It would have been so easy to say, “Oh, I only have an hour or so; why bother?”
I did need to get home that day and there were many hours of driving ahead, but I was about to pass through an area that is often featured in travel photography about Texas because it looks so unlike what people think is typical Texas scenery.
Dark. Watery. Creepy. Swampy.
Just outside of Karnack (which bears no resemblance to its Egyptian namesake but does happen to be the childhood home of former First Lady and native horticulture advocate Lady Bird Johnson) you’ll find Caddo Lake State Park, part of the Texas Forest Trail Region.
Yes, eastern Texas is filled with lush, thick forests; not a state-stereotype tumbleweed in sight. Way up in the northeast section, Caddo Lake sprawls across the state border into Louisiana. There are 26,000 acres of thick, boggy hideaways, big cypress trees sending up random knobs, lots of places for boating (42 miles of it marked so you don’t get hopelessly lost,) plus 12,000 years of the history of its human habitation, including the Caddo Indians who lived here.
More recently in the 1930’s during the Great Depression, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) came to Caddo as one of their first projects in Texas, building trails, a boathouse, the Park Road, and stone cabins plus a large recreation hall that are still used today.
Despite the short time available to me, I spent a few moments in the Park’s welcome center, looking at small exhibits about local plants and animals and overhearing a visitor asking the Park Ranger about which CCC Companies had worked there, because she had relatives who had served at Caddo. There’s a whole set of people working on their family genealogy through CCC records.
People seem to have a real appreciation for the CCC as a government program that worked, made a difference in the lives of participants during tough economic times, and left such well-crafted structures that their buildings are still providing recreational service eighty years later. Here’s more information about the CCC at Caddo Lake.
A short drive past the welcome center and first set of cabins brings you to the water’s edge – actually offshoots of the main lake – called Big Cypress Bayou and Saw Mill Pond.
An old man fishing waited patiently while a younger group put their boat in the water; they made a lot of noise although they weren’t trying to, since sounds echo off of the water and abundant vegetation.
Soon we were together in silence, me taking photos and the gentleman plopping in his line and pushing back his hat to squint across the still, flat bayou.
I hadn’t seen so much Spanish moss since northeast Florida, and I only recognized the bony cypress knobs popping up out of the water because I’d seen similar ones in the bayous near Beaumont in southeast Texas.
I was so conscious of time ticking away, the need to finish my trip that day, all the hurry-hurry that we experience in our busy lives, but at that moment, nothing was more important than savoring the chance to see just a tiny piece of such a special place.
Take the time. Pull off the road. Pay the entrance fee even if you won’t get your “money’s worth.” Grab such opportunities and do not let them slip past.
I’m glad for my measly hour or so at Caddo; it was certainly better than never seeing it at all.
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