outpost the previous night. A young couple enjoyed their lunch while we shopped, and they seemed to be happy with their meal.
After eating a late lunch at the guesthouse, we relaxed the rest of the evening until time to do a sunset tour of Caddo Lake with Patrick Collins from Mossy Brake Camp Swamp Tours. It was a memorable evening on the Lake. Sunset photos of Caddo Lake are majestic and a must-do while in the area. I will share a separate post on the tour.
Sunday morning, we made our way to the dock again and enjoyed another visit. Then we visited the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Situated across the road from the State Park, this was only a slightly longer drive from our guesthouse. The entire area was deserted, including the main visitor center. Parking our car in the visitor parking lot, we walked for about a mile along the perimeter of the Refuge. There was no one else on the trail but us. The hike was easy, but after a mile of running into cobwebs and being chased by bees, we decided to turn back.
Once back on the road, we took the auto tour, which was probably the best way to view the entire Refuge. Our focal point that day was the Starr Ranch Pavilion by the Lake. The lotuses and lilies by the dock just added to the beauty of the sundrenched tranquil waters. With barely a person or two in sight, standing on the pier and gazing at the blue waters, warmed by a golden sun and surrounded by a verdant treescape, it was a fitting finale to our short trip.
This short weekend getaway to Caddo Lake was a perfect way to relax and unwind in the great outdoors among splendid beauty!
Join us tomorrow to see the creative haven called Spatterdock guest homes, where we lodged!